Saturday, 23rd September 2006
What is currently going on (football-wise) at the club is what I expected last year. A newly promoted side, short on ideas going forward and slightly frail defensively. We all thought that the home form would keep us in the League, and any points out of the East End would be a welcome bonus. As it turns out, our form was even more impressive than that; Upton Park was more of a fortress than a fluke-venue, and away performances tended to show a complete lack of fear. Suddenly, everything has come crashing back to Earth. Gone is the team spirit that defined the 2005/2006 campaign. The ambition is nowhere to be seen. There’s no work ethic, a lack of battling qualities. To be frank, everything is a shambles.
At least it is good to see a few posts of optimism on the various Message Boards. Yes, honesty is needed at this current time when the football is abysmal. But a united support group is vitally needed. The City of Manchester Stadium is known for being lacking in atmosphere – for West Ham fans to be out-sung it shows just how bad the negative feelings are at present. Everything I heard from the people around me smacked of fickle-ness.
Three paragraphs in, and somehow I have avoided mentioning the game itself. That could well be a good thing. On the other hand, I would not be the kind man I am if I did not share what happened on Saturday with those who were not lucky enough to make the trip up North. Put simply, it was one of the most pathetic displays a recent West Ham team has churned up. At least in the Millwall mauling in 2004 a goal was scored. We even had shots against Crewe in a dismal draw. The side might as well have kept playing on Saturday night; even then I doubt the penalty area would have seen much action.
You know that things are awful when the best ‘chance’ for the Irons was from Anton Ferdinand in the first half. Yes. A defender. From a corner. Even then, he lost the ball after taking a touch in order to prepare for a shot. Whilst running back to his more accustomed territory, he pulled up injured. From that moment on, everything went from bad to worse.
Since Saturday, I have read a lot of criticism for the Marlon and Bobby, the two starters up-top for the game. Sure, they did not work particularly hard but their service was as inept as the Beer distributors inside the ground at half-time. The formation had set a four man midfield, but it was overrun by the City side. Even that could be an understatement. It was destroyed. Etherington is clearly still lacking in full fitness, and his confidence levels are clearly even worse. His crossing was woeful (invariably beating the first man) and was very predictable when he tried to take on his man. On the right flank, Yossi tried valiantly, but his endeavour produced very little end product. What a contrast his display was from the last away game, when he was the heart and soul of the side’s attacking prowess at Anfield. The central pairing was even worse; Mascherano was hit and miss in both his distribution and defensive work, and Reo-Coker was arguably the worst player in the Claret and Blue. Again. At least he has been consistent all season long. My call for Bowyer to start in his place is almost my mantra.
With Dailly drafted into a back four that contained the thus-far poor Konchesky, little confidence was instilled in me. Rightly so; Manchester City could, and should, have been two up before half time. Everytime, it seemed, their forward prowess was stemming from the flanks. The first goal was a classic example. Cue the almost compulsory criticism of Hayden Mullins, who loathes playing in the right back position. Lighting pace is not what his holding midfield role is about; City’s Miller had bundles of it. Very few will keep up with his speed. The finish was good, the marking not so. The second goal was rather embarrassing, too, as Samaras ran through a static defence to finish easily. Losing Anton early on really dented any chance of a good result. Gabbidon showed touches of class but looked second best, whilst the ‘football genius’ is hardly cut out for the centre half role at this level. (And, yes, you’ve guessed it. The left back had another horror showing.)
The substitution of Cole and Tevez up top did not change things. By then the game was over and the travelling crowd behind the goal were left to vent their frustrations. Those near me vented their again to Carroll after the game, and he comprehended their nuances. The captain, on the other hand, did not seem to care.
In the end, the trip was undeniably disappointing. Reading next Sunday will be difficult, as they are very reminiscent of last year’s Hammers side. The Alan Pardew factor will only fire them up even more. Before then comes the trip to Sicily. Palermo got beaten last night, but I bet they cannot wait for the home leg of the UEFA Cup tie on Thursday night. The last four West Ham displays have produced about five goalscoring opportunities between them. Another performance like this one will see the Italians easily dispose of the Irons. The performance is just as important as the result.
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His fury (therefore determination) was clear to see. Shame his kicking is still up and down.
The shining light in a tepid display.
(Replaced Ferdinand, 22) Average in a disliked position.
(Replaced Harewood, 65) Did little.
(Replaced Mears, 67) Quiet.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.
West Ham United
Roy Carroll, Christian Dailly, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Javier Mascherano, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Weaver, Richards, Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Barton, Hamann, Sinclair, Miller, Samaras, Corradi..
Substitutes: Dickov (Corradi 70), Reyna (Miller 81), Ireland (Samaras 89)..
Subs not used: Hart, Beasley.
Goals: Samaras (50, 63).
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..