West Ham 2-3 Tottenham

No man will make himself a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it

Andrew Carnegie

DID today’s events seem familiar? No, not West Ham going three down before giving themselves a chance with two late goals as they did against Newcastle in their previous home game. Nor Jose Mourinho being unveiled at his nth new club as manager. Neither was it the woeful Roberto Jimenez chucking another one into his own net for the first goal.

Yes, it was the sound of the David Sullivan carousel turning, as again the players provided a performance that will have the West Ham Chairman on the phone to agents assessing the suitability of potential managerial replacements.

West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini

Obviously, Sulley won’t be able to do the deed decisively and with the minimum of fuss in the manner his equivalent at Tottenham, Daniel Levy, dispatched Mauricio Pochettino. We will first “enjoy” stories on favoured websites about current manager Manuel Pellegrini mugging old ladies, stealing the charity tin at Rush Green or defecating on Mark Noble’s shirt during an ill-judged training ground stunt. Only then, with a furious fanbase marching on Hackney Wick with scarves, caps and flaming torches will Sullivan hand Pellers his P45

For the record, there will be no tears shed at OWHWLY Towers when our Chair hands the Chilean the glass of single malt and pearl-handled revolver. Off the pitch an obsession with talking about “big team mentality” looks, after a run of two points from the last 21, to be little more than false entitlement. Pellegrini treats journalists, and by extension the wider public, with an ill-deserved hauteur. He is rude, arrogant, and refuses to answer pertinent questions preferring instead to waffle on about nothing.

Keeper Roberto fumbles the ball … again

On the pitch displays have worsened. Whether you look at expected goals against (xGA), big chances given up or pressing statistics, West Ham are bottom of the Premier League for defending. Against Spurs, the manager’s tactical winner was to offer no protection for either full-back in the same 4-1-4-1 formation that has served him so badly for so long. The received wisdom is elite sport success is defined by tiny percentage gains. Here at West Ham Pelle has been throwing blocks of points away with a refusal to address defending, set pieces or – and this will come to define his reign – not possessing a goalkeeper with even the most basic goalkeeping skills. Our local rivals, who hadn’t won an away league game for nearly a year, took gleeful advantage

Pellegrini has been given more money than any other Hammers manager in both real and relative terms. Yet big money attacking buys Anderson, Fornals and Haller are failing badly and bereft of confidence, largely at the hands of a restrictive tactical formation that precludes either crossing early balls, going outside a full-back or getting midfielders in advance of an isolated loan striker. Against Tottenham wide players Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko produced almost nothing in attack – but were nowhere to be seen without the ball either.

Hammers under Pellegrini give up too many chances

It was difficult to know who had hit the wine hardest, Pellegrini with his “tactics” or referee Michael Oliver – who had a terrible game which included booking Issa Diop for getting fouled by Harry Kane and not red carding Ryan Fredericks for a shocking challenge on Son Heung-Min. Unfortunately for West Ham neither Mourinho nor his players were intoxicated by anything other than success … we can confirm Spurs midfielder Harry Winks wasn’t tiddly

Once again, an idealist manager charged with playing football “the right way” has failed, creating the need for a pragmatist to bail the club out. Sullivan, desperate for supporter approval, will look to somebody to “do a job” then not allow them to continue because of an adherence to some misty-eyed ideal, before getting in another expensive flop. Blind to the nature of this continuum it might be said the Chairman’s only aim for the club is the maintenance of his own position.

The West Ham press is non-existent

Pellegrini, shorn of a ‘Plan B’ – for which Sam Allardyce and David Moyes were panned – will leave, possibly after the Southampton game and only once Lukasz Fabianski has returned to fitness.  Even Sulley wouldn’t expect a new manager to deal with the car crash that is Roberto. The money spent rescuing the coach from China (much of it a bribe to keep quiet about Sullivan’s lack of method) will have been wasted and a further wedge will need to be spent paying off his backroom associates.

As pleased as Sullivan may be that the crowd didn’t revolt during or after the Spurs game, he should be careful – in matters of the heart apathy is a sign the love has gone – at least anger means there is still something there. His next appointment will be (temporarily, at least) the difference between a Premier League future and a relegation spiral. The club owner loves to ascribe some connection to the club when making appointments but surely even he would be forced to blench at “club legend Chris Hughton”

A scenario: Rafa Benitez is said to be unhappy at Daliang Yafang in China, plus there is a feeling on all sides the Spaniard owes West Ham, given how gracious they were about him ditching their offer for Real Madrid. He and Sullivan are said to get on well even despite a characteristic Brady slur in her Sun newspaper column. However, there is a problem – around 30-40 million of them. Buying off Pellegrini won’t be cheap, nor will getting Benitez out of his contract. If we know anything about Sullivan it is he won’t tip up with the money. So here it is: Sell Declan Rice to pay for Rafa Benitez? We would take it, even if it doesn’t address the problem at the heart of the club

David Sullivan – we are looking at you.

Arrogant, lacking in class, dim

Jose Mourinho with the Champions League trophy

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

Bertrand Russell

TODAY (Wednesday) the West Ham United Twitter feed released a video mocking the newly appointed Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho ahead of the two clubs’ meeting at the London Stadium on Saturday.

Later, possibly realising the whole idea was crass – or more likely being asked to by Spurs representatives – the post was deleted.

Fortunately, the good people at Hammers Chat made a copy enabling us to all witness the club’s folly.

Just in case anybody has forgotten, West Ham are currently 16th in the Premier League having not won in their last seven games. Furthermore, by our reckoning since taking over Porto in 2002 the Portuguese coach has won seven league titles, four domestic cups, the UEFA Cup/Europa League once each, the Champions League twice and on three occasions won England’s League Cup.

In that time West Ham have won, er … nothing. In fact we have failed to win a significant trophy in a stretch going back nearly 40 years.

But let’s all laugh at a manager that’s done the lot shall we?

The video lacked class and intelligence but was most of all arrogant – all traits that define the current management and board of our football club.

To think somebody made this vid, someone else edited it and a third person deemed it suitable for publishing says much about the corporate culture at West Ham United.

Just like my dreams Part I

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning”

Gloria Steinem
This is not what we were promised

AMID all the places in the contemporary West Ham cybersphere for polls, forums and opportunities to “have your say” there is a dearth of space for an encompassing vision of what fans really want our football club to look like. As good as polls are at determining on a day to day basis whether this or that player is a favourite, the answers are only ever going to be granular.

This, then, is a vision of the club we aspire to under the unlikely conceit Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos feels making all that money while also pissing off Donald Trump has left a hole in his life that can only be filled by ploughing millions into an underperforming Premier League football club.

As well as establishing a basis for argument over what a football club should be and do the hope is such an examination can build a better framework within which to answer, “Who would you like to sign for us, x or y player?”

The stadium:

THE current arena isn’t fit for purpose. It was not designed as a football ground and it shows. Seats are too far from the pitch. The shallow rake of the stands means there is little atmosphere, the gap between stands worsens the problem and the scaffolding is an embarrassment. Worse, the migration from Upton Park was handled with all the dexterity and wit of a Duke being interviewed by Emily Maitlis.

Realistically the choice is between rebuild, replace or build a new stadium. A rebuild seems unfeasible as there is so little of the ground worth its name as a football stadium. There is no opportunity to dig down – and going upwards would only exacerbate current problems. Replacement on the same site would be expensive, messy, and would possibly, as with Spurs, involve a period at another ground.

With all respect to those that would quite legitimately cry “Not again” the best choice would be to start afresh with the Amazon Stadium sited elsewhere on the Queen Elizabeth Park. The current owners would be more than happy to get out of the current lease which is costing them around £10million a year. A decent deal could also be made buying some adjacent land as without a football club in situ the park would atrophy.

Seating priority would not be given, as with the recent migration to those having the most money or a mate who wants a ticket but to length of service as a season ticket holder. Obvious to everybody you might think, except for Karren Brady, who if she performed as badly as a contestant on The Apprentice as she does in real life would be booted off on the second week.

The prime concern for the stadium alongside givens such as sightlines, comfort and safety would be atmosphere. To that end the arena would have a steep rake all around and upper tiers that sit above rather than behind the space below giving a theatre feel. Individuals would feel more as though they are part of the action rather than spectators.

Behind one goal would be a single stand “Kop” designated a singing section that would be the cheapest area of the ground. The aim would be something akin to “die Gelbe Wand” (the Yellow Wall) of Borussia Dortmund. (Compare with the current ludicrous idea that the Billy Bonds Stand – with some of the most expensive seats in the ground – would possess the atmosphere).

The Yellow Wall

Controversially perhaps, the ground would have a capacity of just 45-50 thousand. The estimates are we currently attract around 42 thousand – the increased capacity has a lot more to do with David Sullivan’s ego than any practical concern. Much above 50 thousand attendees and atmosphere dissipates, a full ground is always livelier than a sparse stadium whatever the size.

All lower tier seats would be convertible to safe standing and there would be a designated Family Enclosure as well as disabled seating, a sensory room and so on. Corporate areas would consist of lounges with access to seats outside. No boxes. Food available within would be of pub standard rather having pretensions to haute cuisine in order to prevent inflated charges. Food and drink would be available behind the stands as is usual and be comparable in cost to pub prices. Fixed seats and tables would be available. Hopefully, fans would be drawn in earlier, preventing last minute waits to be searched, and profits would raise given fewer supporters would be drinking away from the ground.

Fan representation:

INDEPENDENT supporter groups would be encouraged and have regular dialogue with the Supporter Liaison Officer. Meetings with Board members would be regular, as would input into policing and stewarding committees. The hated OSB would be immediately disbanded. As appealing as it sounds a supporter on the Board would be unnecessary so long as the former protocol was adhered to. The Davids, Gold and Sullivan, profess to be fans and both are useless. The concern would be a Board place up for grabs would lead to infighting and invite those more concerned with thoughts of grandeur than representing the club’s support.

Kit:

PLAYING and training wear would be designed by top brands, realistically that means Nike or adidas. Home kit would consist of claret shirts with sky sleeves, white socks and shorts. Away strips would rotate on a tri-yearly basis between sky, navy and white. There is a place for gold within these kits – but teal, ecru, violet and so forth have no place in a West Ham strip and are an abomination.

Part II to follow. On-pitch matters...

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

Titles close

Scene: On the 276 bus to Stratford

Gordon Ramsey: I’m off to the east End of London, famous for gangsters, murderers and jellied eels. Today’s subject is “Club Jambon D’Ouest Uni”, a restaurant in West Ham’s ground where the owners are in a pickle. Since moving premises three years ago in an effort to grow the brand, customers are unhappy and many have left yet the standard on offer has dropped. Profits are down after a number of expensive ingredients turned out to be not worth the money.

GR: I’m due to meet owner David Sullivan.

Scene: On the centre spot at the London Stadium. GR and David Sullivan talk. Gordon holds his chin

GR: Hi David, what’s going wrong?
David Sullivan: I don’t know Gordon, I work my socks off – but everybody else keeps letting me down. I appoint all the chefs – but it can’t be my fault because I’m the man with the money.

Scene: In the restaurant. Gordon orders some food and casts his eye around. To camera:

GR: Wow! This is the oddest place I’ve seen. Décor soulless, no atmosphere. The seats are miles from the kitchen and somebody appears to have spilled red wine all over the new carpet. The tables have popcorn on them as a starter, the scaffolding decoration looks out of place and why are there no cups? Fuck me!

The food arrives and Gordon picks it about a bit before sending it back.

GR: My God! This is terrible. I need the toilet, excuse me.

Retching noises come from within.

Scene: In the kitchen. Chef Manuel Pellegrini stands in front of the microwave looking guilty

GR: Hi! Gordon Ramsay. You are the head chef?
Manuel pellegrini: Si.
GR: Do you think that was sufficient quality to get your customers to return?
MP: Si. We have a big kitchen mentality here.
GR: No pride, no passion, no preparation – you’re living on another fucking planet mate!
MP: I worked at the top restaurants in Madrid and Manchester, please don’t be rude.
GR: Rude?! Fuck off! Your Lasagne Al Fornals was underprepared – almost raw, the Cress was limp and the Wilshere Jack cheese just fell apart every time I tried to get it on my fork. The Pâté de Foie (Snod)gras with Scotch was ok but the only dish with any promise was the Rice.

GR: Mate, I was looking forward to a vintage Chilean red but all I’ve seen so far is cheap fizzy water.
MP: We are not in a good moment, I need another wingman.
GR: Fuck off! The only reason you’re here is to make a quick buck before you retire! You don’t care.

Scene: In the boardroom. Ramsay eyes the prawn sandwiches nervously. David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady look unrealistically confident.

DS: How was the food?
GR: Seriously? It was fucking awful! The French beefcake was all alone on the plate with nothing else – I was expecting some Gravy Diangana but the kitchen tell me they’ve will have to go to Birmingham to get any.
GR: As for the Spanish guaca-goalie, it was bright green and rancid – I expected something Fab but it absolutely stank the place out.

A bad smell – the guaca-goalie

GR: And your Brazilian dish couldn’t have been worse if somebody had boiled a sandal – a complete fucking Felipé flop!
GR: All your food is Fancy Dan – you need some meat and potatoes – good honest stuff that does a job.
Ramsay turns to Gold
GR: What about you Mr Gold, what do you do?
David Gold: I was born in Green St.
GR: What!?
DG: Yes, it’s true. And I used to play for the boys and now I drive a Rolls Royce and wear a blazer.
GR: Are you fucking serious?
DG: Oh deadly serious, Mr Ramsay, do you want to see my garden?
GR: Fucking hell, I’ve never met anybody so deluded in all my life!

Ramsay gives up on Gold – especially as he thinks he may need the toilet – and introduces himself to Brady.
GR: Hi, Lady Brady, pleased to meet you. What is your role in the process?
Karren Brady: I’m all about raising the profile of the place…
GB: Raising the profile? How?
KB: With my weekly piece in the paper and regular appearances on The Apprentice.
GR: Yeah, but what do you do for the customers?
KR: I’m the Vice Chair – and let me tell you, a good restaurant doesn’t need customers to be successful. No, I run a club called the Objectionable Supine Bootlickers, the OSB for short – and they tell me everything I want to hear. Sometimes we even offer them a few crumbs from the top table.
GR: So who gets feedback from the diners?
DS (interrupting): Oh, we don’t talk to them, why would anybody do that?
GR: Fuck me ragged, this place is a total shitshow and you lot are fucking amateurs. I can’t help you.

GR: I’m off!

Closing credits

Burnley 3-0 West Ham

Happy families

THE facts are stark – in their last six league games West Ham have won none, drawn two and lost four. Worse, this is not a “bad spell” as manager Manuel Pellegrini claims but a relatively easy run that contained none of the so-called ‘big six’ clubs. Our next four fixtures are against Tottenham, Chelsea, Wolves and Arsenal.

All the chatter is of the manager facing the sack. At present it seems very unlikely – the Board decision to appoint a head coach on such high wages means we are stuck with him, especially as sacking him would mean paying off all his staff as well. Plus, the question remains over who would fill a vacancy – the club are not the attractive proposition many fans would like to think.

The arrogance we spoke of after the Newcastle game needs to stop. The coaching staff need to sit down and realistically think about how to win games. If that means a pragmatic approach to replace the manager’s idealism then so be it.

Of the six goals conceded in the last two games four resulted from set pieces. The issue must be addressed. Pellegrini needs to be disabused of his insistence “nothing will change” on the training ground. Properly executed set pieces are claimed to produce 15-20 goals a season in attack. At the other end of the pitch conceding in this manner will only put more pressure on a misfiring front four to produce.

Despite an attacking trio of midfielders who barely defend and don’t press (there was a good piece about this in The Athletic this week) the team are not producing chances for striker Sebastien Haller. The Frenchman must wonder what he has done coming to a club as dysfunctional as West Ham. Imagine how good he could be if somebody like, oh I dunno, Marko Arnautovic was playing behind him?

At the moment Haller is still working hard but at the risk of repeating ourselves midfielders, especially coming from wide, need to at once get the ball in front of him in the box and come in from the opposite post to get beyond him. Continuing as at present to play stupid little passes into his feet in the hope he will produce something on his own is futile.

Good sides often have a settled back four. Pellegrini must pick his men and stick with them. Of the games mentioned only against Palace did the manager leave his back four unchanged. The present requirement is for players least likely to make mistakes, which means Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna and Cresswell should start.

Eyes down for a full house

Some problems are insurmountable; there is nothing the manager can do about injuries to the unfortunate Manuel Lanzini or more worryingly Mark Noble, one of only three players along with Rice who can play defensive midfield, even if this further exposes the insanity of not replacing Pedro Obiang during the summer. It’s as though Michel Roux jr suddenly declared: “There’s no butter in the fridge and we haven’t time to go to Tesco, let’s just make our pastry without. Nobody’ll notice”.

Likewise the goalkeeping issue seems irreconcilable. We can only rue Mario Husillos’ decision to bring in Roberto Jimenez as cheap cover for Lukasz Fabianski, a decision that seems more expensive with every week the Pole takes to recover from a hip injury. Fabianski was worth 12 goals to the Hammers last season – it feels like his replacement chucks one in every game.

As everybody’s Gran used to say: “Buy cheap, buy twice”: If a point in the Premier League is said to be worth £1million, the £40,000 or so saved on wages is costing the club around a hundred times as much. Michel Roux jr again: “This butter is way too expensive, lets get some Netto own brand marge instead. What could possibly go wrong?”

Arguments are raging both on social media and among individual supporters over where the blame lies for our current predicament. Some apportion blame to the manager, others the players, still more the Director of Football. We say this: The Chairman is in charge. It was his decision to appoint a manager who matches his arrogance. Pellegrini in turn, appointed a DoF who chose the players he wanted to buy. The squad are struggling under the vague tactical instructions of a hands-off manager who believes “big team mentality” is the essence of his footballing philosophy. Therefore, it seems obvious to look to the top for responsibility.

David Sullivan, this is your omnishambles. Fucking own it!

Standing up for supporters

OH West Ham We Love You are very pleased to have come to an arrangement with Knees Up Mother Brown to publish our blogs.

As a group who value independent thought we feel the need for websites such as KUMB becomes all the greater with each attack on freedom of speech by the club.

Editor Graeme Howlett leads a group of writers who consistently provide good quality, thoughtful material for their readers and we are honoured to join them.

In a similar vein we will support all the good work achieved by Independent Supporters’ Associations such as WHUISA and Hammers United and urge the club to establish a dialogue with them as required by UEFA, Premier League and government regulations.

The practice of the club of relying on “friendly” sites to spread often contradictory and incoherent messages does nothing for supporters, especially when the board refuse to listen to any voice other than their own.

Sullivan’s sting in the tail

IN the most predictable set of events since Jack Wilshere last presented himself to the club medical team, a West Ham slump in form has been followed by a welter of briefing against club employees. Even though Manuel Pellegrini’s job is said to be safe (it would cost a lot to sack him and his staff), Mario Husillos’ reign as Director of Football appears to be nearing a close at the London Stadium.

Pertinent to these events are the old Russian fable featuring a frog and a scorpion. Put briefly it goes something like this; A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog afraid of being stung defers. But the scorpion prevails, reasoning should it attack the frog they will both surely die. The frog relents and begins to carry the arachnid on its back. Midstream the scorpion stings the frog, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why, to which the scorpion replies “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”

Just as the scorpion can never escape his deadly instinct even when it leads to his own demise, so Hammers owner and coincidentally Soviet paraphernalia wearer David Sullivan is drawn to implicitly criticising staff members via friendly journos and bloggers every bit as surely as a drunk will inevitably weave their way to a kebab shop. It’s in his nature, you see.

Quite what the bloggers themselves get out of the transaction is difficult to ascertain. Any “reflected glory” from our owners would be about as lustrous as a ten quid fake Rolex brought back from a holiday in Turkey. The paradox is Sullivan engages in this activity in an apparent desperate attempt to keep supporters onside – yet is the owner of one of only two clubs in the country that refuse to interact with supporters’ groups. He insists we supporters listen but refuses to reciprocate.

A good owner would stand or fall by their own actions, not donate responsibility to staff members. Many fans see through this charade and recognise the Chairman’s behaviour as weak and indecisive, just as in our own workplace we all know a boss for whom ‘shit rolls downhill’.

The remedy is for Sullivan to butt out. Unfortunately, he seems to have little idea of the overarching role a DoF actually entails, meaning any appointment would be on a haphazard basis. In that sense if no other it was a reasonable process that saw Husillos chosen not by the Hammers’ owner but by his own head coach that in any well-run club would be a subordinate. File under: Only at West Ham.

Sullivan’s period in the job saw him rely almost exclusively on agents instead of a scouting network, a process that has resulted in too many “marquee signings” at the expense of future revenues. There are persistent rumours at other clubs that West Ham are too close to one agent in particular. Until Sullivan comes face to face with the reality that he is the problem not the solution and the process is every bit as important as personnel we fear “Dabbler Dave” will persist and money will continue to be wasted.

West Ham 2-3 Newcastle

ON the evidence of the home defeat to Newcastle, West Ham are less a side claiming to have top six pretensions than one staring at a relegation battle – and with a set up ill-equipped to face that challenge. There have long been whispers emanating from the club that in all areas the Hammers are arrogant and yesterday all those chickens came home to roost. Forget the late rally, this was a team humiliated by a club so poorly run they appointed the woeful Steve Bruce as manager to replace Rafa Benitez.

To be fair to the Magpies, at least they didn’t settle for Manuel Pellegrini in the hotseat, a man whose entire operation appears to be characterised by arrogance. In that respect, if no other, he is a perfect fit for the Hammers.

First the bare facts: West Ham have won just three games from 11 in what has been a relatively easy start to the campaign. Worse, they’ve picked up just two points from the last fifteen including just a single point from consecutive home matches against Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Newcastle. The side are currently an alarming nine points down on comparative fixtures from last season.

Expected goals come in at a reasonable seventh place at 15.79. But it is at the other end of the pitch the worries lie. A defensive xG of 21.45 is worse than Southampton, who a week ago let in nine at home. The only side with a worse metric are Norwich. A combined xG of 11.27 puts the club in the bottom three along with the Canaries and, you guessed it, Newcastle. Statistics strongly suggest the Hammers are overperforming!

A measure of the manager’s arrogance is he describes his club’s current form as a “lapse” and claimed “It’s difficult to explain why we played the way we did in the first 45 minutes. I do not understand why we played so bad”. What a shame he eschews analytics? None of us are on Pellegrini’s reported wage of £10million per annum (quite likely a good proportion of which buys an acceptance to accede to the wishes of Chairman David Sullivan – more on that later) but might offer one or two suggestions:

Just a thought, but if you are playing a Bruce-managed Toon, who have by far the worst attacking xG in the division and hadn’t scored away from home in 400 minutes but do possess pace by the bucketload, it might not be the greatest idea in the world to match 85-year-old right back Pablo Zabaleta (who has all the pace of a sloth who wishes to give up the hurly burly of sloth life and kick back a little) against the lightning quick French winger Allan Saint-Maximin. Neither was it the pinnacle of tactical awareness to play a 4-1-4-1 system that allowed Newcastle to merely lump the ball down the field upon receiving possession safe in the knowledge they had the numbers and legs to chase it.

Two of the goals conceded came directly from dead balls. Yet for all our highly acclaimed “big team mentality” (what does that even mean?) there is nothing to suggest training involves set plays at either end of the pitch despite the clear benefits from so doing. For their crucial first goal 6ft 1in central defender Ciaran Clark was being marked by 5ft 7in left-back Aaron Cresswell. And while on goals conceded it’s impossible not to comment on Roberto Jimenez, a goalkeeper whose only claim to competence would appear to be his vague physical resemblance to Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon.

Would it be too much of a stretch to think that, should first choice stopper Lukasz Fabianski be injured, we might need a replacement a little more accomplished than somebody who managed just four appearances for Espanyol in three la Liga seasons? Yesterday he came and missed a cross by yards to present an easy headed goal for Federico Fernandez before a lack of footwork led to him getting both hands to a Jonjo Shelvey free kick but merely pushing it into the net. So rancid was his display the stench could even be smelt as far away as the distant upper tier of the London Stadium.

On pitch we have a captain who has bought into his manager’s hubris. Prior to the Palace game on the 5th October Mark Noble mused: “We never think we can lose”. Reader, we did. In fact, we haven’t won a game since. The skipper then went onto claim he is part of “The strongest Hammers squad” in his decade-and-a-half in claret and blue despite it containing no strength in depth at goalkeeper, full back, central midfield or up top. “Pranks” pre-recorded for sponsors should not be part of a Premier League captain’s repertoire; the optics are poor when the team is losing, they lack class and appear unprofessional.

Andriy Yarmolenko was weaved, it would appear, from the same cloth. He is nowhere near as good as he thinks he is and offers little off the ball. Just as a park footballer wearing Predator boots needs to be pretty nifty to avoid a good shoeing, so Yarmolenko is not of the class, or physique, required to cut holes in his socks – this year’s nasal strip. Felipe Anderson needs to start justifying his £34m price tag too. Yesterday he looked like Matt Jarvis as he didn’t beat anybody, didn’t provide killer passes and wandered around giving the ball away. Still, at least he does all this to a Samba beat, so that probably makes it ok. (Hint: It doesn’t).

An honourable exception was Robert Snodgrass. Chasing and harrying as though his life depended on it, the Scotsman scored with a quality finish and gave the impression he was playing for his place. The midfielder offered the post match view that: “We need to be solid and resolute”. Amen. The club surely need more players with his ability either side of the ball. Expect him to be dropped for an attacker next week against Burnley.

Among the backroom staff the arrogance not only continues but is encouraged. Vice Chair Karren Brady (does anybody know what her role involves?) refuses point blank to give up her vapid and often offensive Sun column despite it doing harm to the club’s reputation. She also ignores UEFA, Premier League and Government regulation that insists clubs speak meaningfully with independent supporters’ groups.

Brady’s hand-picked “supporters” group the OSB act as an arm of the commercial department and do nothing to help fans while their Chair’s main role appears to be antagonising fans via social media. Likewise, Ben Campbell nominally “Head of Media Relations” is known to be at once dim, confrontational and a constant hurdle to journalistic access.

To get to the root of the unwarranted pride that characterises the club it is necessary to go to the top. Owner David Sullivan likes to insist any responsibility he bears for results ended when he bought a club in financial distress nine years ago. Despite personally doing very well from the deal he will routinely answer any criticism with a flurry of nonsense about how much money he has “put in” to the club.

He believes he knows at least as much as the managers he employs, refuses to engage anybody who questions his desire to meddle in the transfer market and will brief against those who do via his favourite websites. We note a piece last week on one such site decrying a recent non-Sullivan signing. In the same place a poll on Pellegrini appeared less than an hour after the full-time whistle yesterday.

The result is a club where sycophancy and chutzpah flourish while intellect dies a lonely death. We are fully prepared to accept our observations on this subject may be considered arrogant in themselves. Just don’t coming running to us when Steve Bruce is appointed manager.

VAR from the madding crowd

JUST as some West Ham fans are prematurely writing off £24million summer signing Pablo Fornals, we believe the Video Assistant Referee should be given time to flourish. That is not to say the system isn’t without its faults. VAR has been brought into the Premier League too quickly, without full assessment and minus any thought for us, the supporters who pay for the privilege of attending games.

Nevertheless, we believe if implemented properly we might see the twin benefits of a reduction in big-team bias, a feature of top-flight football ever since we’ve been watching, as well as a welcome reduction in referee error, leading to a fairer game for everybody. Those of us who prefer consistency to “common sense” in officiating would benefit.

First a description of how the system works: Administered from Stockley Park in West London VAR is concerned with four areas only; goal/no goal, penalty/no penalty, red cards and mistaken identity. A referee, assistant and Hawkeye operator are in communication with officials at the ground.

The criticism falls broadly into two camps: The information given to supporters and the way it is implemented. We see no reason why the decision under consideration shouldn’t be more clearly explained – a retaken penalty in the first game of the season against Manchester City was handled farcically with few people in the stadium aware of what was happening.

Big screens (except at Old Trafford and Anfield where none exist) have the capacity for far more information than at present. An audio feed from the referee would surely help. Replays of the incident under review are routinely played on television. There is no good argument for match-going fans receiving less information, especially as the vast proportion will be in possession of a smartphone. Any suggestion crowds might be “incited” by being better informed is ludicrous.

It is useful to compare the use of VAR with rugby union’s Television Match Official – a sport where initial scepticism has matured towards an understanding and appreciation of the usefulness of a video referee.

In rugby, the referee will make an on-field decision and ask the television match offical (TMO) whether it is correct. If an official is doubtful over an event they ask the TMO something like: “Is there any reason why I can’t award the try?”

In football, the only time this seems to apply is for offside and only after a “goal” has been scored. When it comes to penalties and red cards, VAR only comes into play when there is a “clear and obvious error” – a subjective criterion which has created a reluctance for VAR to get involved.

The different use of replays creates an unequal balance in the relationship between officials. In rugby they seem to work as a team whereas the football referee is at the behest of his colleagues in the box – something FIFA were keen to avoid (“The referee is the sole judge of fact in law”). Rugby fans’ awareness of why, say, a try is disallowed and being able to follow that decision via a miked-up referee and replays on screens seems to enhance their experience, with the bonus of correct decisions being reached.

It is with a wry smile we recall one of the big pre-launch arguments (and one we never subscribed to) was VAR will “Kill post-match argument around decisions”.

UEFA fail the test

Players consulted with the referee as the game was temporarily halted

RACIST abuse by Bulgaria fans aimed at black England players has been punished by UEFA with a €75,000 fine and a one game stadium ban with another game suspended for two years. The two sides met in Sofia on the 14th October in a European Championship qualifier which England won 6-0.

We are shocked yet not surprised at the seemingly lenient treatment of the Bulgarian FA by the European governing board. After all, Barcelona were fined €40,000 merely for fans flying a Catalan separatist flag at the Nou Camp. The time for teams found guilty of racism on or off the pitch to be eliminated from competitions has surely come.

We are also surprised and dismayed there has been little to no talk over fans, clubs and associations receiving re-education over racism – surely a better and more thoughtful answer than closing a ground. Imposing a fine lower than what an average Premier League player could reasonably expect to earn in a week has never seemed appropriate.

Calls for players to walk off the pitch when confronted by such behaviour will no doubt grow. But loading responsibility onto players for the failure of authorities to act is weak and unfair.

Newspapers in this country would be well advised to cool their heels over some of their indignant responses to the events in the Stadion Vasil Levski. As should a UK Prime Minister who has previously used language such as “watermelon smiles”, “picaninnies” and “cannibals” to describe black peoples.

Things are far from rosy in the English country garden; the following weekend Haringey Borough players took the brave step of walking off the pitch after their goalkeeper, Valery Pajetat, had been racially abused by Yeovil fans.

A Manchester United supporter was thrown out of Old Trafford for racially abusing Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold. And investigations were instigated into alleged abuse by Bristol City fans of supporters from Luton Town at their match in the Championship.

All the evidence is racism is not going away. Everybody; fans, clubs, countries and authorities need to think much more proactively about how we deal with it.