Filed: Wednesday, 28th December 2016
1. I'm A Man You Don't Meet Every Day
Shane MacGowan is 59 today. The list of pop stars whom he has outlived is quite frankly baffling now.— Jason (@NickMotown) December 25, 2016
I know it's not entirely relevant but as this is a Pogues-based H List, this seemed topical. Also, you should follow @nickmotown as he's a Hammer.
2. Sit Down By The Fire
INT. - Typical Nazareth homestead, 10 AD. Ten year old JESUS CHRIST is sitting watching the football results arriving on the BBC vidiprinter. His father JOSEPH and mother MARY are sitting behind him. Jesus is wearing a West Ham shirt with "5 - Hilton" on the back. We see on their TV screen the result WEST HAM 1 - 2 EAST BETHLEHEM scroll by.
JESUS: Dad, why are West Ham so shit?
JOSEPH: I'm not your dad.
MARY: Oh Christ, not this again.
JESUS: I wish you wouldn't say that.
JOSEPH: So why does Steve from Aldi's keep popping by Mary?
MARY: He's bringing water!
JOSEPH: Nobody needs that much water, Mary.
MARY: We do with the amount of wine you go through (pointing to Jesus). He's knackered changing it all, you know.
JESUS: That's true.
JOSEPH: Would it kill you to do a Beaujolais from time to time?
JESUS: I think you're abusing my powers, I'm only ten for fuck's sake.
MARY: His language is terrible.
JOSEPH: t's a bit late for morality now, Mary.
Suddenly, there is a flash of lightning and the room is filled with smoke.
MARY: I told you to change that bloody fuse. You're a waste of space.
From the smoke, the ANGEL GABRIEL emerges and stands hands on hips in front of them.
ANGEL GABRIEL: God is most disturbed by the goings on here. He is concerned for the welfare of his son here on earth.
JOSEPH: (muttering) Well he's not concerned enough to pay child support is he?
ANGEL GABRIEL: I heard that - he's got cashflow issues. Anyway, what would make this Christmas brilliant?
The three family members speak simultaneously.
MARY: An Aldi delivery!
JESUS: Could West Ham ever just fucking batter someone away from home on Boxing Day?
ANGEL GABRIEL: (points to Jesus) He's the boss.
JOSEPH: This is bullshit.
ANGEL GABRIEL: OK kid, just as soon as we can figure out how to do it, West Ham will play away from home on Boxing Day and they will win very comfortably. Please note that games played in Portsmouth don't count. It says so in Genesis.
JESUS: Does it? OK, whatever. Do you think it will take long?
ANGEL GABRIEL: (mumbling under his breath) About two thousand years and six years, to be precise.
JESUS: What was that? I want it now. It's Christmas!
JOSEPH: I knew they shouldn't have named the fucking holiday after him.
Brilliant. And now I have to go to Swansea.
3. The Sunny Side Of The Street
And so it was that after the fixture list declared we had to play four of the best teams in the division through November, it brought balance to the Force by getting us to play three of the worst in the run up to Christmas. Burnley, Hull and Swansea were thus gift wrapped and offered up like the socks that my family seem to think me incapable of buying for myself.
After two dismal games at home, however, it was time for us to step up and actually win a game deservedly. With Manuel Lanzini ruled out through injury, Bilic used the opportunity to push Cheikhou Kouyate back into midfield, and for the first time we saw Andre Ayew playing in the "Number 10" role that seems the best way to guarantee his presence on our plane of existence.
With Antonio and Payet either side we looked to carry a threat all over the place, although Havard Nordtveit was brought in on the right side of a back four, as it's just not a West Ham Christmas unless someone is playing out of position at right back.
Swansea started relatively brightly, and could have taken the lead when Borja Baston skewed an effort wide, with quite possibly the first shot he'd ever taken with his left foot. It was, however, rather symptomatic of the general overall shittiness of the home team on the day.
Shortly thereafter, Andy Carroll rose to head a Noble cross goalward, a Swansea defender was unable to intercept it as he was wearing large clown shoes, keeper Lukasz Fabianksi failed to gather the ball as his oven gloves were still smeared in cooking oil after Christmas dinner and none other than Ayew was on hand to tap home from 2 yards.
After becoming the first team to concede a goal to Ayew this season, the Swans understandably fell apart with shame and we never looked back. A long period of pressure before half time didn't yield the goal it should have done, but Winston Reid popped up just after half time to nod in a Payet corner and that was all she wrote.
Antonio subsequently stuck a leg out and redirected an errant Nordtveit shot in for the third, and Carroll volleyed home a Feghouli cross for the fourth, just moments after we conceded our contractually obliged crappy late consolation goal. Thus, with that, we had taken nine points from nine and off we go to a Vardyless Leicester on New Years Eve, dreaming of four wins in a row.
As an aside, Ayew became the 41st player to score both for and against West Ham in the Premiership, which is a record, and seems to confirm our longstanding belief that any ex Hammer will always score against us. How nice for Ayew to repay the favour here.
3. The Body Of An American
It is entirely possible that this result might be the nail in the coffin for Bob Bradley. The American arrived in Wales to much derision, largely because of his nationality, which bemused me slightly as Tim Sherwood has managed two Premier League teams and nobody batted an eyelid. Bradley has taken a team into the knock out stages of a World Cup (finishing above England in the group stages), as well as teams in Egypt, Norway and France, and yet is dismissed because he has a weird syntax.
I'm not advocating that Bradley is doing a good job at Swansea, but decrying his ability on the grounds that he is American is bizarre, especially as he hasn't had the opportunity to recruit a single player.
And it's not like unknown foreign managers can't do a good job over here. Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino have been remarkably successful in England, even if they are more the exception than the rule. It's just sorting Pepe Mel from Claude Puel that remains the problem for most teams.
Returning to Bradley's woes for a moment though - since arriving at Swansea, his team have conceded 3-0-3-3-1-4-5-0-3-3-4. Yeah, wow. See ya Bob.
Working at Swindon is like being at the World Cup. If you like.
EDIT: Swansea did it. While I was writing this. I'd have looked prescient if I wasn't so lazy.
In the absence of the injured Lanzini, Andre Ayew started just behind Andy Carroll and finally seemed to have an actual purpose to his play. Scoring a tap in after just 13 minutes surely helped, but his general link play was excellent and his ability to retain possession under pressure was invaluable at allowing us to retain the ball.
With Carroll totally dominant in the air, Ayew and Antonio were able to run beyond him and receive the ball in the final third. This in turn allowed us to generally play higher up the pitch, and it showed in our shot locations. Once again I'm using Paul Riley's great public plateau to generate this shot map:
Hallelujah! It's a Christmas miracle!
This game is actually an object lesson in the benefit of shot locations. We had the same number of shots at goal (14) as Swansea, and the same on target (7). The difference was that ours were so much more dangerous given where we were taking them from.
It's easy to dismiss a game like this given the incredibly low quality of the opposition, but this was a big step forward in our attacking play. The reality is that we benefitted hugely from Swansea having the defensive solidity of a sandcastle, but it's also true that we created substantially more in the second half here than we did in the previous three games combined. We can begin every sentence describing this game with "We played well but...", solely due to the quality of the opposition but I'm not going to do that today. We were supposed to batter this team and we did it. Nice one lads.
5. If I Should Fall From Grace With God
I recall going to a game once years ago when the half time entertainment consisted of a penalty shootout in front of the Bobby Moore stand. As a few kids lined up to take shots, I suddenly paid attention to who was in goal and saw that it was none other than (then) youth team star player, Jermain Defoe. Can you imagine any other professional sports team that would risk injury to a hugely valuable asset in the name of half time entertainment?
Anyway, it's therefore not like we don't have a history of using our players wildly inappropriately, and thus Havard Nordtveit played this game at right back, and did just fine. After a start shakier than the camerawork on Saving Private Ryan, he has flourished in his last few appearances and finally seems to be coming to terms with the demands of the Premier League. It's ludicrous that he is playing at right back, of course, but we've covered that before.
Up against the tricky Wayne Routledge he had a couple of hairy moments but generally did pretty well, and did enough to suggest that his versatility could be useful. With Obiang, Noble and Kouyate all ahead of him, it's hard to see him starting regularly but given we're West Ham you can always bank on some injuries, and when that happens there have been enough positives recently to suggest that Nordtveit can step up and step in.
6. Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah
Can we please take a moment to appreciate the undervalued magnificence of Michail Antonio? I have been more than a little critical of our recent transfer dealings, but the £7m purchase of Antonio must rank as one of the best signings by anyone anywhere in the last couple of seasons.
He is currently the joint highest English scorer in the league this season, and has scored 15 goals thus far in the 2016 calendar year. For comparison Harry Kane has scored 17, and hasn't had to spend any of that time playing at right back. It's interesting that Spurs have been so hugely lauded for signing Dele Alli from MK Dons - and quite rightly so, given his excellence at such a young age - but Antonio is a signing of comparable impact.
It's been a typical pastime for us this season to bemoan the lack of a striker, but Antonio has been quietly filling his boots as we tread water until January. His 8 goals are good for joint 5th in the league, and he's produced that while playing in more positions than you'd find in the Karma Sutra. I'd imagine.
7. Billy's Bones
I never got to see Billy Bonds in his prime, and indeed my only childhood memories of him are as a manager. Watching grainy video of him as a 41 year old doesn't seem to be the best way to savour his brilliance, any more than it would be to learn about Keith Richards by watching him in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Also a better manager than Avram Grant
I couldn't help but see something of the spirit of Bonzo in the swashbuckling performance of Winston Reid here though. Reid always looks a bit pissed off, as though it's only just occurred to him that if he'd simply been good at rugby like every other New Zealander he could have bought himself a beach house in Auckland instead of having to live in East London, but he seemed to have a particular bee in his bonnet here.
There was a distinct "thou-shall-not-pass" feel to his performance as he repelled Swansea almost single handedly, and it was actually something of a surprise that the Swans scored at all. His form took a distinct upturn around the time of the Spurs game, and has remained steady ever since. He may be the only defender to have ever had his reputation enhanced by a 5-1 defeat, as he did after the Arsenal game, and just generally he's looked like he's regained the form that made him such a key player for us a couple of years ago.
He had no right to win the header for his goal, surrounded as he was by two defenders, and if he carries on with this kind of form we can expect to see a general improvement in our defensive performances. Of course, if Angelo Ogbonna could remember he's Italian that would also be just capital.
8. The Auld Triangle
There was something lovely about watching our attacking play here. Dimitri Payet had a Red Hot Chili Pepper of an afternoon ("give it away, give it away, give it away now") but he can generally be relied upon for artistry when we need it, and his pass to Fernandes in the build up for the third goal was a beauty.
The interchanging front three of Payet, Antonio and Ayew were miles too good for Swansea and with Carroll ahead of them to provide muscular refuge whenever they needed it, we ended up carving the home team open at will.
The problem is that few teams will be as accommodating as Swansea. There was still a noticeable lack of running into the channels, although that was offset today by the excellence of Carroll's ball retention when the ball was hit to him. Against better teams that won't work, and without Sakho we still lack the ability to stretch opposition defences between the centre halves and full backs.
All of which is to say that there might be a temptation to stand pat in the January window. As much as I am terrified about what we might do in the transfer window, I'd also argue that with Calleri and Zaza not going to play for us again, we have to get someone. Carroll is never more than ten minutes from an injury and Sakho is already ruled out for another ten weeks, so it would be gross negligence of the highest order to fail to pick up another striker next month.
9. Modern World
My last piece caused slight stir in the sense that it was eventually retweeted by none other than David Gold on Christmas Eve.
My friends found this most amusing, and in particular took great delight at the use of the phrase "a touch of humour", but I must say that I appreciated his words and the fact that he was prepared to read something that was not solely a piece in praise of the Club.
I must confess that I found it startling that anyone at West Ham would read anything I'd ever written, much less retweet it to a wider audience. My pieces generally number a readership in the hundreds, and I'm from an Irish family so you have to write off half of those as being from blood relations, but after David's intervention that number doubled.
What was even more interesting was that at the same time we were being linked to a takeover by Red Bull. This was carried in The Sun, so naturally none of the numbers make any sense - I've never valued a company but Sullivan and Gold paid around £80m for the Club and receive around £90m per year in TV money alone so they'd quite rightly never consider selling for "just" £200m.
Naturally, having highlighted Jack Sullivan's Twitter presence as a source of embarrassment to the Club in my article, young Jack gave me a huge metaphorical "fuck you" by then revealing on Twitter that they had previously turned down a £650m bid for the Club in the summer. And good for him I suppose. He gets far more abuse online than any teenager should have to put up with, and although I am incredulous that his family allow him the profile he has, I suppose we can't deny that he clearly loves the Club.
That said, I think we're only learning about the takeover now because Jack was at Adventure Scouts that week and they don't let them have any social media apparatus while they're away.
Quite apart from the complete lack of professionalism that it shows, to reveal significant financial developments on Twitter, it baffles me that the Club continue to operate like this. I don't have an issue with Sullivan and Gold declining an offer for the Club - it's their investment after all - but how can they not see that it is totally inappropriate to have the public face of the Club be a teenager?
As for the Red Bull offer, I'm all for better management, better decision making, better on and off field performances and the other improvements that would come with their ownership. I'm also fine with playing at the Red Bull arena and being sponsored by them.
I draw the line, however, at being called RB West Ham, or a nickname of the Red Bulls. And therein lies the problem I suppose. For each of us that line will be moveable, and for those who couldn't stomach a new badge I strongly suspect that Red Bull would be a step too far.
I'll say this though - they will buy someone in England and make a success of it, just as they have done in Germany. I suspect at this point that the biggest impediment to it being us is the cost.
10. Sitting On Top Of The World
Before I sign off, I'm guessing that this will be the last H List of the year, so please allow me this moment of self indulgence. To all of you who have read, retweeted, liked, shared, commented, recommended or simply tolerated my writing this year please know that I am eternally grateful.
I probably won't need any of you anymore now that I am being retweeted by David Gold, but it is truly gratifying to hear nice comments from those of you who read my inane rantings, and I'm especially grateful to those who pass it on and recommend The H List to others.
Lastly, thanks also to Graeme Howlett at KUMB for carrying the columns over there, and to Dan Silver, Terry Land, Emily Pulham and Jacob Steinberg for their contributions here this year.
Happy New Year to you all. We're going to beat the champions before the year is over.
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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