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West Ham United vs Sheffield United

Filed: Thursday, 23rd November 2006
By: Matthew Coker

After league defeats 7 & 8 on the road, we return to the Boleyn for a relegation six pointer as we welcome Sheffield United to East London.

“May I have 55 words with you?”
- Beldar Conehead

In the period that has passed since we were all dancing down the Barking Road laughing at the driver of the car with the g00 nr plate, historic changes have happened in the West Ham world. The differences have the potential to be of the magnitude to shape our very view of claret and blue life for years to come. I am, of course, referring to the brand spanking new KUMB layout that seemed to unsettle a few eyeballs on its launch at the weekend.

Having seen off the attentions of I Kia, it was the consortium from Iceland who finally took us over with an £85m bid in midweek. This puts my gripes at having to shell out nigh on £50 for West Ham last weekend to shame but I’d like to hear him to try to explain that sort of payment to West Ham to the missus when it comes through on the bank statement.

Joking aside, it is still slightly unclear exactly what Mr Magnuson has in mind for the Irons, but you can bet that he will be looking to make that £85m worth a lot more than £85m as soon as he can. This would probably mean that relegation would not be too attractive a proposition but I am hopeful that as well as preserving our top flight status, he will also stick to his promises of honouring the tradition of the club, respecting the success of our Academy as well trying to understand the beliefs of our supporters (ie no music after goals) and hopefully not try to replace the current crop of spectators with a more prawn sandwich friendly mob . I’ll say no more except to wish you luck, Eggert.

Now that we have the top cat settled in his seat, perhaps the football can begin. We face a newly promoted side that have had the traditional tough start to Premiership life. They have recorded just four points at home, an opening day draw with the Mickeys was matched by similar results with Boro, Blackburn and Bolton and they have been beaten by Chelsea, Reading and last week by Man Yoo.

On the road, they have managed a single solitary victory, on a memorable Saturday evening at St James over the Rat Boy’s XI. Prior to that, their opening three fixtures saw them head down the M1 to London where they lost to Spurs, Fulham and Arsenal before a couple of games in the North West where they held Ciddy to a goalless point but lost to Everton.

Of these fixtures, the latest ones have shown some promise, the Man Yoo defeat did see them give the Reds a hard time and they even took a lead and this game followed coming back from being 2-0 down to draw with the United Nation’s of Fat Sam and that followed the Newcastle win, so there are signs of improvement. However, with only five league goals to their name and having failed to score in seven, Champions League form this aint and they currently sit in 18th place in the division.

"I didn't want to frighten myself!"
Neil Warnock refuses to watch Chelsea's win over Blackburn, preferring instead to look at a nature programme with his kids.

The gaffer is Neil Warnock, whose name is a famous anagram of Colin Wanker. He has been at Bramall Lane since 1999 and is a lifelong fan, having been born in Sheffield. The fans are grateful for what he has done and appreciate that he has turned the club around in the last seven years. However, there are several questions being bandied around the terraces, being prompted by his uber negative tactics and the impression that he gives that he is a little overawed by playing with the big boys. It would not be fair or accurate to say that he is under pressure but his self preservation tactics are causing fans to hope for alternatives in their long term hopes.

In goal is Paddy Kenny, who has been first choice between the sticks since his arrival from Bury in 2002. West Ham fans have been quick to point out his less than svelte form in the past, a shape that is probably not helped by visits to Halifax curry houses. Nevertheless, the last time he went probably wouldn’t have caused too much damage to scales as he lost several ounces of eyebrow in the traditional post ruby dust up. Footballers eh?

In front of Kenny will likely by the highly rated, Phil Jaglieka, whose strength and pace have held him in good stead in his inaugural Premiership campaign. He plays alongside Jamaican, Claude Davis, and Phil would do well to keep on the big man’s side after Davis allegedly threatened team mate Adi Akinbyi with a knife in a training ground bust up. Neither of the two wide backs expected to start at the weekend are first choice but despite being slightly out of their depth at this level, Rob Kozluk and Derek Geary have both taken their chances to the best of their ability. First choice Leigh Bromby may be available after injury at the weekend to replace Kozluk.

Warnock has favoured a 4-5-1 on many occasions this campaign with defensive midfielder, Mikele Leigertwood, powerhouse, Alan Quinn and academy product, Nick Montgomery sitting in the central trio. Overall, this central area is not one that has found its Premiership level and in particular has a tendency to give the ball away far too frequently for survival purposes.

Former Man Yoo and Newcastle man, Keef Gillespie provides pace on the right and the left has been accommodated by new signing from Brighton, Colim Kaim Richards who got hopes up with a 25 yard peach against Bolton. It must be said that the midfield is the club’s weakest area and although the absence of the rated Michael Tonge has worsened the situation, names such as Zoltan Gera and Jason Koumas are optimitistically bandied about as on the wishlist for the January sales.

The goalscoring hopes are carried by Robert Hulse who surprised me when I heard he had gone to Sheffield United, though only because I thought my brother had said Robert Huth. Anyway, the player served an Ashton like apprentice under Dario Grady at Crewe before spending time at West Brom and Leeds.

He has settled into Premiership life fairly well, 4 goals for his new club to date don’t tell the full story as he has been presented with relatively few scoring chances and his conversion rate must be comparatively good. His overall workrate has impressed the fans and they are hopeful that a decent strike partner could be found in the transfer window. Unavailable through injury will be both back up strikers, Danny Webber and Adi Panicbuy but youngsters Steve Gabba and Frenchman, Christian “Lemon” Nade have added a little attacking impetuous from the bench in the last few games.

Finally, a quick word to sooth those who suffer from a nervous disposition on Saturday. If our opponents are to be awarded a penalty at any point during the game, it would not do to panic. Their current conversion rate of having been awarded three, missed three, including two in the goalless draw with Blackburn do not suggest that there is too much to fear from a spot kick.

“Bywater – Dailly – Ferdinand – Harley – Mullins – Carrick – Etherington – Horlock – Connolly – Harewood – Deane”
West Ham side that lined up against Sheffield United in January 2004 for a 3-3 draw. How things have improved looking at some of those names.

Right, football wise, we need to get some points on the board. So far, we have achieved just 11 points in 13 games. If we carry on in that vein, we’ll finish the season on about 32 and hence start the following season back in the Championship. To calm nerves we need to be showing signs of getting towards 40 points in mid May, hence 20 points at the half way stage would make sense. Therefore, I’d look at the next six games, aim for three victories and the most likely out of the games before Christmas are Sheffield United and Wigan at home. I don’t want to heap too much pressure on, but this is looking to look a little like a must win.

The good news is that we are more than capable, as we showed in our last two home games, of matching anyone on our own patch and Saturday should see a collective sigh of relief throughout the playing staff if you believe the lat few months press reports of how unsettling things have been.

The Blades will no doubt put up a strong resistance but I’m confident that if we snap at and harry their midfield trio, as we did against the Frenchies, we’ll see plenty of the ball. The wings will provide the best opportunity to attack them and with the Etherington / Tevez or Harewood combo, we should see the opportunity to create a few chances. And I think the threat of Hulse can be fairly well contained by Danny et al.

I’m sure that we are going to have to be patient for a goal and that it will take time to come, but I think we’ll get our rewards and see T’United off to the tune of 2-0.

Enjoy the game.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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