Saturday, 1 September 2007

Nightmare Revisited

All our best men are laughed at in this nightmare land
Jack Kerouac
Alan Curbishley returns to the scene of his worst managerial nightmare today, insisting the humiliation West Ham United suffered at Reading was like a bad dream. The Hammers’ chief saw his team hit rock-bottom when they were thrashed 6-0 at the Madejski Stadium last season- just 21 days into his new job. Having endured one of the lowest points of his career, Curbishley came up with a phrase so memorable that it sits alongside ‘Essex Man’, ‘Essex Girls’ and ‘White Van Man’ as metaphors for our times. And so was born the ‘Baby Bentley’ generation. Many took it to be the manager's critique on the celebrity-conscious, bling-obsessed breed of modern-day footballers, and in particular the culture inherent in his own West Ham players, who had just succumbed to that massacre on New Year’s Day. As Martin Smith, writing in The Telegraph, observes: Most professional wordsmiths would kill to coin (itals) bon mots like that, but Curbishley has been trying to distance himself from them during the build-up to West Ham’s return to the Madejski Stadium this afternoon.

"That was misinterpreted a bit," Curbishley says now. "I was actually praising Reading, saying that in their first season in the Premier League they had all the ingredients of a newly-promoted side: hunger, desire and commitment to stay in the Premier League. They wanted to stay in the Premier League and wanted all the trappings that come with it. “Most people understood that, and my players understood that. I was saying Reading wanted to go on to bigger and better things; they showed a hunger for that and we didn’t. On the day they had everything you needed, and we didn’t. That’s what I was trying to explain." Those trappings, notes Smith, included driving around in Baby Bentleys, and it seemed to stick to an under-performing West Ham team, several of whose members did, in fact, own the status-symbol car. The 6-0 thrashing came in Curbishley’s fifth game in charge, just as the euphoria of his first, the defeat of Manchester United, was ebbing away. "I won’t forget it," Curbishley admitted. "You’re a manager a long time and you take the good, the bad and the ugly. That was one of them, for sure. It’s something you look at and try to use as a spur: how our fans felt and how we all felt. It doesn’t happen a lot, and when it happens you remember it."

Matthew Upson wasn’t at the club at the time, but he said: "I can’t see that result happening again. It’s a slightly different line-up, different bodies, different faces. Just because you got beat, or beat a team, last season doesn’t mean the result’s going to happen this year. How it works out will be down to our application, as always, and how we play ourselves in the game." West Ham were suffering from divisive cliques in the dressing room back in January, but Upson doesn’t see the same problems this time round. "There’s a lot of characters here," he said. "That isn’t a bad thing: you’d rather be in a changing room full of people who want to say their piece or have a row, than one that’s quiet. Players talk a lot. I think it’s really healthy as long as it’s constructive or afterwards you sit down."

Speaking on the official site Robert Green says he is hoping to put an end to his recent Madejski hoodoo. "I've conceded 11 goals in two games and three minutes and ruptured my groin once in the past three occasions I've played there," said the 27-year-old, who suffered the groin injury while playing in goal for England. "But it's a good chance to put something to bed and it's just one of those things," he added. "It just so happens that the past three occasions I've played there haven't been too great for me. In the bigger scheme of things it's another away game and a tough game at that. I'm sure once the game starts that'll all be gone and forgotten." Green is anticipating a testing encounter but is confident the Hammers will prevail. "It's going to be a very difficult game," he admitted. "Reading have proved over the past season and a bit that they have a very good work ethic. They know the way they are going to play and they employ their strengths to good effect. It's a tough place to go and play. We've got our work cut out but if we play well and do everything we need to do and everything we know we are capable of then we can get a result."

Hayden Mullins insists the Hammers will use the memory of last season's 6-0 defeat to secure victory against Reading there on Saturday. "It was one of the worst games I've been involved in," he admitted. "We were going through a bad run at that time and it was one of the manager's earliest games. It was a horrible one to be involved in but it's one which we're going to use to fuel us this Saturday. We know it's going to be a very tough game. We're not underestimating this game at all. We know it's going to be a very difficult game for us but it's one where we feel we can get three points." If that is to happen then the club will have to rewrite the history books. The Hammers have never won at the Madejski Stadium and have yet to score a Premier League goal against the Royals; although the club are on a run of three consecutive away victories.

Last five league meetings:

01/01/2007 Reading 6 (Gunnarsson, Hunt, Ferdinand og, Doyle 2, Lita) West Ham 0
01/10/2006 West Ham 0 Reading 1 (Ki-Hyeon)
12/03/2005 Reading 3 (Kitson 3) West Ham 1 (Sheringham)
10/08/2004 West Ham 1 (Sheringham) Reading 0
03/04/2004 Reading 2 (Kitson 2) West Ham 0

Dean Ashton is back in the squad for the Hammers after missing out on the Carling Cup match in midweek as his wife went into labour. Freddie Ljungberg and Scott Parker will face late fitness tests and may not return to action until after the international break. Reading defenders Graeme Murty and Nicky Shorey are set to return from respective hamstring and knee injuries while Shane Long is unlikely to take part as he has a broken thumb. Seol Ki-Hyeon, John Oster and Glen Little are all likely to miss out through injury.

No comments:


Copyright 2007 ID Media Inc, All Right Reserved. Crafted by Nurudin Jauhari