Tuesday, July 28

Olympic Stadium preview at the athletics

A pal of mine went to the athletics at the Olympic Stadium at the weekend and said the atmosphere was good and noisy. Though someone else who went said their bit of the roof leaked! Strange as the two geezers in the white van who installed it said it would be strictly showerproof… Hopefully any such glitches will be eradicated by the time we move in. There's also an encouraging piece on the WHU website by Sean Whetstone who writes for the West Ham Till I Die blog, and he is very excited by the stadium atmosphere having sampled the athletics. We've got our category B appointments at the Reservation Centre next week so let's see how that goes… but exciting to be finally getting a seat.

Sunday, July 26

Dicks in charge

Intriguing to hear the interview with Julian Dicks on the West Ham website. As West Ham's new coach (a case of Dicks out on the training pitch?) he sounds pretty reasonable and talks about what a good bunch of lads he has — though it would be interesting to hear how he might react should any of his players insist on drinking Coca-Cola before a game and refuse to warm-up, as Julian famously did. Still, it worked for Dicksy, who is a more thoughtful character than many people realise. You also wonder what influence he might have over the career of Andy Carroll. When Dicks spoke at the Stop! Hammer Time podcast end-of-season do he was clear that he wasn't a fan of Big Sam's style and Carroll didn't score enough goals. So when he's fit he'll clearly be on to AC to improve his goals to games ratio.

Saturday, July 25

What is West Ham's best side?

With seven new arrivals I'm still trying to decide what will be West Ham's first-choice side. My guess would be: Adrian; Jenkinson, Ogbonna, Reid, Cresswell; Payet, Noble, Kouyate, Obiang; Sakho, Valencia. This would leave a reserve XI of Randolph; O'Brien, Tomkins, Collins, Hendrie; Jarvis, Nolan, Lanzini, Amalfitano; Zarate, Carroll. And there are also squad players such as Poyet, Maiga, Burke and Henry and youngsters Lee, Oxford, Page, Cullen and Samuelson.

So it's looking pretty healthy competition-wise. Another option would be to play three centre backs from Tomkins, Reid, Collins and Ogbonna. We could also play five in midfield and a fit and firing Andy Carroll could well replace Valencia up front in my first-choice side.

If anything we have almost too many players and it might well be that if good offers come in for the likes of Nolan, Maiga, Jarvis or Amalfitano we take the money and put it towards another striker. Interesting times at Upton Park and some tough selection decisions for Slaven Bilic.

Friday, July 24

Poyet penalty saves Hammers

Birkirkara 1 West Ham 0 (After extra time, West Ham win 5-3 on pens) 

(Europa League Qualifier)

A hardy contingent of Matt, Lisa and Fraser are watching the game in the Jetlag Sports Bar in Fitzrovia. Being a part-timer, I'm taking my daughter on a pre-booked showing of The Cult of Bacchae at the British Museum. Matt suggests that that geezer Euripides was probably a fan of the flat Bacchae four. The play involves a lot of semi-clothed women drunkenly cavorting as they worship the cult of Bacchus and Dionysus — so not too dissimilar to the Central at chucking out time.

We start the game with a somewhat bizarre formation, with only the tiny Zarate up front. Just as KIng Pentheus of Thebes is getting into a ruck with Dionysus, Matt's text arrives informing me that the game in Malta is starting to resemble a Greek Tragedy. Birkirkara have scored after 14 minutes as Tomkins and Collins are outpaced and Miccoli nips ahead of O'Brien for a poacher's goal. Then Tomkins has been sent off for a shove on Vukanac. That's two red cards in four Europa League games now, a tendency that has to be stopped with our squad already stretched.

After watching King Pentheus get torn apart by the Bacchae, there's more news on the bus home of West Ham getting torn apart in Malta. The game's gone into extra time and Matt Jarvis has had our only shot on target, though the numbers have been evened up as Mazzetti has been sent off. Late on Maiga has goal disallowed for a tight but correct offside flag.

So it's down to penalties. Noble, Zarate, Cresswell, O'Brien and Poyet score for the Hammers while one of the home side's penalties is ballooned over the bar. Credit to Diego Poyet for his coolness at the end. Phew. Lisa suggests that we have found a new Lucky Pub. At least the Jetlag Sports Bar has never seen us lose a penalty shoot-out. 

Big Sam would surely have been vilified for a result like this, while Bilic will not be, as yet. But at this stage of the season I'm not too concerned about an undoubtedly poor performance in the 30C heat. We're still playing what are essentially pre-season games and the important thing is we got through in the end and had a 120-minute workout. Lest we get distracted by Europe, the most important game is still the away trip to Arsenal on August 8. Now it's FC Astra at the Boleyn — and surely time to put out a full-strength side for this one.

Wednesday, July 22

Lanzini on loan

Once we had Diamanti and now we have The Jewel. West Ham have signed Argentine Manuel 'The Jewel' Lanzini on a season-long loan from UAE side Al Jazira. At 22 he looks an exciting prospect, having made his name at River Plate in Argentina as a creative number ten. Will he be the Jewel in our crown or more some replica sparklers from Romford Market? We shall see. That's our seventh signing of the summer and also marks good progress towards the assembly of a side named after 1970s classic comedies. We already have a young player called Pike, to which we can now add Manuel…

Tuesday, July 21

We need to talk about Kevin?

Various media reports suggest West Ham have bid £6 million for Everton's Kevin Mirallas. I've always thought he's a good player and he scored a cracking goal against WHU at Upton Park in the 2-2 FA Cup tie last season. He's a Belgian international, though appears to have fallen out a little with Roberto Martinez and clearly has a bit of an attitude: he managed to take the ball off the elected penalty taker Leighton Baines against West Brom last season and then hit the post before being subbed. He's not an exact replacement for Stewart Downing, but is a very dangerous attacking player (21 goals in 88 games for Everton) and I'd be happy to have him at WHU. The Standard also claims we're looking at Tottenham's Aaron Lennon — presumably so we can say we've had both Lennon and McCartney at Upton Park.

Monday, July 20

Inside the Olympic Stadium

Interesting piece in Sunday's Observer on the Olympic Stadium. Owen Gibson gets to see inside the OS and is clear it will feel very different to other stadiums. He writes:  

"Taking in the view from the exact spot where the front row of fans will sit it is clear that this will still feel like a big, expansive European-style stadium rather than the tight grounds British fans are used to. Stadium designers elsewhere… are in contrast trying to mimic the imposing kops and tightly packed atmosphere of days gone by. On one side of West Ham’s new home there will be large flat platforms behind the seats once they are rolled over the track. Behind the goals, there are solutions to fill in the gaps, but it will still look unlike any other football ground in the country. To state the obvious, much will depend on results – if West Ham are winning and the place is buzzing, fans will take to it." 

I'd back West ham fans to create a good atmosphere just about anywhere, but as Gibson implies, it's going to feel very different to the Boleyn. Click on the link to read the whole piece.