Filed: Monday, 21st November 2016
1. Say No Go
Going to the cinema when you're married is a delicate business. You've got to at least make a nod towards compromise, but if you get too agreeable then there's a reasonable chance you'll end up watching a film with Katherine Heigl in it where absolutely nothing explodes.
Sadly, back in 2004 I made the mistake of suggesting to Mrs Shark that we go to watch the newly released Van Helsing. I think I'd been seduced by the fact it had the delectable Kate Beckinsale in it, and there were a couple of trailer friendly set pieces and thus it was that we ended up watching one of the worst things committed to film since someone once said to George Clooney "Yes mate, you'd be great as Batman".
There are no bad pictures of Kate Beckinsale. But this is the best.
Since then I've been carrying that particular monkey on my back for a dozen long years. Every new viewing suggestion has to be clearly weighed up against the threat that it might become the new Van Helsing and haunt me until my dying day by having a denouement featuring three CGI characters and a plot that was concocted during an acid trip.
I also have to exercise similar restraint with 5.30pm Saturday football games. With three daughters anxious to watch Strictly, there's no room for error when commandeering the TV for oneself. It had better be worth it if you're going to play the Dad card, because you're going to be hearing about it forever.
This was not worth it.
2. 3 Feet High And Rising
So just how bad is it? Well, after 12 games our record reads W3 D2 L7 (11 points), putting us a point clear of Hull City who only have 8 professionals and are allowing three fans to play for them every week, and level with Crystal Palace, who are Crystal Palace.
I'll offer up a quick comparison to our two relegation seasons and The Great Escape of 06/07:
2002/03 (Roeder) - P12 W3 D2 L7 (11 points)
2006/07 (Pardew) - P12 W3 D2 L7 (11 points)
2011/12 (Grant) - P12 W1 D5 L6 (8 points)
Big shout out to Avram then for comprehensively owning the "shittiest start ever" award. He actually wouldn't win his third game until Boxing Day, which was a heroically awful performance, although Bilic is nicely imitating Roeder by smuggling in a late 3-2 defeat at Spurs.
Of course, there isn't an awful lot of hope on the horizon. Our next three games, as everybody knows, are away to Man Utd, home to Arsenal and away to Liverpool. Without being too Spursy, this was our most winnable game of that run, and we somehow messed it up and it seems reasonable to assume that our record after our Merseyside trip will read P15 W3 D2 L10 (11 points). And that compares thusly:
2002/03 (Roeder) P15 W3 D3 L9 (12 points)
2006/07 (Pardew) P15 W3 D2 L10 (11 points)
2011/12 (Grant) P15 W2 D6 L7 (12 points)
So all hope is not lost, but if you're still labouring under the misapprehension that West Ham aren't in a relegation scrap then you should disabuse yourself of that notion. When you're nearly halfway through the season and behind Avram Grant it's safe to say that someone somewhere has fucked up royally.
3. Dave Has A Problem...Seriously
Not to revisit those summer signings all over again, but they really are the gift that keeps on taking. Håvard Nordtveit is going to take a lot of blame for this defeat, which is remarkable considering he was only on for eight minutes, but if you're going to turn up for work without your cerebrum then I suppose you always run the risk of that happening.
He has pretty decent pedigree having started at Arsenal, then played 150 times for Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga and the Champions League as well as turning out 29 times internationally for Norway. He is not a bad player, but he's been bought along with a few duffers, hasn't had a great start and has now conceded a last minute penalty in a big local derby. So far, so bad.
I'm sure that all of that was preying on his mind as he was brought on and it was probably a determination to make a positive impact that led him to make such a brainless challenge on Heung Min Son and invite the Korean to take a tumble. It was all very reminiscent of Alex Song a couple of years ago - although Harry Kane dived then - when an experienced player did something brainless and cost us dearly.
The summer shopping spree from hell also reared it's head a few minutes earlier when Simone Zaza had a great chance to play in Dimitri Payet during a three on one breakaway with the score still at 2-1. Sadly he went full Transport for London on the pass, delayed it for no obvious reason and pushed Payet wide. He still actually had a chance to make an impact when the ball was laid back to him, but he hit a powderpuff shot straight at Lloris and the chance was lost.
As I've written previously I expect all the loan signings to be moved on in January, at which point David Sullivan is going to do something batshit crazy because there is no way he's going to stand idly by and let the players fuck it up all on their own.
4. Keepin' The Faith
The especially galling thing about this result is that for 88 minutes we'd played pretty well. I can't say that we'd been brilliant, but Spurs are very decent at home, and it's clear that we're playing with a few round pegs in pentagon shaped holes.
One obvious plus was Manuel Lanzini, who dropped deep into Noble's position and was outstanding. His quick feet and slick passing was especially helpful in bypassing the incessant Spurs pressing game, and he combined well with Obiang to break up play regularly.
We sat men behind the ball here and allowed Spurs to have possession, which they largely squandered. Vincent Janssen was heavily pursued by West Ham in the summer, which really should have been a warning to Spurs but they bought him anyway, and he duly doesn't look up to much. With he and Kane anonymous, there wasn't much to fear and we snatched a goal when Antonio popped up like an out of position salmon at a corner and gave us a lead that we sort of deserved.
Spurs improved after half time and they got their equaliser when Angelo Ogbonna decided to go for a leisurely evening stroll on the edge of his box, lost possession and then promptly went to sleep.
Antonio then sold himself like an ex Prime Minister in allowing Rose to run past him and cross for Janssen, who caught it, span it on the end of his finger, and took the three point attempt. Mike Dean saw no issue with this, and despite Randolph making an excellent save, the ball rebounded fortuitously to Harry Winks who tapped in the rebound.
After that it didn't look promising, but we picked up a penalty when Janssen (him again) put both arms around Reid at a corner and then looked shocked, shocked I tell you when Dean pointed to the spot. Lanzini continued his Noble impression by duly tucking it away and with that everything went just swimmingly until it didn't.
I'll be interested to see if Noble gets his place back next week. Our central midfield was a strength today, and there's not much doubt that Lanzini moves the ball quicker than the skipper, without offering the same ability to win it back. I suspect that Andre Ayew might be jettisoned as I still have no idea what position he's supposed to be playing, which is pretty good going for our record signing.
5. The Art Of Getting Jumped
Of all the bad habits to pick up, conceding late goals to Spurs seems to be a fairly sub optimal one. Pochettino has actually been outwitted a couple of times against us in the past - once when Pep Guardiola's tactical inspiration Sam Allardyce played with no strikers and beat him 3-0, and then more recently last season when Bilic deployed a 3-5-2 at Upton Park and ended their title hopes.
I'm not sure if he was expecting us to abandon the 3-4-3 variant here, but Spurs didn't really get to grips with the game until after their equaliser, which contained more than a hint of good luck. Thereafter, they were clearly the ascendant side but our defending was resilient enough to keep them out until the worst 160 seconds I've experienced since someone agreed to let Pierce Brosnan sing solo during Mamma Mia!.
What didn't help was Bilic taking off Dimiti Payet with 5 minutes to go. Payet was our only outlet at that point, as Zaza was holding it up about as well as an imaginary scaffold, and once he was gone there was nothing to stop Spurs bombing on freely. I wasn't averse to solidifying things with another defensive player but surely Lanzini made the most sense in that situation.
I wouldn't say we lost because we stopped trying to win, but inviting any team to spend the last ten minutes in your half with no respite doesn't seem like a great idea to me.
6. All Good?
"It ain't all good, and that's the truth
Things ain't going like you think they should"
- De La Soul "All Good"
Talking of Payet, I may be overreacting wildly, but I can't help feeling this is the beginning of the end. They won't let him go in January - not even West Ham would be that bonkers - but if this season ends up as expected with a relegation struggle and a narrow escape, then that won't be enough to keep him. Sullivan can talk all he wants (and let's face it - he wants to talk) but he didn't surround him with good enough players and thus he'll demand the opportunity to play on the platform his skills (and agent) demand.
This leaves us with the terrifying prospect of no Payet and David Sullivan on a £50m pound spending spree. If we had a proper scouting network in place we might dream of Julian Draxler or Iker Muniain or Yannick Carrasco in replacement, but instead it will be whoever the agent of the week brings in, which will presumably lead to us wasting it all on Wesley Sneijder.
Anyway, enjoy him while you can. That's all I'm saying.
7. Potholes In My Lawn
Not to continue to state the eye bleedingly obvious, but the lack of a right back is destroying us. Whilst Nordtveit is taking all the blame it shouldn't be ignored that the first and second Spurs goals came as a result of defensive lapses on our right side. I am past blaming Antonio - he's not a defensive player and to continue to shoehorn him into the side there is a dereliction of duty by all concerned.
Alvaro Arbeloa is apparently on his way out having fallen out with Bilic, which is becoming a bit of a recurring theme. I have no issue with a bit of discipline but between Amalfitano, Sakho and Arbeloa there seems to be a bit of a pattern.
I also wonder, with no basis for this other than my own opinion, whether that ongoing investigation into Caroll and Randolph being on the piss in Shoreditch at 5am is a factor here too. You'll remember that the Club were determined to get to the bottom of that and then apparently appointed Sir John Chilcott to lead the inquiry as we've heard nothing since.
I doubt it's a great look when some lads can get pissed without it being career limiting, and others have to face up to being transferred to West Brom. As I say, all guesswork, but it doesn't feel quite right.
A little bit like having to consistently play Michail Antonio as a wing back.
8. Vocabulary Spills
Getting angry about Man of the Match awards is a monumental waste of time. It was slightly bizarre though, even by the standards of modern journalism, that Owen Hargreaves gave the award to Harry Kane, whilst admitting in the same breath that Winston Reid was the best player on the pitch. Stranger still was that Kane wasn't even the best player named Harry on his own side, as Harry Winks turned in an irritatingly decent performance to highlight once again the paucity of young talent being developed at West Ham currently.
Reid, was exceptional however, and after watching the game and reading every match report I can get my hands on I'm still none the wiser as to why he was sent off.
Kane, meanwhile, at least had the good grace to be as peripheral as he is when he plays for England before popping up with a tap in and a penalty and taking home the champagne. Whilst I admire their dedication to participating in social media trends, I just feel our defence could have picked a better time than the 88th minute of a London derby before joining in with the Mannequin challenge.
9. Stakes Is High
I was pretty surprised to see Darren Randolph get the nod ahead of Adrian, but with the latter having followed the centuries old West Ham tradition of losing his form as soon as he got called up by the national team, I guess it wasn't too shocking.
He has a tough run of games now in which to cement his place, although some may argue he's likely to get plenty of opportunity to show off his skills. We have kept just three clean sheets all season and have won each of those games. We have yet to pick up a win in any league game where we have conceded a goal.
Stick with me, I've got an idea, it's on the tip of my tongue.
10. Change In Speak
Hate is a strong word.
Nobody comes here to listen to my politics so I don't generally indulge that. I average about 800 visitors for each post and possibly a few multiples of that when the column is carried at KUMB. So I'm not kidding myself that I speak for anyone other than myself, or that I'm speaking to anything other than a tiny majority of West Ham fans.
I have no doubt that some of you think me self important, and you'd be quite right. I write a column that no one pays me for, and then ask people I don't know to read it. You'd have to have a certain level of self importance to do that, especially in an age when people are not even remotely reluctant to tell you they think your writing is "fucking awful".
But I'm going to say this anyway. A lot of West Ham fans have convinced themselves that they hate Spurs fans. It might be true for some, but I suspect it's not really. I have some close friends who are Spurs fans and we all accept the enmity and have generally lapsed into not ever talking about the football at all. I certainly don't hate them or anyone else who supports them. It's like these things that I say I hate but I am really just mildly irritated by:
- people who have long, inane, wittering phone conversations on quiet 7.30am trains
- people who queue for planes at the gate an hour before departure time
- people who get to Underground ticket barriers and then begin the search for their Oyster cards
(I am a dream to travel with, as you can see)
- ads before songs on YouTube
- Robbie Williams
- Anton du Beke
- Robbie Williams performing on Strictly whilst Anton du Beke dances; and so on.....
And so even though Spurs fans are annoying when they win, and the whole "Spammers Cup Final" thing is irritating it's worth remembering that you're not 14, and it's supposed to be irritating because that's what football fans do.
Hate is a strong word.
If you really feel you want to respond to that, why not just point out that Spurs could have gone top of the league for the first time in March since 1964 when they visited the Boleyn earlier this year. Not just their Cup Final, but their biggest domestic game in 50 years and they shat themselves and didn't manage even an attempt on goal in the first half. We deservedly won and ended their league title hopes.
Why mention this?
Because at no point did that require the use of the word "Yid", "Yiddo", "Jew", "Fucking Jew" or a hissing sound.
This was the first game we've played at White Hart Lane in 3 years where there haven't been media reports about our fans signing anti-Semitic songs. I sort of feel like saying thank you to the fans that went, except that not singing Nazi songs shouldn't really be considered a success.
Post match Twitter, by contrast, was awful with plenty of West Ham fans seemingly throwing around anti-Semitic barbs with furious abandon and then retreating behind the mealy mouthed "it's just banter" excuse because yeah, wasn't Dachau funny. LOL. Megabantz. I wonder if these people have ever considered even briefly what it must be like to be a Jewish West Ham fan and have to stand next to people hissing. That's rhetorical. They haven't.
Twitter isn't real life, and I am well aware that a tiny number of twats posting anonymously on a social media site doesn't mean a great deal, but you know it's not like we don't have previous for this.
I'm not even sure I really have an acceptable pay off to this point other than to say we should all be aiming to eradicate this bullshit completely. Call them out on social media, block them from our forums, report them to the Police. Anti semitism is a disgrace.
I've written and deleted and then re-written this a couple of times. No one comes here for this, I know, and people being abhorrent on Twitter isn't really news but this is a "thing" that people now associate with our club. I wondered if any other club had a similar label and stuck in "Sunderland anti Semitism" as a test and the only thing that came up was loads of articles calling Paolo di Canio a Fascist. So, yeah, it's a bit of a West Ham thing.
It's only football, folks.
Hate is a strong word.
* Read more from HeadHammerShark at thehlist.blogspot.co.uk and/or follow him via twitter.
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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