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West Ham United
August 17, 2012
Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/17/2012

In this glorious summer of sport, English football’s long tarnished image has suffered at the hands of British athletes performing heroic deeds, many for a fraction of the money thrown in the direction of what is often perceived as grasping, indifferent under achieving playboys.

But is this right? Last year’s Premier league campaign was reckoned by many to be one of the finest seasons on record, highlighted by a nail-biting final day that had even the most lethargic and neutral armchair supporter, up and pumping the air in excitement. Ok the European Finals showed that England haven’t progressed a jot in over 20 odd years but at least the domestic campaign offers us the exciting influx of at least a decent proportion of the world’s best football talent… doesn’t it?

Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/17/2012

In this glorious summer of sport, English football’s long tarnished image has suffered at the hands of British athletes performing heroic deeds, many for a fraction of the money thrown in the direction of what is often perceived as grasping, indifferent under achieving playboys.

But is this right? Last year’s Premier league campaign was reckoned by many to be one of the finest seasons on record, highlighted by a nail-biting final day that had even the most lethargic and neutral armchair supporter, up and pumping the air in excitement. Ok the European Finals showed that England haven’t progressed a jot in over 20 odd years but at least the domestic campaign offers us the exciting influx of at least a decent proportion of the world’s best football talent… doesn’t it?

August 4, 2012
Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/04/2012

(Originally posted on my Blog and at following the Hammer's win at Wembley in May)

It’s odd to think that, in many ways, West Ham have endured yet another torrid year. The fact that the Hammers remained unbeaten for long periods during the season, recording a record number of away wins before stumbling slightly, only to end the whole thing on such a brilliant high with the best football day out many of us have had for a long time, has made it easy to forget the turmoil of February and March.

Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/04/2012

Well, it's good to be back! I've been away for a season - did anything big happen while I was gone? - and I'll be in-shape and prepared for the new kick-off just as soon as I've shed the uniform of the alter-ego that Lady B likes to refer to as 'Captain Olympic'.

May 22, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 05/22/2011

Survival Sunday: Was there anyone in the country with even the remotest interest in football who wasn't enthralled by the days events? With the excitement garnered elsewhere, the lack of even a small chance of retaining the last bit of pride left in east London was a bitter pill to swallow. I was probably more disappointed this week than I was last that West Ham couldn't even give us a last day hurrah.

I'd hoped for a decent win so that I could underline the importance of the lack of detail that has gone into this season's campaign - something I was interested to see was picked up last week by the Telegraph's Henry Winter, a couple of Mirror hacks and no lesser light than La Brady herself (Not that I'm suggesting any of them read my Soccernet blog, you understand...).

Perhaps we could point to just one loss or a dropped point here or there to convince ourselves that it could all have been so different. But the awfullness of this season was underlined by an inept capitulation, of which the only reedeming factor was the fact that we ended the campaign so adrift there wasn't even a sense of 'What If?' about it all. 3-0 at home to Sunderland says all that need be said.

May 16, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 05/16/2011

Anger, frustration, disappointment, surprise - I really didn't see this coming with the players they had at their disposal - and, yes, a bit of sorrow I guess; but the main emotions I've suffered since confirmation of West Ham's relegation to the Championship following the 3-2 defeat at Wigan, is the horrible sense of resignation and ennui - and that is what hurts more than anything.

You see, I'm used to the annual roller-coaster of supporting West Ham. The exhilaration of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the joy of seeing young players come through the Academy and make their mark on the game before leaving for the promised land of Champions League football, exciting wins, dismal losses, bizarre decisions, crocked players, overpaid wasters, the way the unexpected becomes the expected - all these things are part of the pain and pleasure involved in supporting the Hammers. But this horrible season has even stripped me of the capacity to relish the low points. Frankly, I'm tired - so tired - of watching the people who run this club continually try to outdo themselves by shooting off their mouths while simultaneously shooting themselves in the foot.

May 15, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 05/15/2011

In a classy move that just about sums up the 2010/11 season, West Ham sacked manager Avram Grant less than an hour after their 3-2 defeat at Wigan resigned them to the Championship next season.

Grant was apparently pulled out from the post-match press conference, a club spokesman returning 20 minutes later to confirm that Grant was 'no longer Manager at West Ham United'. Grant was said to be close to tears and emotional after the game saying "I'm sorry for the supporters, the people in the club and the players". Reserve team coach Kevin Keen will take over for the Hammer's last Premiership hurrah at home to Sunderland next Sunday.

April 24, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 04/24/2011

The Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year has been presented every year since the 1947–48 season and, despite changing times and the introduction of Player Awards that seem to have gathered more credibility over the intervening time, the fact remains that this award is the one that players used to treat seriously and the only one that contains names such as Stanley Matthews, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, George Best, Thierry Henry, Kenny Dalglish and Nat Lofthouse.

It is the award from people who watch every game and have no vested interest in fads, sponsors and the televised bias of companies looking for ever-expanding viewing figures both at home and abroad.

April 13, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 04/13/2011

News that Benni McCarthy has left West Ham after the club 'mutually agreed' to terminate his contract will surprise and upset no-one. When someone at Upton Park described McCarthy as a 'waste of space' it was rumoured that space immediately contacted it's Solicitor about suing for defamation of character. In a time of austerity and high unemployment - something that continues to threaten someone not a million miles from this keyboard - the thought of the former South African striker taking home an obscene amount of money every week was something that stuck in the craw of, not only every West Ham fan, but anyone who has any sense of impropriety and an understanding of professionalism.

February 9, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 02/09/2011

Despite the fact I said I was incommunicado this week, so dedicated to the cause am I and so up to date is this blog that I'm posting this within one minute of the announcement on the BBC, that West Ham have won the battle for the 2012 Olympic stadium.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company executives have decided the offer from the Hammers was better than Tottenham's rival bid and the announcement will be made officially on Friday.

The government and London's mayor will still need to take the final decision but it would be a major shock if they did not back the OPLC's recommendation, particularly as the north London club's bid had become somewhat tarnished over the past few weeks.

It's no secret that I don't believe the situation should ever have been allowed to develop anyway, Tottenham should have been told from the off that they need to stay north and the suggestion that the new stadium be torn down to build a new stadium - it sounds ludicrous just typing it - was always likely to be contentious whatever the dubious recommendations of a legacy promise that no-one seems to have ever seen.

January 25, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/25/2011

With a bit of movement in the transfer window involving West Ham, I thought I'd keep an update blog running as we watch the Hammers once more plot a Great Escape (TM Patent Pending). Rumours that Steve McQueen was seen parking his bike in the car park at the Boleyn, can almost certainly be discounted.

I'll try and wait until the signings are confirmed rather than get involved in the usual 'my mate saw Kaka eating Pie 'n' Mash in Nathan's Eel Emporium' type stories

January 18, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/18/2011

In a shock announcement that could have serious repercussions for all the other clubs in the Football League, West Ham United issued a statement on Tuesday in which, effectively, they have revealed that absolutely nothing has changed. Avram Grant is still manager, Martin O'Neill is not coming, everything that has been written about the Hammers over the past week is utter nonsense and Karren Brady has been misquoted; I'm not sure if the full text of the announcement also revealed that Saint Bobby Moore is still sadly deceased, Sir Trevor Brooking is still retired and 'Pop' Robson is no longer scoring 28 goals a season, but I think we can take that as read.

January 13, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/13/2011

Well it was the season of peace and goodwill towards men – providing I take the King James’ version rather than James Moffatt’s ‘goodwill towards those whom he favours’ that I seemed to hear continually over the past month. I’m not sure any of us ‘favours’ talking to a Spurs supporter but that was what I found myself doing on New Years Day - and I have to say I found the result of that conversation deeply disturbing.

I need to get three things straight here before I continue: Firstly, this article isn’t primarily concerned with the rights and wrongs of West Ham’s attempts to move into the Olympic Stadium post 2012. I will say, in my opinion, despite all the inherent problems – and there are a lot of them – not considering at least a move to the site itself would be a major mistake but, this though is more about what happens if we don’t do anything or, as it seems a majority of West Ham supporters seem to indicate, simply shelve the plans and think on developing Upton Park..

January 6, 2011
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/06/2011

Oh dear, Oh dear! It’s virtually impossible to know what to say after this mauling. That it came against Newcastle and will give my in-laws something to wave until we play them next – and who knows when that will be? – is bad enough. But the results of all the teams around us, the fact that our 'mini-revival' has seen us back at the bottom where we were before Christmas and the inept defending that made us a laughing stock, just tips this result off the scale.

Undefeated in five games and with seven points over the festive period is a situation I would have taken had it been offered a month ago, but the fact is Wolves are lifting points off of clubs like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea and we are getting thumped by Newcastle and it means our revival isn’t worth a light. This is turning into a pretty odd season and I think we’re going to need to play like Champions to even keep up with everybody else. I can genuinely see a club going down with as little as two or three points behind a club finishing half-way. Can we do it? Not like this we can't

December 31, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 12/31/2010

Happy New Year to all who have taken the time to write and contribute this year, both on the West Ham page and for the limping World Cup back in the summer. My thoughts on 2011?

Here comes the future and you can't run from it / If you've got a blacklist I want to be on it

For the original lyrics (brilliant) and an even more stunning performance with some new, then see the New Year in with this:

No relation (sadly!)

December 1, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 12/01/2010

Gadzooks - what just happened to my life there?

This time yesterday I was sitting on a beach in Side, Turkey in shorts and T-Shirt, the good Lady B beside me in a pleasingly revealing swimsuit, both sipping Raki in temperatures of 24 degrees, and then suddenly, by 10pm yesterday evening I was in a foot of snow outside Stansted. As if that wasn't disconcerting enough, I find West Ham have won 2 games since I left and one of them is a 4-0 cup win over ManU.

November 11, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 11/11/2010

I don't usually go in for hyperbole. I've seen too many good leads thrown away and lost causes chased down over the years for that, but Ian Holloway's decision to rest half of his Blackpool squad last night to target Saturday's game has put a different slant on West Ham's next match.

Two things here; Blackpool obviously see the game at Upton Park on Saturday as winnable (no surprise there) and also it is clear that Holloway has decided certain games are vital three pointers that must be won if they are to stay up. To that end he's prepared to lose some games in order to win others.

November 9, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 11/09/2010

My Granddad explained it to me when I was very young. “West Ham” he said “are like a fine wine – they don’t travel well”. Now what exactly my Granddad – no stranger to a Capstan full strength and a few pints of Mackeson - knew about fine wine is difficult to gauge in retrospect, but whatever knowledge he had garnered cycling the East End during the war it was certainly more than I knew as an 8 year-old, so I was happy to believe what he told me.

October 17, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 10/17/2010

"I'd been a professional for two and a half months and Malcolm had taught me everything I know. When Malcolm was coaching schoolboys he took a liking to me when I don't think anyone else at West Ham saw anything special in me... I looked up to the man. It's not too strong to say I loved him." Bobby Moore

If Mooro thought Allison was that good then it's certain he was. Joining West Ham in 1951 from Charlton, Allison was the type of player who would stay behind after training to discuss tactics and try out new moves. Under the stewardship of Ted Fenton, then West Ham's manager, Allison was encouraged to get involved in coaching and took a particular interest in the progression of younger players and, famously a young Robert Moore; a player some of the coaching staff were not convinced about.

September 2, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 09/02/2010

The transfer window closed on August 31st with West Ham making a couple of late signings in the shape of Blackburn's International Lars Jacobsen - who played in all three of Denmark's games in this year's World Cup in South Africa - and reserve keeper and wonderfully named Ruud Boffin, a 22 year-old signed from Maastricht.

The Hammers also fended off a late bid from Liverpool to coax Carlton Cole away and rebuffed the umteenth bid from Spurs for Scott Parker. In fact, indications that Parker and Upson seemed quite happy to sign new contracts was a good indicator that some of the more experienced players, at least, seem keen to tie themselves to the mast of a ship that many commentators are currently predicting will be floundering on the rocks by Christmas.

I know that the coaching staff's inability to get the best from the available players is about 90% of West Ham's problems but I'd have to say that if only half of the named squad performed to their full potential, we surely shouldn't be hanging around the bottom for long. There's also an impressive list of available under-21's compared to everyone else in the league made up of Academy players - five of whom have already played Premier or Cup football and acquitted themselves well - who will undoubtably all be playing for Chelsea and ManU in 5 years time. Despite the doom and gloom there really is NO excuse... there?

The full squad list of all the Premiership teams can be found here

August 24, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/24/2010

I love the way football plays with your emotions and sensibilities. Take a bog standard 1-0 win, for example (assuming you can remember such a thing!); There are 90 minutes plus stoppage time to put the ball into the net and it counts exactly the same if the goal is scored in the first minute or the last and, on paper at least, tells exactly the same story. But in the stadium it’s so different.

That first minute goal could herald a bit of early pressure and then a frustrating afternoon searching for a second or an early break against the run of the rest of the game in a backs-to-the-wall defensive fight that could shred your nerves. On the other hand, a last minute counter could indicate a lucky win or a well-deserved break for an afternoon of solid pressure and missed chances. Similarly, your emotions – relief, joy, frustration, pain – can all be played out by the timing of the goal. Think of any win that has come about as a result of a last minute goal and remember how that felt.

August 3, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/03/2010

Those of you who have been following the Blagger for some years will know that I am a notoriously slow starter on the football front. I've long thought the season starts too early and goes on too long and my involvement in the World Cup has made what is laughingly called the 'closed season' even shorter.

Nevertheless, Soccernet have demanded I come into the office (Ha!) and write something about West Ham United, so here we are and this will have to do.

July 20, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 07/20/2010

This first of a two-part article on England and the West Ham connection that originally appeared on my 2010 England World Cup blog. Apologies to anyone who read it there, but I know many England supporters stopped visiting after England limped out in disarray and, of course, many West Ham fans aren't neccessarily supporters of the English national side, so I make no apologies for re-running it on the West Ham page as, following David Sullivan's comments to Soccernet (Here), the appointment of Avram Grant and a raft of foreign signings, I think it as relevant to supporters of the Hammers as much as 'Team England'.

July 19, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 07/19/2010

This first of a two-part article on England and the West Ham connection that originally appeared on my 2010 England World Cup blog. Apologies to anyone who read it there, but I know many England supporters stopped visiting after England limped out in disarray and, of course, many West Ham fans aren't neccessarily supporters of the English national side, so I make no apologies for re-running it on the West Ham page as, following David Sullivan's comments to Soccernet (Here), the appointment of Avram Grant and a raft of foreign signings, I think it as relevant to supporters of the Hammers as much as 'Team England'.

May 11, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 05/11/2010

Gianfranco Zola has been sacked by West Ham in a move that has really surprised no-one apart from the manager himself, if reports that Gianfranco was 'shocked' by the news are to be believed. Mind you, as that statement came from David Sullivan we'll take that with a pinch of salt and assume the little Italian clicked his heels on the way out. Frankly, he's probably best out of it.

Personally. I'm saddened but not at all surprised by the news. I've been a supporter of Zola from the off but once the Icelandic consortium were bought out by David's Gold and Sullivan and Karren Brady was brought in as Managing Director in place of Scott Duxbury, then the writing was well and truly on the wall.

May 1, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 05/01/2010

'What's Going On? Marvin Gaye asked it first and best, of course, but echoes of that question must surely be asked by anyone interested in the future of West Ham United football club.

Is, as David Sullivan was quoted this week, Gianfranco Zola just a coach who works with whatever players are foisted on him? If so - and it seems an odd way to work - that must surely have been put in place by the previous regime of Nani and Duxbury and, if it was, we must also assume it is something that Zola was happy to work with given as he must have trusted his previous owners, having accepted the position at Upton Park, presumably, to work with them and their ideas.

March 29, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 03/29/2010

A few days at home in Sardinia seem to have decided Gianfranco Zola that he has unfinished business at West Ham, announcing his decision to not walk away from Upton Park but to see the job through to the end...whatever the 'end' may be!

Following the devastating loss at home to Stoke, the Hammers boss gave the team 3 days to recuperate and jetted home to Italy to consider his future with media speculation that the pressure of the job and a run-in with co-owner David Sullivan had caused Zola to decide to walk-away from the job in which he quickly become marginalised following the boardroom take-over and the subsequent loss of his friends Nani and Duxbury.

March 26, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 03/26/2010

'A battle for the soul of West Ham' is how one newspaper reported it. I'm not sure it's that; West Ham's soul was lost long ago when the Premier League and Sky declared Year Zero and effectively ended the life of family-run teams with an eye on local talent, good football and a quaint traditional way of running things. Once the 'new boss' decided it was a multi-million pound business and a world-wide franchise then teams like West Ham were always going to run hard and fast to keep up with the whirl of expectation. Inevitably, it's been a struggle as it's never been best to expect anything from West Ham. When you expect little, you get more back.

March 19, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 03/19/2010

More departee's from Upton Park: this time long-serving coach and ex-keeper Ludek Miklosko followed later by stab victim Calum Davenport who has reportedly accepted a pay-off to get him off the books.

Rumours of Ludo's exit are doing the rounds, with talk of the Czech disagreeing with the new owners about aspects of the club since Gold and Sullivan moved in. It must also be said though that there are further stories circulating that Miklosko has a serious back injury and has passed on the coaching reigns to Kevin Hitchcock. With neither party electing to comment, the real reason may not become known for some time.

February 25, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 02/25/2010

Hey-ho whadda I tell ya? The inevitable happened today as Technical Director Gianluca Nani left West Ham by 'mutual consent'.

This announcement, following the departure of Scott Duxbury some weeks ago, was safely predicted by me on the day Gold and Sullivan took over at Upton Park and I can only assume that Gianfranco Zola may well now be considering his future at the club; Nani was largely responsible for Zola coming to the club and there must be little doubt the Italian's power base has now shifted.

February 11, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 02/11/2010

News that Gianfranco Zola has had to 'go to war' with the new owners David's Gold and Sullivan will surely be of no surprise to anyone, barring those who take no interest in football or know little of the two's history at Birmingham.

David Gold's statement of threat that the financial situation at Upton Park is so bad that all staff will have to take a 25% pay cut, may be true, but it was badly timed and, in any case, should be spoken of behind closed doors and not waved like a petulant child in front of playing and coaching staff.

February 1, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 02/01/2010

Confirmation has been made that forward Benni McCarthy - a player initially linked with a move to Upton Park before he went to Blackburn - has at last arrived at Upton Park for a reported fee of £2.5m.

The odd 'visa issues' that delayed him playing against his old club at the weekend seemed to have been ironed out and the South African is a welcome addition to a forward line that has looked pretty toothless all season. McCarthy fell out of favour with Fat Sam at Ewood but otherwise there seems little reason why we should not expect a fair number of goals from a player who has scored consistently since his arrival in England

Meanwhile, a host of other players have been seen arriving down Green Street and I'll report in if and when deals are done rather than get involved in rumour and conjecture.

January 29, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/29/2010

As suggested by your friendly Blagger in this very column last week, West Ham's MD Scott Duxbury as resigned from his position with the usual 'Thanks for all your hard work but don't pop back to see how we are doing any time soon, will you?' quotes ringing in his ears. Duxbury's claim that he was 'free to persue other opportunites' (welcome to my world Scott - I've been free to persue other opportunities for about 10 months now!) sounded pretty hollow as it seems unlikely he would have 'resigned' had the Gold / Sullivan / Brady consortium not hit town.

Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/29/2010

The news that Eidur Gudjohnsen chose to sign for arch-rivals Tottenham rather than West Ham must have struck hard at the hearts of most Hammer's supporters. Not because the club have lost out on a player they appparently flew over; one who had completed a medical and was expected to sign and boost West Ham's squad as the transfer window draws to a close. No, rather it puts an end to the 'Gud to Hammers' story that has been going on for well over two seasons now. To finally end the speculation as the player signs for another Premier club is going to cause a lot of heartache as we now have to find another player to be continually linked with for another couple of fruitless years. Perhaps the Benni McCarthy rumour will rumble on as we were linked with him before he originally signed for Blackburn.

Is Frank Worthington still available?

January 23, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/23/2010

I think at the end of the first week our new owners need to sit down and have - as Mo in EastEnders would have it - 'ave a word wiv 'emselves'.

The need to engage the brain before letting the mouth into gear is very important at this stage of the game. There is much to be gained both on and off the pitch with a bit of serious tub-thumping and Gold, the dubiously attired Sullivan and hatchet woman Brady have all indulged to differing effect this week.

January 19, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/19/2010

I'm not sure if it's really au-fait to go quoting yourself but I remember writing some time ago during the Rio / Brown / Redknapp argument that, despite what the popular maxim states, there are not three types of lies – lies, damned lies and statistics – but actually four; lies, damned lies, statistics and football talk.

Despite the protestations that David's Gold and Sullivan represent the return of West Ham United to the steady hand of East Enders, I must admit to receiving the news of the new Gold Standard with just a hint of cynicism. Perhaps I've been around this club too long but anyone who listens to promises of plans to "take the Hammers into the Champions League within seven years" and gets all excited are either naive or just have plain short memories.

Remember someone we affectionately christened Eggy? Am I alone in not wanting this type of talk? OK I know it's the equivalent of a ‘these are beatable' team talk, moments before a 2nd Division club steps out against Manchester United in the FA Cup but we need to reflect before we can make such bold statements.

Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/19/2010

David Sullivan and David Gold have completed their takeover of West Ham with Sullivan confirming that has a seven-year "plan to take the Hammers into the Champions League." Sound familiar? With plans to move West Ham from Upton Park to the Olympic site post 2012, Sullivan has big plans for West Ham although I suspect the opportunity to relocate to an area just miles from their current home surely always made the Hammers a more viable proposition than their balance sheet currently suggests.

Sullivan is a big West Ham fan and fought to win the battle for control of the club. He added: "It was a struggle all the way, and we finally pulled it off close to midnight. There were two others fighting hard as well, Tony Fernandes came close, but we have got it and I cannot tell you how delighted we are."

Sullivan confirmed that Karen Brady will be hired to oversee the transformation of the club. Sullivan said: "She's on her way there now." So it's head down over at Green Street currently, I suspect. I'm thinking of popping over to see if there is actually thunder and lightning as she pulls past the gates.

I'm currently collecting my thoughts on the whole matter and will be back later with something that may possibly be a large dose of cynicism.

January 14, 2010
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/14/2010

In case readers of this column think I am being derelict in my duty in failing to report the numerous rumours of bids to buy the heart and soul of West Ham United, then let me assure you that is not the case.

Put simply; I'm not interested in rumours but only facts. When, by whom and for how much the club eventually get purchased - and the only cast-iron certainty is that it eventually will - is then the time I will jump in with my feelings. Until then this is just another week in the continuing soap drama that is West Ham United FC.

Time for the dumph-dumphs?*

(*Readers not aware of the UK soap called 'EastEnders' may not understand this; in which case, another time perhaps?)

Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/14/2010

West Ham have been found guilty of breaching FA rules following the crowd violence at their Carling Cup match against Millwall in August and now face a number of sanctions that include fines - quite likely - and being forced to play games behind closed doors. Millwall have been cleared of all charges however and both clubs have had charges of failing to prevent racist behaviour by fans declared as ''not proven'' by an disciplinary panel.

December 14, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 12/14/2009

Back in the summer when possibilities were endless and things were oh, so much brighter all round, I left a particularly cheeky thread on under the heading 'Relegation!' I hoped, correctly as it happened, that some of the doom merchants that inhabit those pages would see the heading, assume I was talking about West Ham and join the discussion on the assumption I thought that was where the club was heading.

That was not the argument in the thread at all; in fact I was quite bullish about West Ham's prospects for the season. As Christmas approaches, you're probably wondering - as I am - if it was a joke that may turn in on itself.

December 12, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 12/12/2009

I have studiously avoided joining the discussions on this until it was confirmed, but today conjecture finally caught up with fact as it was announced that striker, Dean Ashton, has had to retire at the age of 26 due to a persistent ankle injury.

This is an absolute tragedy for the club but, more importantly, Ashton himself who admitted he was having trouble walking, let alone running, as he contemplates his fifth operation on the injury that never really recovered from the England training accident with Shaun Wright-Phillips.

November 5, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 11/05/2009

To nobody's great surprise, former boss Alan Curbishley has won the court battle for unfair dismissal against his old club and can look forward to significant compensation from the Premier League manager's tribunal as a result. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Curbishley's resignation, it can be pretty much guessed that if there is any chance of the Hammers having to fork out money somewhere, then someone from the Upton Park offices is going to be seen running down to the bank with a cheque book before the month is out.

The ruling that decided that Curbishley had been forced to resign when certain clauses in his contract were not upheld, is yet another financial blow for the Hammers. Curbishley was quoted after saying: "The club completely ignored my contract when selling Anton Ferdinand, and when George McCartney was then sold, the club having given me assurances that no players would be leaving the club after the sale of Anton Ferdinand, I had no alternative but to resign."

"My authority and integrity were undermined and my position was made untenable.''

September 20, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 09/20/2009

Gianfranco Zola's admission that he is concerned over the future of Dean Ashton is at least a recognition of something that most fans have been discussing for some time. Even someone with a bit part on 'Casualty' knows only too well that an ankle injury that has taken the best part of two years to heal does not sound right and it can only be guessed at the problems that have really taken their toll on the Hammer's striker.

It's hard not to feel sorry for both parties in this matter; Dean Ashton would surely have been contemplating South Africa next summer had he remained fit and West Ham would either have benefited from the 15+ goals a season Ashton would have supplied or, perhaps, the £30m+ that Dean would surely have recouped in the transfer market as his Premiership goal tally mounted. The fact that the infamous Hammers injury blight originally occured at an England training session is an ironic fact not lost on anyone

September 17, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 09/17/2009

West Ham today announced the signing of Mexico striker Guillermo Franco on a free permanent transfer following the end of his contract with Villarreal.

The Argentinian-born forward has scored four goals in his last six internationals since June, including one in the 3-0 win away to Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifer last week and had been linked with a return to South America but CEO Scott Duxbury and technical director Gianluca Nani managed to secure his services after careful negotiations.

September 1, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 09/01/2009

The transfer deadline closed at midnight with just the much reported and wholly expected James Collins deal being completed, as the centre back joined Aston Villa in a £5m move.

As Hammers MD Scott Duxbury had earlier spoken of 'only offloading the fringe players' you have to wonder exactly how the management are going to explain away the Ginger One's transfer. The arrival of Da Costa reported earlier presumably brings cover to the defence but Collins had started the season partnering Upson and, even after he supposedly turned down a move to Stoke, was still playing in the centre of defence last Saturday against Blackburn. Disguise it which ever way you want but a fringe player Collins wasn't!

Posted by Billy Blagg on 09/01/2009

In a surprise move, West Ham announced that they have signed Portuguese defender Manuel Da Costa from Fiorentina and sent attacking-midfielder Savio Nsereko in the opposite direction in a swap deal.

The Hammers will retain 50% of any fee gained if Savio is sold on and West Ham chief executive Scott Duxbury called it: "..a good deal for everyone concerned." Duxbury explained further "Although not for the want of trying, Savio has struggled to make an impact for various reasons, while Manuel is also looking for a fresh start. Had our financial situation been different we would have preferred to have kept and developed Savio."

"We will continue to look at home and across Europe for the brightest prospects as they best fit our vision for this club's future. However, we are required to make savings and our policy has always been to sell players on the fringes rather than established first-team players.

"With the fee we received for Savio and 50% sell-on together with acquiring the highly-rated Da Costa, it represented a great deal.''

August 28, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/28/2009

West Ham have announced the signing of Italian striker Alessandro Diamanti on a five-year deal.
from Serie A club Livorno.

The 26-year-old forward has cost a reported £6m and his capture is considered quite a coup as a host of Italian clubs were vying for his signature, the player preferring to join Zola at Upton Park in what appears to be another success for the growing reputation of Gianfranco as a Manager.

August 27, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/27/2009

This is what I like; the 'English Disease' proper. I'm not referring to a love of violence, mindless chanting or the destruction of a few kebab vans following the annual challenge of throwing street furniture as far as you can. No, I refer to that other disease; the one that means no sooner do we get served up a 'Night of Shame' then we have to endure months of pious, sanctimonious drivel from the press and media, a group who used to, let's not forget, once reside in an area known as the 'Street of Shame'.

August 23, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/23/2009

West Ham were left stunned following news that reserve defender Calum Davenport had been stabbed in both legs during an attack on his Mother's home in Bedford.

Davenport and his 49 year old Mother suffered injuries during a 'vicious attack' and both were taken to hospital where their conditions were described as 'stable'.

August 14, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/14/2009

I'm old enough to remember when the start of the new football season was a time of great excitement and possibility. I'm pleased to say I'm not that old to deny the excitement is still there, but possibility? - I think not - this is the Golden Age of the Premiership and the story has virtually been written before a ball has been kicked.

August 2, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 08/02/2009

West Ham have started the season in fine style by revealing two crap strips for the new campaign. The new home strip completely moves away from the traditional claret body, blue sleeves design - something fans are never happy about - and the away strip just ignores the fact we even play in claret and blue at all.

The new home strip is already being called the Marmite strip and, if, like me, you hate Marmite then you pretty much know what to expect. Good news is though, the club shop still do a fine assortment of classic shirts and I recommend that Hammers fans vote with their feet and purchase a '64. '75 or even, at a push, the '80 shirt. It saves dubious sponsorship associations too...

July 31, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 07/31/2009

The world of football is a sadder place this morning. Bobby Robson was one of the good guys; a top manager, one of the last of the old school of players and management and one of those people that you just know you'd like if you ever met. What he achieved with Ipswich shows just how good he was as a Manager (and let's not forget he was an England footballer as a player too) and his star could even have shone a little brighter but he was cruelly rewarded in 1990 when England went out on penalties in the semi-final of the World Cup. That England side deserved better luck and Robson, in particular, was dealt a cruel hand, as he showed throughout that tournament not only his tactical acumen but also his ability to get the best from his players, in particular his man-management of the difficult Paul Gascoigne. In retrospect, it was probably only Bobby Robson who successfully handled the mercurial Gascoigne's talent and we can only guess what might have happened had Robson been able to harness his talent for longer.

July 9, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 07/09/2009

I know the Soccernet bosses like us to turn up in the office regularly over the close season, but I think it's a well known fact that I believe the period between early May and mid August should be entirely for the domain of summer sports (and I'm fully aware many of you were involved in late May and are already ironing your club shirts for pre-season tournaments) and it's something I like to resist where possible.

Be that as it may though, I've just popped in to do a spot of tidying and dusting and thought I'd just mention a few WHU related topics to keep the wheels turning.

May 27, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 05/27/2009

I was going to summarise the English Premier League season by quoting the ancient Chinese proverb ‘May you live in Interesting Times’, but when I went to source the material – you didn’t think I just chucked these things together, did you? – I was both surprised and heartened to find that the phrase is probably not even Chinese in origin, let alone an ancient proverb. Why heartened? Well, this at least saves me from the task of trying to paraphrase it and, as it seems the phrase is reckoned to be the first of three curses, it’s actually quite appropriate…

The Barclays Premier League is, apparently, the biggest and best football league in world football and is enjoyed by millions worldwide. It is certainly the richest, contains a large proportion of the world’s best footballers (Manchester City hope to have the rest by the end of this year) and is watched by the most spectators both in the stadia and on TV worldwide. It’s certainly not without excitement and it’s often fast and competitive with no team ever prepared to roll-over to a stronger side so, why then, does the end of season league table produce such feelings of déjà vu?

April 27, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 04/27/2009

I know from emails that I receive - and I don't mean the ones offering viagra or penis extensions - that a lot of you are not UK based and have come to football only since Year Zero, when the Pol Pot of the FA came up with that brilliant concept of the Premiership.

Many of you, therefore, will be unaware of 'The Big Match', the flagship ITV equivalent of 'Match of the Day' from the Seventies that used to show about 2pm on Sunday afternoons in the UK; just after you'd returned from your 10 - 0 thrashing on Wansted Flats (what?....oh... Only me then..) and an hour before you passed out in a lunchtime post match stupor over your roast potatoes, cooked for you, of course, by your hot-panted girlfriend with a bubble perm. (what?...oh...Only me again then...)

April 26, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 04/26/2009

It might seem as if it has not much to do with me personally, I know, but I was sad to see Southampton FC relegated from the Championship and forced to carry a 10 point penalty into next season. In fact, I think situations like that at Southampton affect every fan no matter how big your club, and all supporters should be in condemnation of the ridiculous situation that currently presides over the league at every level.

It may be that I used to have a good friend who came from the area and supported Southampton passionately - ensuring I check the Saints result very week - or that Blagg Jnr is at University there and I spend a lot of time in the town, but, whatever my affinity, I feel for any fans who are forced to suffer the pain of points deductions.

April 14, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 04/14/2009

Apologies to anyone who sent in a comment and hasn't able to see it on the Correspondents page. Due to technical incompetence on my part none of them had been added to the log page.
My stupidity has now been amended and all relevant comments have been added (I hope).

I welcome all comments - however idiotic (and by God there are quite a few odd people out there!) - and I will publish all that I can. Please note, however, by I am unable to publish Anonymous posts or anything profane and these will be deleted. I'm the only one allowed to swear here!

If you come from Scunthorpe, you may want to leave this information out of your comment.

April 7, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 04/07/2009

West Ham keeper Robert Green has pledged his support to the Premier League Reading Stars project by revealing his favourite read is Homer's 'The Iliad'.

After getting over the initial shock of seeing Rob pledge his support to a Championship side - just goes to show how we call all mis-read things sometimes! - I was heartened to see our goalkeeper erring on the side of something as bold, weighty and, frankly, as old as Homer's great work.

Green said: "Reading is such a big part of all our lives, everyone should try to make a bit of time each day to read more. You should never be scared of a book either, reading classics like The Iliad might seem daunting, but if you take your time, they are realliy interesting and you gain such a lot from trying them."

At the risk of sounding patronising (he says patronisingly); Good on 'yer Robert!

March 18, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 03/18/2009

West Ham United, the board and fans, were rocked again yesterday with the news that Soccernet and WestHamOnline self-styled pundit Billy Blagg, is set to sue the club for an undisclosed sum following the two years wrangling over the Carlos Tevez affair.

This follows earlier news that ex-Sheffield United boss Neil 'Nice Guy' Warnock, several United players who suffered the pains of relegation in 2007 and Leeds supremo 'Cuddly' Ken Bates, were considering their own legal actions against the East London club.

March 17, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 03/17/2009

Aargghh! I knew I shouldn't have stuck me head up over the parapet.

No sooner had I suggested the whole mess may be over than we hear that the poor Sheffield players who were relegated when West Ham won at Manchester United on the last day of the season in 2007, may well be pursuing their own claim for compensation. Worse still, that bastion of all that is good at football - Neil Warnock - is said to be considering starting his own claim against the Hammers.

March 16, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 03/16/2009

West Ham and Sheffield United have brought an end to the Carlos Tevez saga by agreeing an out-of-court settlement for compensation.

The two clubs have been in dispute ever since Tevez helped secure the Hammers' Premier League status at the Blades' expense in 2007. However, with the affair having dragged on for almost two years a conclusion to the matter has finally been found.

The figures for the final compensation package differ depending on what newspaper you read, but most seem to believe the final total to be in the region of £15million spread over five seasons.

The agreement now means that the independent tribunal which was due to reconvene this week will no longer proceed.

In a joint statement, West Ham chief executive Scott Duxbury and Sheffield United chairman Kevin McCabe said: "Both clubs are pleased to announce that a satisfactory settlement for compensation has been reached which brings the dispute between Sheffield United and West Ham United to an end. The tribunal will not be resuming."

February 6, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 02/06/2009

There's always a certain trepidation when you open the West Ham calendar on Christmas morning. You skip through the twelve months in personal hope and expectation, wondering what the year has in store for you and, at club level, contemplating if any of the players and staff pictured will still be there when you consign the calendar to the bin the following December.

I'm pretty sure if you'd told me then, as I tucked into my mince pies, that thirty five days or so later, when I turned the calendar onto February, the pictured action shot of Craig Bellamy would leave me looking at a player who was no longer wearing the claret and blue, my heart would have sunk and spoiled the whole day.

It's easy to forget how perilous West Ham's position looked before Boxing Day. Situated just above the relegation zone more because Manchester City's form was even worse than ours and with the Red Tops proclaiming the whole squad will be sold to prevent financial meltdown, it all looked grim.

January 29, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/29/2009

West Ham have confirmed the signing of Germany Under-20 forward Savio Nsereko from Brescia. The 19-year-old, who was born in Uganda, has agreed a four-and-a-half year deal after the two clubs agreed an undisclosed fee, though it is rumoured it will eventually reach £9m.

This record purchase comes just two days after West Ham allowed Hayden Mullins - at the time West Ham's longest serving player - to leave the club to join Portsmouth, Pompey having offered a reported £2m for the 30 year old.

January 20, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/20/2009

Look let's be honest shall we?

Craig Bellamy is a loathsome specimen of both a man and a footballer. You know it, I know it. His only reedeming feature is that he is extremely fast and....errrr....well, that's about it really.

Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/20/2009

Apropos of nothing in particular about football - but when did that matter on this column? - the Blagger is proud to announce that his alter ego this week became the 1000th link on the 'Chain' on the ever-inspiring Radcliffe & Maconie show on Radio 2.

January 9, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/09/2009

Out with the old and in with the new? Do me a favour! January has brought more of the same as the FA and the Premier League have announced a new investigation into West Ham's dealings with Carlos Tevez' Representatives following the fine that was handed out for the original punishment metered out for the breach of league rules that allowed the Argentinian to play for the Hammers in 2006.

This latest move follows claims from the solicitor for Tevez's agent, Kia Joorabchian, that West Ham's Chief Excecutive Scott Duxbury had stated in a conversation that the third-party agreement for which West Ham were originally punished was still in place when Tevez completed his season with the Hammers, famously scoring the only goal in the 1-0 win at Old Trafford that kept the Hammers up.

As this conversation only came to light during the court case that Sheffield United opened up as a result of their relegation, West Ham may actually welcome the investigation if it is shown that the third party agreement was actually torn up after the Premier League fine.

However, many fans will fear the investigations, particularly as the involvement of Scott Duxbury - a man many feel should have paid for Tevezgate with his job, if not his head - is once more under scrutiny. Ultimately though, unless the League and FA have information that isn't in the public domain currently, it is hard to see how they can react to verbal conversations that were never recorded.

It will be interesting to see what would happen if the FA and League decide West Ham do not have a case to answer, bearing in mind the club face payment of some compensation fine later this year. Any finding that West Ham are innocent will surely open up counter-claims by the Hammers against Sheffield United.

If the investigation brings further dodgy dealings to light though, it is possible that a points deduction - something many feel the club should have had in the first place - may be the inevitable result.

My feelings on this fiasco are well documented but anything that brings this soap opera to an end cannot come soon enough as far as I am concerned.

Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/09/2009

News that Matthew Etherington has signed for Stoke for £2m and that Lee Bowyer and Calum Davenport are likely signings for Birmingham and Bolton respectively are encouraging signs that Gianfranco Zola's promises may be coming to fruition.

The scandal rags still insist that Scott Parker is being offered parts of Persia and a harem of long limbed lovelies to quit and join Manchester City but West Ham - at the moment - seem to be holding good on their promise that no-one barring resource draining fringe players will be sold.

I can think of a couple of other players whose sole responsibility seems to be keeping the bench warm with their expensive bums who I wouldn't mind seeing the back of for a few mill but, a week into the transfer window, things are encouraging.

It won't last though, will it?

January 7, 2009
Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/07/2009

Well, it's time to take the decorations down so the Blagg Advent Calendar of Christmas Songs has gone into a box and put back into the loft for another year.

Many thanks to those of you who took the time to email me with your suggestions and rude remarks, and those of you who think the whole project smacks of insanity will be only too pleased to learn that I have enough links available to ensure that next (this?) year's list will probably start being researched sometime in July.

Enjoy 2009!

December 25, 2008
Posted by Billy Blagg on 12/25/2008

Not without resonance to me this year, as I missed mine and had to settle for a Christmas in the Town - and it is not the same thing at all. In fact I'm not sure it hasn't knocked the whole season out of kilter... but I digress.

December 24, 2008
Posted by Billy Blagg on 12/24/2008

Recorded in December 2003 and to be found on Volume III - Ding! Dong! - of the sometimes wonderful and other times downright puzzling 'Songs for Christmas' CD Box set, comes this stirring version of the classic Carol.

December 23, 2008
Posted by Billy Blagg on 12/23/2008

As the Day draws closer there is more time for quiet introspection No one raced off to work through the din of honking horns / There was truly peace on earth on a quiet Christmas morn

Billy Blagg Born at an early age a mere defenders' spit from the Boleyn ground, Billy Blagg has seen every West Ham game from 1898 onwards. Blagg was mentioned by Kenneth Wolstenholme in 1966 as one of the people on the pitch during the famous Hammers win over West Germany that lifted the World Cup and he returned to the pitch again for the 1975 FA Cup Final but stayed on the terrace for 1980 FA Cup victory. Blagg, 26, now lives with his eighth wife and innumerable children in a small semi-detached with chintz curtains in Dagenham, Essex and still attends every Hammers match and training session.

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