Filed: Monday, 31st August 2015
By: Paul Walker
Right, I believe it. We have won at Anfield, frankly I never thought I would ever see the day. For those of us of a certain vintage and for yours truly who spent 20 years of his working life in Liverpool, it is something just a touch special.
The days of being patronised, and told how much Scousers like West Ham as their second team--because they always beat us--are over.
But I have watched Sky match choice, match of the day, various websites, Goals on Sunday, the lot. And yes, it was an away victory I find hard to better (I am sure someone out there will have other choices) at any time in the seven decades I have been supporting the Irons.
And it was special. I first went to Anfield with the Hammers in the '60s, and have seen virtually every one of the league games there between our clubs over the past 20-odd years. I had got used to being battered, humiliated and dismissed by the mighty Anfield machine.
So much so that I have a programme and team sheet stored away from a 0-0 draw we once managed. It got that silly.
Various family reasons kept me away from Liverpool on Saturday, and the afternoon was spent mainly walking the dog, such is the tension created by Sky’s drip-drip of information. I cannot cope with that.
And you know it was special when I showed my good lady the score on the Ipad when we got back, and she said: “Bloody hell, is that the right way round?”
Slaven’s miracle boys produced a stunning victory to end 52 years of pain, West Ham’s first win at Anfield since 1963, to give us amazing victories at Arsenal and Liverpool in the same season. Blimey, the same month!
But it’s better than that. I have searched back through the record books and I cannot find a season in our history that has seen us win away to Arsenal and Liverpool in the same campaign. Nothing even approaching it.
I intended waiting until after Tuesday’s transfer deadline before launching into more words on the Hammers, I find it impossible to judge a transfer window until it is completed and you can see whether all the hype about our ’best ever’ window is even vaguely true.
Or whether our great leaders need to be asked questions about the string of targets that seem to have gone somewhere else, and the way clubs all around us in the table, Swansea, Stoke, Crystal Palace, even Leicester, have all seemingly strengthened nicely. I will leave that for another time, because THIS result takes your breath away.
Even commenting on our ridiculous hot and cold season so far, and whether our new manager is a tactical genius or not, serves little in comparison.
It has not been too good these past couple of weeks, though. The win at Arsenal was amazing, a very similar game plan to Anfield, but the home defeats by Leicester and Bournemouth were the polar opposites, in particular the 4-3 defeat to the Cherries.
It was hard to understand why Arron Creswell and Carl Jenkinson were constantly left so exposed on the flanks, and then to see them make schoolboy errors that cost us three goals. It was the manner of that defeat as much as the scoreline that worried many.
Too early really for any judgement on Slav, he is a Premier League rookie but is saying the right things and has been working with a director or football, our much-loved owner David Sullivan and recruitment boss, Tony Henry, who were signing players before he was even appointed.
But in the space of two days, Slav has overseen the departure of the out-of-his depth Modibo Maiga at last, while skipper Kevin Nolan has also gone, freeing up £100,000 of weekly wages between them.
At this point I would like to offer my thanks to Nolan, who suffered disgracefully from a section of our support because he was big Sam’s enforcer. But he did a brilliant job when we needed it most, to unify a dysfunctional dressing room after the Avram Grant disaster, and bullied and coaxed the team to promotion and three years of stability in the top flight, even if time was taking it’s toll on his legs.
Hindsight will place Nolan as one of our best captains in modern times, and \I for one wish him well for the future.
But the times they were a-changing, and Slav’s stamp on this squad came in spades last week, and then with the victory at Anfield, where he was hands-on for every second, and the team clearly were playing for him. Have no doubt about that.
We now have to play like this at home, where we are expected to be on the front foot more, which leaves space in behind to be expoloited,..as we have all seen painfully already. But Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet playing a little wider to protect the flanks as they did at Anfield, and then breaking with their pace and skill, would suit me just fine.
Lanzini is a real gem in the making. My personal high spot from the game being the way he hounded Dejan Lovren, fell over, tackled the linesman and still got up to win the ball back from the hapless Croatian defender . And right in front of the Kop as he created the second goal.
It was a special day. And I would like to refute the suggestion from my younger match-going pals that I was at Anfield to see that last victory in 1963, when Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters ensured a 2-1 win. Come on lads, I was 14...and my dear old mum wouldn‘t let me go!
She was happy by then to let me free in London on the Tube, but letting me go to Liverpool was not on. But I do recall the game, and the era. I so wanted to go to Liverpool as a kid, I am a child of the '60s and proper rock bands. The music, the Cavern, the whole culture captivated my generation.
I was finally permitted to travel north in 1967. That was the day that Till Death Us Do Part filmed a sequence for the show on the train going north with Alf Garnett and his Scouse son in law. You kids out there have no idea what I am talking about, but us old timers know. It was a star-struck, eventful journey.
No win though. Obviously. A copper refused to let me go on the Kop with a claret and blue scarf on, so it was down into the paddock, to get a close-up of Peter Thompson attacking down the left, scoring twice in 12 minutes in the first-half, and that was that. But the atmosphere was amazing
I have always liked Liverpool and the Scousers, real football people, similar working class dockland environment to the East End. Our sort of folk, and I don’t want to hear any of the “We’ve got Di Canio, you’ve got out stereo”, our lot are no angels.
So when I ended up working in Liverpool for so long, the pain of our constant failures there was more acute. I could not return to London and hide out, the banter was relentless. Until now.
It was a brilliant win, helped in no small way by having clever, skilled ball carriers, Payet and Lanzini to break out through midfield with confidence to put Liverpool on the back foot, and expose their dodgy defence.
Previously backs-to-the-wall defence at such places involved belting the ball up to Carlton Cole and hoping it did not come straight back. We have players now capable of controlled defence turned into attack with pace and style. That’s the difference now for me, and it was similar at the Emirates.
So let’s not moan about the transfer window. Let’s believe that the times are achanging, “It’s been a long time coming “ Sam Cooke once sang, and that famous song wasn’t’ even released the last time we won at Anfield.
Next time around, Slav will have had a fortnight to make sure Andy Carroll is fit--were we seriously going to let him out on loan after spending upwards of £40m on wages and transfer fee on him?--and to bed in a couple more new players, we hope.
Now the next test is to win at Chelsea and Manchester United. Come on Slav, you know you can do it!
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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