Monday, 12 January 2009

Ask Dr Stupid

Martin Samuel began his first day of work over at the Mail this morning and he has already commenced the arduous process of sucking out the anti-West Ham venom that has poisoned that publication for so long. You never know, the football segment of the sports section might actually become the first semi-palatable part of the newspaper ever. It's not a bad start...

With the announcement of a second Premier League investigation, some think the Carlos Tevez affair is getting stupid. Not quite. The day Lord Griffiths, 85, decided he could predict and measure in points the precise impact an individual player had on the football season, it got stupid.

When his panel processed the views expressed in a match report written by the chief football writer of The Daily Telegraph as if it were fact, not opinion, stupidity was pretty high on the agenda, too.

Indeed, at the moment when an independent committee first hit West Ham United with the biggest fine in the history of the Premier League, then announced they would have done something far worse had only they got their backsides in gear earlier, the Tevez inquiry pretty much decked common sense with a flying head-butt.

So to have a further investigation based on the meaning of an oral cuddle between Scott Duxbury, the West Ham chief executive, and Kia Joorabchian, owner of Tevez, cannot be classed simply as stupid.

It is post-stupid, in the way some TV shows are described as post-modern when concerned with ironic self-reference and absurdity.

Indeed, one such post-modern cartoon, the wonderful Ren and Stimpy, made by Canadian animator John Kricfalusi, actually contained a segment entitled Ask Dr Stupid, with foolish logic that pre-empted the Tevez inquiry by a good 15 years.

Yet, somehow even a psychotic chihuahua and his idiot fat Manx cat accomplice never got quite as stupid as this lot.

In keeping with the positive vibe, the same paper suggests Gianfranco Zola is expected to sign Paraguayans Nelson Amarilla and Juan Aguilar at the end of their trial. Amarilla, 20, a defender, and Juan Aguilar, 19, a midfielder, play for Guarani in Paraguay but have had a week of training in east London. According to the article, the West Ham manager said the club had yet to make a decision but he thought the Hammers would want them both to stay. "The project is to make a team capable of a high level," he said. "We cannot compete by spending £200million so we have to do it through getting young players. Not all the time we will be looking abroad. We have good young English players here like Freddie Sears and Mark Noble and we are trying to improve them.' Fair enough, the quote does not exactly corroborate the story but who am I to quibble? May the Boleyn reverberate to exuberant galopas.

Elsewhere Alan Pardew revealed yesterday that he had little or no respect for former West Ham chairman Eggert Magnusson and that his exit was the best thing to ever happen to the club. Following a takeover by an Icelandic consortium, led by Magnusson at the start of the 2006/07 season, Pardew left the club and now admits he had "no relationship" with the Icelandic businessman. Speaking on Goals On Sunday he said Magnusson had unrealistic expectations and ideas about transfer policy and his subsequent departure was a good thing for West Ham.

"The big problem of course at West Ham was when Eggert came in, who I had no respect for and no relationship with," he said. "That was never going to end or start well. He never showed me much respect to be honest. He kept wanting to buy eight different positions, but the first time I spoke to him I said I didn't really need that many. He wanted to buy the world. I thought he was a bit naive and the best thing to happen to West Ham is that he's no longer there. I just feel at that time he was not really understanding how it worked."

Pardew said the takeover, which took place during the club's second season back in the Premier League, unsettled everybody at the club and was one of the reasons why they flirted with relegation that year. He recalled: "In our second year in the Premiership, which is always a tricky year, we had a takeover and it really caused havoc to be honest. It unsettles you. Everybody becomes wary of their position. Is the manager still going to be here? Are the players and the staff going to change? Everyone gets a little bit nervous. I've had three takeovers in my managerial career, which isn't particularly long. The first part of the West Ham takeover was slightly contrived because Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano were involved."

The signings of Tevez and Mascherano have certainly caused plenty of controversy and Pardew admitted that their arrivals caused problems for him in terms of team selection. He insisted he wanted to sign players in other positions, but was unable to do so because of the takeover, and felt the arrival of Tevez and Mascherano complicated things further at the club. He continued: "Up until that point we hadn't signed anybody in that window and I was getting very concerned. There were two or three positions I really wanted to fill. The board were obviously wanting the club to be taken over and I was not aware of some of the conversations that were going on at that time. At the end of the window I was told there was a chance of getting these two world-class players, but not in the positions I particularly wanted to fill if I'm totally honest. But I wasn't going to turn down the opportunity to manage two players I'd watched in the World Cup that summer. I was going to bring them in. We didn't actually fill the positions I wanted to. We had a weakness in the squad that unfortunately came out to play massively as the season progressed. Those two players were absolutely outstanding but Tevez hadn't played for eight months because of a ban and a problem at his former club and they were both not quite ready. We tried to introduce them, I think there was a bit of animosity and we had takeovers. It was a very complicated situation. They weren't expecting to play. I have to say they were both brilliant professionals in their time at West Ham. But every time I introduced them unfortunately nothing really worked for us and it didn't kick on, which was a shame. Tevez did show, especially towards the end, what he was all about. He played a big, big part in saving them from relegation."

The controversy over the legality of those signings refuses to die down and this week the FA and the Premier League revealed they are to launch a fresh inquiry into the affair. Pardew says he was not party to the contract negotiations, but feels the situation should have been dealt with by now. He added: "That's a nonsense because that was dealt with. In all honesty it should be dead and buried now. It all sounds so ridiculous. Something went on there that no-one really has got to the bottom of and this money situation which is supposed to be transferred from West Ham to Sheffield United, how are they going to agree on that? I've not been party to the contract situation that was there. I always felt that as part of West Ham, which I was at that time, I had some responsibility for that. But I wasn't party to those decisions and I'm still not. I still haven't seen those contracts so I wouldn't know in all honesty."

On a separate note, and with the world’s attention focused on the bloody conflict in Gaza, it was inevitable that some United related footballer somewhere would dip his toe into the maelstrom with something other than the usual bland “let’s all pray for peace” schtick. On this occasion it was not Di Canio or Pa(i)ntsil, but former Hammers sulk-meister Frédéric Kanouté. On Wednesday, while celebrating a goal against Deportivo La Coruña, he lifted his jersey to reveal a T-shirt that read “Palestine”. Note, observes Gabriele Marcotti, it didn’t read “May my Palestinian brothers drive the Israelis into the sea” or “Hamas: More Rockets Please” or even just “Free Palestine”. Simply “Palestine”. Despite receiving support from Raphael Schultz, Israel’s ambassador to Spain, who said that he did not consider Kanouté’s “gesture as an incitement to violence”, the former Hamas (see what I did there?) striker was fined just under £3,000. Then again, the Spanish FA had little choice: regulations state that “revealing messages of a religious or political nature on the pitch is strictly prohibited during the time of play.”

Talking of controversial figures, the Times are reporting Frank McAvennie has been given a four-month suspended jail sentence after he admitted fighting outside a bar on the Isle of Man. The ex-Celtic and United striker head-butted a man outside the Aperitivo wine bar in Loch Promenade, Douglas, on July 4. The High Bailiffs' Court in Douglas heard that McAvennie asked security guards to remove local man Ian Moffitt, 23, from the bar as he felt threatened by him. Sergeant John Manley told the court the two men then clashed on the street "first with words, then pushing each other and throwing ineffectual punches" before McAvennie head-butted Mr Moffitt. Ah, you can take the boy out of Glasgow, but...

McAvennie was on the island to take part in a Manchester United versus Liverpool legends charity match at the Bowl sports stadium, but missed the game following his arrest. McAvennie's advocate, Jerry Carter, said the footballer had not intended violence and was provoked. "The defendant called security staff to have Mr Moffitt removed, and has accepted that he over-reacted and used too much force but he clearly felt he was threatened at the time," he said. "These are not the actions of someone who was out looking for trouble, but someone who felt he was on the horns of a dilemma and was trying to deal with it." Michael Moyle, the High Bailiff, sentenced McAvennie to four months in prison, suspended for a period of two years. He also ordered him to pay court costs of £113.70, but said he was not to be permanently excluded from the island.

Back to the current team and midfielder Luis Boa Morte is reportedly unaware of interest from Hull City, according to his agent. The Portuguese attacker has been strongly linked with a switch to the KC Stadium in the January transfer window, having struggled for regular football at Upton Park. Tigers boss Phil Brown is in the market for a left-sided player and has conceded his admiration for the 31-year-old. Both clubs, however, are insistent that no agreement has been reached. Amadeu Paixao, the former Portugal international's agent, said: "We have read in the newspapers that Hull are interested but we don't know anything about it. This club we do not know. Nobody has contacted us to allow Hull to talk to us, nothing has been said to us."

The Hammers are thought to be keen to offload some of their fringe players to reduce both the wage bill and size of Gianfranco Zola's squad. Boa Morte, who moved to West Ham in a £5million switch from Fulham in 2007, would not appear to be keen to quit the East End. Paixao added: "He has never mentioned that he wants to leave West Ham. He has a house near the training ground, a wife and two kids. He is very happy there." Not to mention his vociferous 30,000 strong fan club that turn up to encourage him every other week.

Similarly content is Valon Behrami, who admitted to having mixed emotions after West Ham United fought out an entertaining 2-2 Premier League draw at Newcastle United. Speaking on the offical site, Behrami said he and his team-mates had ultimately been left disappointed not to secure three points at St James' Park. "It was a strange game because we lost the first half one-nil and won the second half two-one. I think the emotion I felt when the game was finished was disappointment because we could have won the game. If we had won, we would have been in a very, very good position. I think we showed the right mentality but we should not be happy with this result."

While in the past West Ham United might have been happy with a point on Tyneside, the Hammers went north on a run of five away matches undefeated and full of confidence. As a result, the 23-year-old admitted he and his team-mates felt they had missed an opportunity to win at Newcastle for the first time since 1998. "I think this is a good moment for us. Everybody gave their all to get the result. Maybe we would have been happier with this point earlier in the season but we had a lot of opportunities to close the game so we are little bit disappointed. We have to carry on doing what we are doing and we'll be OK. In the first half we were thinking if we could draw it would be OK but after half-time we wanted the three points. We had the chances to win the game. We have to improve."

Finally, as I write this, Sky Sports News are reporting the club have rejected a renewed offer for Craig Bellamy from Manchester City. Reassuringly, chief news reporter Bryan Swanson understands City's second bid was for £9million but Hammers chief executive Scott Duxbury still maintains the club do not need to sell their best players during the winter transfer window. Given that numerous reports in the media this morning have variously estimated the players value to be between £10 and £15, that hardly seems over generous from the Abu Dhabi United Group. Isn't there a striker in Seville who would be a cheaper, fitter, equally moody but slightly more politically sympathetic option? And in the meantime, in the words of Phill Jupitus, if somebody could please close that window, there’s a terrible draught blowing round Upton Park...

*You can see the Pardew interview here.


Stelios J said...

Great piece as per always. No wonder, however, that Behrami has mixed emotions: ("It was a strange game because we lost the first half one-nil and won the second half two-one"), as we drew both halves one all!

As for the Daily Mail, let's hope Martin Samuel's inclusion in their team will lead to less sensationalism and censorship of the "comments" box, on their website, which is there for God knows why.
I know six people who bothered to comment on Ian Ridley's diabolical diatribe on Saturday, none of whom were published. Most of us were polite, given the circumstances, with no four letter words beginning with "c" used whilst addressing the silly kent!

Sam h said...

make that seven people!

Trilby said...

I gave up directly responding to Mail articles many moons ago and my soul thanks me for it. Having said that, I did receive an email from one of the paper's journos several months ago berating me for an unfair post I had written concerning one of his stories! That was sweet.

I never even noticed the Behrami slip and it would be churlish of me to go back and edit in a snarky comment. Besides, he's fast becoming one of my favourite players so he gets a pass!


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