Let’s take a step back…look at bigger picture


SteveKClaretandHugh blogger Steve Knightley looks back at last night’s game and pleads for patience saying: “The manager can only work with the players he has at hand right now”

Last night I was at Birkirkara game and at half time I was frustrated. I couldn’t understand why Nolan had started, I didn’t even notice Jarvis was playing and Maiga looked like he was a fan that accidentally walked on to the pitch and was now desperately trying to find his seat.

 Come full time I was furious. I couldn’t understand why Nolan lasted as long as he did and why Jarvis was playing in flip-flops. I was glad that Maiga found his seat though… on the bench!

Mauro-Zarate-West-Ham-UnitedThe game of ‘Pong’ between left and right became incredibly tiresome and predictable, like listening to an annoying children’s song at a party stuck on repeat. You could feel the tension building in the stands. I heard whispers of ‘nothing has changed’ or ‘same old West Ham’. I must admit, I was drafting this blog in my head during the last 20 minutes and the title I was going to use was ‘The Bubble Has Burst Already’.

It seemed that the excitement and passion felt only two weeks ago was long gone.

A game of football is only as good as what you can see from your seat. Even in the greatest state of the art stadia there will be times when what you see is not the same asothers the same arena. How many times do 35,000 plus people see a handball or a penalty claim the official doesn’t because their  view is different to ours?

In situations like this, I have had time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and think for a moment before airing a negative opinion.

We ALL have to remember we are going through an enormous change right now. A new manager is always a risk, no matter how much they love the club and want to be there. Passion does not guarantee success. A new manager also inherits a squad that they did not choose. This means the legacy of the previous dictatorship will be evident in the new regime. You can only work with the tools that at hand.

The club have already made finances available so Slaven can start to build his own squad as soon as possible. We have already seen more youth players in the past four games than we did all last season. Okay, some might argue that there was no choice but to use them. Fair point. That wasn’t the case last night though, even if we had to wait until the final 30 minutes to see them.

So, let’s go back and think about last night again, starting with Maiga. Of course he struggled. He had nobody there to provide for him. He watched the ball fly over his head from left to right all night long. I would like to see a heat map from last night. I am certain it would show that almost nothing came through the centre at all. Certainly not the worthwhile delivery that he was craving.

Jarvis too was also significantly better once Samuelson came on. Better, not great.

Zarate was a standout performer. He showed real passion and had moments of absolute brilliance. He has to be extremely careful though. Many times he spent too long trying to create or showboat when he had more than enough time to feed someone else.

Equally, Birkirkara’s keeper, Justin Haber had a very good game. Their defender, Mauricio Mazzetti had an even better game. Without them we almost certainly would have scored more than one goal.

And then there is Nolan. Even now I can’t find anything constructive to say. His touches and position was poor. His attitude and temper was even worse. I really hoped that by this morning I could find something good to say about a loyal servant to the club but I can’t. I think the crowd reaction to him being substituted after 79 agonising minutes sums the feeling up better than I could ever put in words.

There are positives to take from last night but we do still have to be patient. The games we are playing before the season starts are the perfect opportunity to get the team right. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t, and we have to be realistic. We also have to remember that our focus isn’t European glory just yet. It is, ideally, at least a top ten finish in the Premier League.

As I said in my last blog, we have our club back. We got what we wanted. So now, more than ever, we need to get behind our club and support it like we are world famous for!


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Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!"

Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon


  • FrankG says:

    Correct,we are a Slaven work in progress.Lastnight has shown that the old school Allardyce crew are in the main not good enough.Nolan needs shipping out asap.For himself & the club.It is a situation that is not good for anyone to have him as captain & leader when he has clearly lost what he had.Anyone who believes he has a part to play this season must still believe in Father Christmas & Pixies at the end of the garden.

  • ExPat_Hammer says:

    There’s also the fact the “pre-season” usually gets all sorts of strange combinations of players not used to playing together. The difference this year, is that it’s also actually meaningful as it’s a potential cup run. With that said, we’ve run 3 on the spin with a shuffled squad, new manager and a revamped coaching staff with 3 clean sheets and 5 goals to the good.

    I’m not worried at this point other than, well, being “ExPat” means I can’t go to matches – can only watch from afar…

    ps. I really had my fingers crossed that KFN and is new “hardness” would not elicit the sort of talk from last season. It’s not to be. Hopefully, we can be rid of his drag on the wage bill and move forward with some fresh talent soon.

  • kennycandb says:

    Well Steve. I agree with everything you say. But I repeat what I blogged last night upon arriving home from the game. We must remember we were missing some serious players last night. Jenkinson , Kouyate, Obiang, Payet, Carroll, Ogbonna, Saccho and Valencia. You didn’t mention O’Brien who I thought had a good first half but seriously ran out of steam (as he usually does) in the second half. I would like to have seen a bit of Hendrie and certainly more of Poyet and Samuelsen. So the doom and gloom merchants should to my mind think again. We do need to rid ourselves quickly of the Alardice gang (Nolan, O’Brien, Maiga and possibly Jarvis). I also thought Cresswell and Reid were a little below par while Tomkins and Zarate were very good. so we still have lots to look forward to.

  • joekuz says:

    Too many people trying to read too much too early. Slav’s just started with this squad, a squad that isn’t used to retaining the ball hence the sideways passing for long periods last night. The only ball Maiga received directly down the middle resulted in his break into the area and the shot that hit the post, everything else sailed over his head. Zarate played some good stuff but again had no-one to pass to as we haven’t got the hang of running into space and making the extra man available. something i’m sure the new players and Slav will address. This is in effect mainly the B team( with a few exceptions) which won’t get much premier league time unless we have injuries. If Song had been playing last night i’m sure we would have seen more forward direct attacking as he showed in the 1st half of the season. non of the midfield last night plays that as their natural game which resulted in the slow pace of the game through the middle. Things will improve once Slav has spent more time with the squad and we introduce the payers that play that way naturally and don’t have to force it.

    • West Ham Fan No 32 says:

      Well said Joe, pre-season whether it be the Europa League qualifying or friendlies is not a good way to gage anything, these players are mostly finding their form, unfamiliar with each other or were bit part players last season, this was the reserves out there and as you say they are not yet used to the brand of football Slaven would prefer to play. This season we could be very lucky and get some early momentum but more likely it will be a roller coaster as we are trying to come to terms with bedding in a new squad and a change from the last 4 years of mostly negative football to a more expansive style of play. In terms of not being able to break down a team with 11 players behind the ball, well we should know better than anyone how difficult that is as it was Sam’s modus operandi, the players will have to learn to find ways via dribbling, one twos or movement and key passing, this will not happen overnight but in the long term hopefully we will be able to do that, COYI!!

  • Lt. Quickdrawovic 1st Slavalry C&H Regt says:

    Strange how a lot of the doom and gloom merchants are part of the careful what you wish for brigade who were and some still are pro BFS,could be wrong but wasn’t this effectively all bar junior Viking an all BFS team,thus despite Slav’s kind PR words it surely kills the myth that he left us with strong foundations. Slav has a big repair job to do and it’ll take time but he’ll get there in the end.

  • TysonM says:

    It was effectively a hippo team Quick.Which is why Slav had a great chance to take a look at the players he inherited,not this summers arrivals bar the viking.Think he will realize that there are many fringe players not good enough.As you say,what he said the other day that fob was kind enough to post here was paying nothing more than lip service to hippo & playing the game as most new managers do.You hear very few rip the old manager & his squad to pieces in public.They just pay respect to them & get on with being the new manager 😉

    • Lt. Quickdrawovic 1st Slavalry C&H Regt says:

      I can’t think of one new manager who has slagged off his predecessor,it’s like an unwritten managers code. Slav will realise just like those at Bolton,Blqckburn and Newcastle that all that’s left behind are mainly old crocks who aren’t fit for purpose. Luckily for us we have a better board than those and a better successor who’ll soon get us on the right track.

  • Hammerman6 says:

    You can’t expect a new manager to walk into a club and axe players, that have been part and parcel of the club for several seasons without running he rule over them first. Yes we all agree KN has had his day but He’s club Captain still until Slav says different. So It would look pretty bad not to play him in these games. As Kennycandb says there were a lot of serious players not available due to suspensions & fitness issues, so lets be patient and wait till we have Hernandez up front alongside Sakho and Payet pulling the strings then we can judge…not yet.

  • bubs says:

    First issue is Club Captain,we must remove Nolan and make a statement by giving the job to the right person ( not Noble )
    Last week we heard how we were left in such a great shape,in fact we are now understanding what a poor bunch of expensive players we are left with,
    Poyet should have played from the start,Cullen could have done a better job than Noble,
    Magia was not needed Lee could have played alongside Zarate,
    I know we were trying to put the game to bed,but the dead wood we played are no better than the young lads Magia ,Nolan and Jarvis are not impact players,
    All last night did was prove to Slav and the 2 Daves that last season was no fluke and we need to invest more and remove the dead wood to give us depth

  • GW says:

    The truth is that the previous so called manager left a patchy squad bereft of any confidence, no set way of playing and fringe players on astronomical salaries.This so called stability is nothing more than a myth created by a group of blinkered fans who forgot the traditions of the club who see the financial riches of the premier league and nothing else. Slavs job is a bloody hard one because his squad lacks depth, full of players who thought they had the right to play because of there agent and friendship with the slug whether in form or not, not only does Slav have to change the style of play he’s got to change the mentality and break the egos of Hippos pets…

  • canchaz says:

    Surely the real ? From last night is are we serious about this competition or are we just using it as a bunch of warm up games that let’s us test some new blood?

  • The Demon says:

    The main thing that last night’s game showed me was that last season’s Allardyce team (which it largely was) simply still aren’t good enough. Hopefully this will be rectified by the new signings, plus those existing players who weren’t there – Sakho, Valencia, Carroll, Kouyate, Song and Jenkinson to turn us into a much improved attacking force.

    I was surprised by some players – pleasantly, in the case of Zarate, not so much by the lacklustre performances of Jarvis, ‘invisible man’ Nolan and especially Mark Noble, who se place in the side must be seriously at risk moving into league action.

    The back four never really looked in trouble, and we still lack any kind of cutting edge or ability to drive through the middle of the park. It’s all wing-to-wing (rather than box-to-box) with Maiga (who wasn’t as bad to my eyes as some others think) who could have easily had two goals if it hadn’t been for the woodwork.

    Bilic is making all the right noises and appears frustrated by his ‘B’ team, which is why it’s so good the Chairmen are putting their hands in their pockets to give him the players he wants.

    Let’s keep our powder dry on complaining yet – it’s work in progress and I for one can’t wait to see our new ‘A’ team in action.

  • bubs says:

    It was all ways going to be used to start off with as fitness training the Board and manager made that clear,I was surprised we put out all those so called first team players last night,
    As I said before I think they thought they could get the job done and dusted,
    The problem is all the rubbish we were being given last year about the fans caused a lot of the problems injuries,Fatigue ect,
    The players are not even good enough to beat old fat part timers,
    Putting those players out last night proved how important this competition is,but it also proved other important things for the manager and board to take into account,keep up beat canchaz

  • Stingray Stewart says:

    As many have said i believe yes of course we are taking it seriously,but lastnight the team Slav put out he expected more from.It has had the purpose of him now knowing that much work is to be done squad wise & that we have alot of mediocre players he has inherited.If anything,rather than players putting their hand up to be part of his plans,in some cases it may well have sealed their fate away from UP.

  • Wembley1980 says:

    I can only assume Slav has given everyone a clean slate, which is fair enough, but hopefully he now knows Nolan has nothing to offer, Maiga is lazy, Lee worked harder in his 20 mins than Maiga did in 70 mins! Nobles distribution is poor, and the lack of vision and creation from the whole side was alarming, the only real defence for last night is how hard it is to break down a hard working defensive side. Although I cant believe Poyet for Nolan didn’t happen at half time and Lee for Maiga on the hour.

  • rugbyirons says:

    I think you are all to a point , well missing the point. Last night was a competitive match and Nolan should have had no part. Slaven should have played him at Southend if he wants to see him in action. One nil is the worst lead and we are far from through yet.Worth remembering for the next round or in Malta.

  • TysonM says:

    No Steve because that is a friendly.If he plays him in these matches or lastnights match then Nolan or none of the others if they are left out or sold can then complain that Slav never gave them a fair crack of the whip.We know Nolan was dross lastnight,we know he shouldnt be in the team.But also he could have well proved it to Slaven.Him playing lastnight could have longer term benefits.But as you say,everyone has missed the point,as usual Rugby you are the visionary while others scramble in the dark 😉

  • kernow says:

    Some interesting points raised on here (but then it’s a good forum with constructive banter) there was no way many of our A listers we’re going to be risked last night and undoubtedly this was a chance for many to stake a claim for inclusion once the prem starts, Bilic and his coaches would have been disappointed that so few grasped the nettle and showed they have the desire and capability to feature in matches where league points are at stake. That said I was disappointed that Hendrie didn’t start and I too would like to have seen a few youngsters given the chance, doubtless their desire would have been more to the fore. One thing is certain what is going on at the training ground in terms of hitting the ground running against the Arse in a few weeks will have little resemblance to what took place last night, I just hope that we can land a proven striker and a decent attacking midfielder to replace Downing, as it’s quite clear our strength in depth is inadequate and at the end of the day how many clubs are knocking on our door to take many of those on show last night off our hands, let’s just hope Nolan and Co can at least be loaned to somewhere that they can do a job, must be a few conference sides where he can do a job! COYI

  • BrookingtoDevonshire says:

    I went to both Europa games at home for the first time in years.
    Both ties were against similar opposition with Birkirkara having the better individuals.Both teams shut up shop from the start and never wanted to attack.
    I felt we actually went into this game showing to much respect for Birkirkara. This can quite often happen in European games. This meant we were slow in our approach with the plan to tire them out by stretching them down the flanks. Our movement was not quick enough in the final third, we often did not have enough players in the box to either make diagonal runs or be on the end of any crosses.
    Noble and Nolan together was to pedestrian. Hopefully we will never see them together again.They played to similar, Noble passed sideways to Nolan who then in turn passed sideways mainly to the totally ineffective O’Brien.
    Poyet should of been sitting in front of the back 4 and allow Noble to move further forward thus pushing the Birkirkara defence further back. On that note of the back 4, we don’t need one against this kind of opposition and tactics, that was blatantly obvious against Lusitans solo forward. What is the point in 4 defenders marking 1 forward ?
    I hope Bilic has learnt from this game. Nolan didn’t actually play that bad but wasn’t good either. He and Nobe just got in each others zone.I also think that we were more dynamic and had better quicker options when Lee came on. Zarate seemed to up his game.
    The more youthfull team of two weeks ago had more zip and energy than last nights game . This was more evident when Poyet, Samuelsen and Lee all came on.
    To me our worst player on the pitch was Amaltfitano, absolutely woeful . No energy,unwillinging to create space and didn’t seem to care. This should of been the type of game he should of showed his abundant skills. He wasn’t that much better in the first game either.

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