Filed: Tuesday, 8th October 2013
By: Paul Walker
Well Big Sam always said he was good enough to manage Barcelona, and now we have all got a first-hand look at just what the tough old grouch was on about!
We just loved it, in our homes, pubs or even at White Hart Lane, as our beloved, goal-shy heroes, cut Spurs down to size. Our first win at their place for 14 years, and coming after our less that exciting start to the season that saw us in the bottom three ahead of kick-off on Sunday afternoon.
Big Sam set us up to cope without a proper front man, Maiga having been less than brilliant since Andy Carroll was ruled out again, this time probably until December, at the earliest.
So Sam used six across the middle and allowed rotation of position, quick passing and excellent movement into space and on the break, to tear the heart out of Spurs. How we all laughed.
Not exactly as pretty as Barcelona, but we all got the message. They also play without a striker, as did Bayern Munich - who I had the privilege of watching outclass Manchester City, our next opponents, last week at the Etihad with my City-mad son.
It was a great night’s entertainment, a wonderful match of such high quality between the Champions of Europe and a club with genuine aspirations to claim that title for themselves sooner rather than later. I did wear my West Ham t-shirt under my jacket, though, feeling that it was about as near to the Champions League as any of my West Ham supporting gear is likely to get!
Call it what you like. Playing with a false nine, or whatever pretentious tag such tactics are christened with by the supposed football intelligencia.
Sam’s view is clearly that if wannabe young coaches play with such subtlety, they are heroes of footballing adventure. If Sam does it, someone tries to tell us that Mo Diame was playing at centre-forward. Oh, and we defended all afternoon, had less possession and couldn’t keep the ball. Nothing but faint praise where Sam is concerned.
In the end it was one of the finest days we have had as Hammers fans for a decade or more, in particular because of where the performance took place. Diame’s turn and pass for Rav Morrison’s goal, would have pleased Xavi. Mark Noble’s perfect ball through the gap for Ricky Vaz Te’s finish would have delighted Iniesta.
But don’t forget, we are not supposed to be able to pass the ball, are we?
Sam’s tactical decisions would have had everyone drooling if they had come from Guardiola, I must admit my hero these days for what he did to create the best club side in the world at the Camp Nou.
Now he has taken over Bayern Munich, shifted Philipp Lahm from full-back to holding midfield and produced a side with Barca’s silk now added to German steel and physical strength. They were awesome in Manchester.
And then there was the old enemy from north London. Now we all know just what £100m spent in the summer actually buys for Spurs. And didn’t they look sick, those that had the bottle that is to still be in their ground with ten minutes to go, and there weren’t many. Sorry, couldn’t resist any of that.
There they were, all cocky as usual, counting how many they would win by, and along comes Sam’s re-constructed West Ham, with a fluid, free-flowing system, cleverly attacking from deep, and a set of tactics that surely is usually the domain of the likes of Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, Pep and, eh, oh yes, AVP.
He of the image that suggests he thinks he has taken all the refined bits of his one-time mate Jose Mourinho, and turned himself into a younger version of the Portuguese master.
Tactical masterclass: Big Sam leads the celebrations at White Hart Lane
Sam once said, to much ridicule, that he was good enough to manage Real Madrid and Barcelona. Even England. How they all laughed. This was the high priest of long ball talking while he was at Bolton. The manager who couldn‘t be bothered with the pretty, pretty stuff like passing through midfield while hoofball was the other option.
It has always got right up his nose, that and the fact that so much praise is heaped on flavour of the month young managers who would not touch his systems with a sticky barge-poll.
Smug, snearing can be heard from all quarters. It has always annoyed Sam to be lumbered with such criticism. He claimed he was much more than that, capable of adapting whenever needed. He insists that we play a different style every match depending on our opponents.
Now not even I was conned by that one. No we don’t. We stuck with Maiga for so long because Sam didn’t want to change the system. But after the defeat at Hull, when we should have drawn, and the defeat by Everton - when we could have won - something had to change.
Yes, our results have not given us the points we have deserved this season. But that is what they all say when things start going wrong. But certainly we deserved more against Everton.
Leighton Baines is a fine full-back with an excellent free-kick in him. But he has never, and will never, ever again in his career score two free-kicks like he managed against us in the same match again. That was how bad our luck had dropped.
Both left-footed into different top corners. We were beaten by a top side we had matched throughout.
But when confronted by a Spurs squad that had sold Gareth Bale - their one man team - and spent £100m in the summer, where better to show what organisation, planning, tactical variety and sheer dogged refusal to give in, can get you.
Morrison was electric, and the national mass media finally re-discovered him. You knew it would happen one day, and sadly we have heard everything about his past and the length and size of his contract ever since.
Predictable, but a shame, because he has only really just started showing the skill that Manchester United knew he had. He does not need to be distracted now by talk of money, buy-outs and agents. West Ham need to keep a firm grip on this blossoming situation, he does not need distractions now he has got this far and is - as I predicted a few weeks back - in the England Under-21 squad.
But it was more than just Morrison. Noble was outstanding, winning possession and producing excellent passing. The lad gets plenty of stick from our own fans, and is always talked down. Lack of pace and vision is the regular criticism. I won’t have any of that.
However, I don’t really want to know that he is Ms Brady’s favourite player, or see him doing double air-kisses with the chief exec when they are out together on Olympic promotional stuff. Arms length, please, Mark., you’ll have everyone talking!
Diame ran himself into the ground, James Tomkins was brilliant and well worth his place back in the side while Stewart Downing - finally back in the side - showed fine form, along with Roland Rat, who seems to have settled in just fine and seemingly can take a good joke, even if the English he is hearing is nothing like he thought it should be spoken!
Ok, it was just one win, and we need plenty more. But it has given everyone such a lift, even my son was smiling going to work on a Monday morning! I have downed some champers and am still floating on air. Winning at Spurs means that much, I am sure you all agree and have felt the same way ever since.
Now we must build on this result. Beating Manchester City will be very, very tough. They are so much better all round than Spurs. But we got a point against them last season and need to do that again. So keep up the good work, Sam, it has not been the start we expected.
But we witnessed something special on Sunday that will live in the memory for years to come. It is worthy of comparison with some of our magical results of the past.
If you discount Cup Finals, semi-finals and the like plus our great European nights - they all fit into a totally different category - the win at Spurs will stand alongside such games as the 4-0 win at Chelsea in ’86, even the 7-0 thrashing of Leeds in ’66, plus the 5-1 win at Manchester City in 1970, with Jimmy Greaves’ debut and Ticker Boyce’s 40 yard chip.
Certainly it equates with David Cross’ four goals at Spurs in ’81. Maybe even Paolo Di Canio’s cup winner at Manchester United more recently. It is a pub debate, and everyone will have an opinion.
But certainly everyone can remember exactly where they were, I am sure. Me, I was locked in the bedroom having not managed to make dodgy streaming to work on the lap-top but listening to the website radio. Frightened to move from the spot in case it broke the spell. Now play it again, Sam!
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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