The Julian Dicks column: 16th January

West Ham United FC legend Julian Dicks is a columnist here on Julian shares his thoughts with the readers of Knees up Mother Brown on a regular basis via his weekly column, the latest of which begins with his thoughts on 2013, the transfer window - and the mooted sale of James Tomkins...

2013 so far

I was at the Norwich game and West Ham deserved their win, even though it was a lot closer than it should have been. I also watched the Man Utd game and, for me, it was a fair result over the 90 minutes.

But you're always going to lose some games; you can't go on winning or drawing. It's how you react to the next game that counts - and there's no bigger game than Man United in the FA Cup at Old Trafford - and I think it's one we can win.

No-one gave us a chance when Paolo [Di Canio] scored the only goal of the game in 2001. At the end of the day you have to go there and set your stall out. If Sam Allardyce goes up there and plays one up front, I think we'll get battered. I think you have to go up there and attack - not be gung ho and play three up front, but put them under pressure.

In the first match, West Ham barely touched the ball in the first 20 minutes, they were giving them too much respect. You have to get amongt them, kick a few and put yourself about. Hopefully they'll go up there and do that.

As for Sunderland and Danny Potts' error that led to their second goal, he's a young lad and he's going to make mistakes - just look at James Collins. He's an experienced centre half and makes mistakes; we all make mistakes, we all get caught out of position.

At the end of the day he's come in and done exceptionally well, especially against Man United. He'll make mistakes for the rest of his life as we all do, we're only human. The thing is, it's a team game and for me they just had an off day - that's the way it goes.

The case for the defence

Man United's last minute equaliser in the FA Cup third round tie came via a fantastic ball from Ryan Giggs. It wasn't the case that he got the ball down, looked up and picked out the player, he did it first time - and to Van Persie, probably the best striker in the Premier League. His first touch was fantastic, the second touch was fantastic and the third touch a goal.

Now if I had been defending in that position I would have pulled him down - I'd have taken a red card for that. Perhaps it's not very professional to say that, but I would have taken one for the team.

Sometimes I think West Ham struggle defensively. When the opposition have corners, for instance, when the ball is cleared an opposing player always picks the ball up. You should always have one in front of their player in midfield and one behind. But they don't do that, and in 90 per cent of cases the opponent picks the ball up and you're under pressure again. That's just basic defending.

Love me two times

I think it was a great move to bring Joe Cole back to West Ham. Joe's been a fantastic player even though I don't think he's really fulfilled his potential because he was an exceptional player when he was a young kid. But I think he's a great signing for West Ham and I think he'll get better with every game as he has to get match fit again.

Coming back to West Ham for a second time was the best decision I ever made, I think. When I was nearing the end of my time at Liverpool, Birmingham wanted me but I didn't want to go back there. Tottenham also came in for me but obviously that was a no-no for me! Then I found out that West Ham wanted me back, which was the best thing for me.

If I hadn't had a good first spell at West Ham then it might not have been, but the first spell was good and I had a bond with the supporters. Like Joe, you still have to come in and earn their respect again, of course you do. They'll give you a little bit of time but if you don't start performing they're going to say. "hang on a minute - we like Joe but..." So he does have to perform and he does have to deliver the goods as well.

Can you feel the (strike) force?

It's been a busy transfer window already for West Ham with two strikers also coming in alongside Joe. Wellington I don't know anything about and I'll reserve judgement on Chamakh; I've watched him play for Arsenal and sometimes he's got a bit of brilliance about him, but a lot of the time he's bone idle. Only time will tell and they're only on loan, so at the end of the day we can always send them back.

You want a striker who's going to come in and score you lots of goals, someone to give the players and fans a lift - and they're going to need a lift after the Sunderland game. They got absolutely trounced and Sam came out and said they'd defended woefully and everything else. Hopefully they can all come in and do a job for us.

Take the money

If the right offer came in for James Tomkins, who's been linked with Newcastle, I'd let him go. Technically he's not going to get any better, he's not going to able to pass the ball 30 or 40 yards all of a sudden. But it depends what you want from your players. If you want your players to go in there, win it and give the ball to somebody else he's ideal for that which suits Sam Allardyce.

For me as a manager, I like to play football, I like my back four to be comfortable on the ball and play out from the back - and I don't think James Tomkins can do that. I've noticed West Ham don't do that in games. I very rarely see Jaaskelainen get the ball out to the full backs or even the centre backs, it's normally a long boot upfield and that's it.

I played with a few outstanding ball-playing defenders during my career. Alvin Martin was quality; he wasn't the quickest by any stretch of the imagination but he was so calm and collected when he had the ball, he never rushed. But I was lucky at West Ham. Ray Stewart could play football; Alvin could play football, Galey, Rio and Slav could all play football. We were blessed with players who could play, but they wanted the ball.

I go and watch West Ham now and watch the players from a defensive point of view; there's none of them who want the ball. Even against Manchester United none of the full backs pulled out wide and wanted the ball - they just run upfield because they know Jaaskelainen gets the ball, bangs through it and they feed off scraps.

At the end of the day, if you get the ball and play your way out you've got more chance of keeping that ball. But when you keep booting it upfield, if you've got people up front who are not winning you headers the ball comes straight back. If that's the way they want to play then that's it - they've obviously been told that.

If you're good enough...

I joined West Ham when I was 19 like Danny Potts is now, but I had been playing first team football since I was 17. Even though a couple of years isn't a long time, it is when you've been playing football - especially against players who were quite aggressive.

When I was 17 I was an apprentice. Thes days young players don't have to clean player's boots like I did at Birmingham for Jim Blythe, the goalkeeper, Wayne Clark and Alan Curbishley amongst others. We had to do everything and if my players' boots had a speck of dirt on them I'd get a smack. And when I say smack I mean a proper smack; it wasn't a clout round the head, it was a proper punch!

But it was an upbringing. In training you would play with the first team and they would kick shit out of you. For me it was a different upbringing and I learnt how to look after myself from an early age. I left home at 14 and went to live in digs so it was a little bit different, but you have to learn.

When I was 16, 17, making my debut and playing in games I was told not to show respect for anybody else. If they're there, it doesn't matter who they are, go right through them - and that's how I gained my respect at the time. I was an aggressive guy, I didn't take any prisoners. It could have been Mick Harford or Noel Blake in training or anyone, I'd go through them. I might get a smack after but I'd still go through them! It was a case of learning to look after yourself very quickly.

The difference these days is that a lot of the kids, like Danny at Colchester recently, go out on loan. I think it's a good system but if the player's good enough, he's good enough. It was a bit different when I was playing as I debuted at 17 when I came on against Chelsea and Villa, but I think now the players are mollycoddled. They have everything done for them, regardless of the money, they don't have to do anything.

For me, that's not an upbringing in football.

Julian Dicks was talking to Graeme Howlett.

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