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How speed dating and football make a winning combination


Filed: Sunday, 12th August 2007
By: Paul Scanlan


While Sven Goran Eriksson vehemently denied that his new signings had come from putting his feet up with a bucket of popcorn and some video tape performances, the football world’s version of speed dating seemed to have some merit by 4.45pm on Saturday afternoon.

It was the team of strangers that went away smiling, whilst the side who could field only two of their new signings appeared to have never seen each other in their lives before. For all those who criticised the Super Swede’s alleged methods, I am pretty sure that the majority of us were thinking that perhaps he had not done such a horrific job after all.

The big red panic button situated at Upton Park does not need dusting off. It’s all too often used and in fact, there were nearly 35,000 fingers hovering over it by half time. While Bianchi and colleagues happily strolled around, just waiting for yet another misplaced pass from anyone in a claret and blue shirt, the media sat with sharpened pencils and a smile. It would be of no surprise if the journalists and pundits perhaps not so secretly longed to see us fall and in the first half, we were happily obliging.

The basic skills that get you through a new season of top flight football seemed to be elusive with all of our players having suffered amnesia when it came to passing and positional play. While not expecting an easy ride, I had suspected some of the extremely poor choices made to be coming from Sven’s Speed Dating matches, rather than our own generally well established side.

The second half brought more of the same, as well as a good healthy dose of stress and pressure on the shoulders of one Dean Ashton. Its one thing having to follow in the footsteps of an Argentine idol but to have to do it on the back of a year out of football is quite a different matter.

As the cries of “Ole Ole Ole Ole, Deano, Deano!” echoed around Upton Park the moment the poor lad moved just one of his limbs, I wondered whether he was feeling just a tiny bit of anxiety. I’m the voice of concern who hopes that the fans are patient with our future England international and realises that it’s going to take some time for Ashton to be the man he was.

He has had a horrific year of it and despite his own confidence that he will help us to forget Carlos Tevez, I still think we need to be cautious. In the same way, I hope that the likes of Bellamy help to take the strain off Dean and continue to contribute in the way I think they will.

Before I go any further into the new season, I want everyone to know something. I am officially a hypocrite and both halves of yesterdays match proved it. If I had had my way, I would have personally gone to the pitch level, grabbed both Bowyer and Boa Morte by the ears and told them: “Gentleman, I have a new position for you both…Junior Kit Men!”. I singled them both out for particular frustration venting during the first half and with no sign of a guilty conscience.

Lee Bowyer is perhaps one of the most infuriating players at the club and perhaps in the Premiership. The man was on fire during his Leeds United days and could have been a solid talent for years to come. Instead, injuries, personality issues and general apathy have led a very promising star to become a complete liability and the twelfth man for the opposition. For an individual who used to have so much bite, he’s as toothless now as a newborn baby and it’s embarrassing for both him and us.

Boa Morte meanwhile spends most of his time thinking back to his days as a toddler in an attempt to remember how to stand up on his own two feet. The latter may still have a future at the club but Bowyer may soon have to question whether his days as a top flight player are finally over. Either way, I was quite frankly relieved to see the return of our relative old boys, Mullins and Etherington who were made to look half decent by those they replaced. It’s a worry.

So it’s the end of the first weekend of the season and many people are concerned. No, make that worried. No, make that terrified. While Sven beamed at the press and basked in his glory, Hammers fans were hightailing it home and wondering whether it was déjà vu all over again. We’re all frightened of a repeat performance of last season, particularly without the one man band that saved us, well according to media sources at least.

Whatever you feel about the performance against City, it really was just one match out of thirty eight and there is a long way to go. The transfer window is not even being pulled to yet, let alone shut on us. There is still a good chance for additions to the squad and our own players waiting to return from injury. Yes there is no Carlos Tevez but we do have Craig Bellamy and Freddie Ljungberg settling in along with Scott Parker and Julien Faubert waiting to appear in the future. One lost game does not lead to a disaster and in time, things will improve.

We won’t fail, we have too many people to spite for that.


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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