West Ham United 3-1 Charlton Athletic 

Saturday, 19th August 2006
by Nick Bull

After all that waiting and anticipating, the start of the football season has come by us again. No more hiding, no more friendly matches. This is the real deal; no-one can hide now.

In hindsight, I was slightly more ?EUR~up for it?EUR(TM) at the start of last season, merely because it was the craved return to the big league. Nonetheless, the passion was inside and not even a heavy, albeit brief, downpour that forced me into one of Green Street?EUR(TM)s many fast food restaurants could damper this enthusiasm.

The result was great, and a performance to match the three points occurred too. As long as the vigour and determination that was evident throughout last season is maintained, West Ham will be playing Premiership football again next season. However, thirty-seven games remain, and - God forbid - events could take a turn for the worse. Call me negative, but I?EUR(TM)m not getting over confident at this very moment of time.

Charlton were very poor, and even their most fervent of supporters cannot deny that. Scott Carson in goal will be a real asset to them, as shown by two close-range saves from Bobby Zamora and Yossi Benayoun. The same can be said for Darren Bent; another season scoring goals looks destined for him. His penalty showed calmness and precision, but he could do little to get into the match following the foolish sending off of Djimi Traore. Having read Iain Dowie?EUR(TM)s post- match remarks, it is clear that what he?EUR(TM)s said to the press is bereft of certain truths. The first booking for his new signing was given after a lunging tackle, the second was rather naive. Admittedly biased, the Charlton defender deserved to go.

Whether or not Danny Gabbidon should have been sent off has been playing in my mind for a few hours. At the time, I thought Hasslebaink had sold Howard Webb a cheeky lie; the replays have proved this was not the case. Dowie claims that Gabbs was trying to stop a goalscoring opportunity, but I remain convinced this is not the case. The lack of solid reaction from the opposition fans in the away end aids to my current conclusion that the Hammers 05/06 Player of the Year deserved to stay on the pitch. A suspension/ban would have been a nightmare, as he did not have his most shining performance at Upton Park. Next to him, Anton Ferdinand put in a rather reassured showing ?EUR" that England call up surely cannot be too far away.

I am feeling more confident over the right back position following the debuts of Tyrone Mears and John Paintsil, who played a friendly-esque half-each. The former is young, quick and looks good in the tackle, whilst the Ghanaian World Cup player looks the better of the two. His link-up-play with the midfield ?EUR" something so frequent and impressive last season - shone through as he ploughed up and down the East of the Boleyn. When Yossi can finally return to his natural right hand side position in midfield, I think the team will look rather impressive going forward.

Lee Bowyer?EUR(TM)s second debut in the claret and blue showed that he is not an out and out winger, but such a complaint is banal when considering his performance as a whole. On the surface, three assists is impressive, but his whole game looked good. His strength shone through, along with a clear footballing brain. Sometimes he was too clever for his fellow Irons, but partnerships will clearly flourish during the season. Last time he was at the club he wasn?EUR(TM)t fully fit and his attitude was Defoe-like, but thus far I?EUR(TM)ve got no complaints about the signing.

On the subject of the midfield, Mullins was his honest and steady self, but Nige really struggled to get into the match. Some people I know will never like Hayden, but his defensive qualities really stand up alongside a midfielder who can play the free role in the centre. I thought he might have been the one to give way for a Matty-Reo-Bowyer-Yossi midfield, but if I were the captain I?EUR(TM)d recognise that a fight for a place may be on the cards. Nasty for the one who misses out, but great for teams who want to reach aspirations.

During the week I got told by mates that losing Ashton would hinder the team. I told them that, despite arguably being a slightly inferior player, last season showed that the team functioned better with Zamora and Harewood up top. The delight in Bobby?EUR(TM)s face after scoring his two goals was there for all to see ?EUR" he loves life at West Ham, and he?EUR(TM)s going to fight for his place in the starting XI. With Carlton Cole added to the strikers, the battle has already begun. At least it looks clear that this team has goals in them.

Two away games now await, neither of which will be easy. Watford?EUR(TM)s first game at home and Anfield ?EUR" we all know the history about trips to Liverpool. Last year?EUR(TM)s opening games yielded four points, six this year would be adequate. I?EUR(TM)d sacrifice Watford to win in front of the Kop?EUR??EUR??EUR??EUR?.I think!

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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Quiet afternoon, but not without a couple of injury concerns towards the end of the first half.

Tyrone Mears
Not a bad debut at all. Did not get too many chances to show his defensive abilities, but going forward looked promising.

Paul Konchesky
Solid start to the season - almost playing as a left midfielder in the second half.

Anton Ferdinand
Another quality performance from Ferdinand Jnr when asked upon.

Danny Gabbidon
Gave away a needless penalty, nearly presented Charlton with a chance to go two up. Second half was more reassuring - but the opposition threat was non-existant.

Hayden Mullins
Did his job quietly but impressively. Passing was good too.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Nothing awful, just showed little going forwarded despite playing against ten men.

Lee Bowyer
Had a point to prove. Did more than that. Super debut, unlucky not to score in the move of the match.

Yossi Benayoun
His drifting movement into the centre had the Charlton defence on the edge all afternoon. Cannot wait to see him back on the right playing in front of Painstil or Mears.

Bobby Zamora
Missed a couple of good headers, but his two goals came from good positional awareness. Appears to be ready to battle for a place in the team.

Marlon Harewood
No real chances of note, though unlucky to have a goal disallowed as well as ending up in Howard Webb's book.


John Paintsil
(Replaced Mears, 45) Looks quality going forward, even after Reid was bought on to stop his forward runs. I think he will be defensively sound when called upon in the future.

Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Zamora, 82) Did not do that much, record breaking aside.

Carlton Cole
(Replaced Harewood, 90+2) Good goal, but anything more than a six is too much since his game lasted for two minutes.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

James Collins
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Roy Carroll, Tyrone Mears, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Yossi Benayoun, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 52 Bobby Zamora 66 Carlton Cole 90              .

Booked: Marlon Harewood 35 Paul Konchesky 65        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Charlton Athletic: Carson, Young, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Traore, Ambrose, Holland, Faye, Hughes, Hasselbaink, D.Bent..

Subs not used: Myhre, Rommedahl.

Goals: D.Bent (15 pen).

Booked: Traore (23), Young (47)..

Sent off: None.

Referee: H.Webb.

Attendance: 35,000.

Man of the Match: Lee Bowyer.