Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Sublittoral Thrum

For West Ham United, severely impeded by the Scylla and Charybdis of a rabid football press and a public financial imperative to balance books, the transfer window cracks and hums, pulsing like the premonitory electricity of death. Transfer rumours in these austere times are as pieces of lint, static-clinging to our collective screen as 24hr rolling media disseminates half-truths and belches effluents, pollutants, contaminants and deliriants into an airborne toxic event...

So we have Sunderland launching a £5million raid for James Collins according to today's Mail. Steve Bruce has already boosted his defence with the capture of out-of-contract Paraguay skipper Paulo da Silva, and has now reportedly turned his attention to the Wales international, who returned to action for West Ham United in October last year after a nine-month absence with severe knee-ligament damage. The paper speculates that Gianfranco Zola may now be tempted to part with Collins to raise funds for his own recruitment plans, especially with Celtic also credited with an interest in the player. The Sardinian has a preference for a smaller squad and with Matthew Upson, James Tomkins and the returning Danny Gabbidon providing adequate depth, could view Collins as expendable.

Fellow Welsh defender Gabbidon was said to be pleased with his 45 minutes on Sunday as he played his first football for 18 months in the victory over Grays Athletic. "It feels really good to be back," Gabbidon told the official site. "It has been quite a long time. I have had a few problems with injuries. It was nice to have a run-out at Grays and we got a good result as well so it was a good start to pre-season."

The defender developed a series of back problems and neck related complications which threatened his career and forced him to miss nearly two seasons of action. "It has just been a bit of wear and tear really from playing so long with a few problems and I just carried on playing," he disclosed. "It kind of got worse. I developed some problems with my back and groin and it just proved quite hard to get rid of the problem. I have had to be patient. I have done a lot of work with the physios at West Ham and finally I have got there and it is nice to be back out on the pitch and performing in a West Ham shirt."

Gabbidon is now eager to improve his fitness as the Hammers squad arrived at their Austrian training camp near Graz yesterday. Zola and his coaching staff are planning to "work the players hard", with double training sessions scheduled for non-match-days throughout their stay. The players will also be able to keep fit by cycling to and from their hotel to the training pitches. The competitive action during the trip will be provided in the shape of four friendlies with Flavia Solva the first opponents in Wagna tomorrow. German Cup holders Werder Bremen follow on Saturday, with Turkish side Bursaspor providing the opposition on Wednesday 22 July. The trip concludes with a game against ND Nura a short hop over the border in Slovenia on Thursday 23 July.

The official site revealed that after an early morning flight from London the players quickly set about making themselves at home in their new surroundings. Bathed in glorious sunshine, the travelling party headed by coach to their picturesque hotel in the rural village of Bad Radkersburg, their base for the next ten days. New arrival Luis Jimenez joined up with his team-mates for the first time and, we are told, pointedly went to every member of the squad to shake hands and introduce himself. Jimenez was joined at the airport by England trio Matthew Upson, Robert Green and Carlton Cole after they were given an extra week's holiday following their international exertions last month.

The majority of the group that featured in the 2-1 friendly win at Grays Athletic are in Austria, along with Luis Boa Morte, Valon Behrami and Scott Parker. Canada Under-20 goalkeeper Adam Street is also in the first-team party, as is reserve team captain Bondz N'Gala, Austria U19 midfielder Georg Grasser and promising youngsters Oliver Lee and Anthony Edgar, who signed their first professional contracts with the club last month. There is no mention of Savio but one assumes he is also present. Dean Ashton and Terry Dixon are named as the only absentees as both have stayed behind in England to work on their own individual training programmes. Or Dixon has at least. For Ashton, who is a reported target for Stoke City, dark rumours concerning medical examinations, first-team assurances, managerial fall-outs and Britannia stadium tours swarm like an incessant sublittoral thrum.

With two of his four striking options still struggling for fitness or personal contentment, it is perhaps not surprising Zola is eager to boost his forward options. "We are trying to spot what our ­weaknesses are," the United manager told Sky Sports. "Certainly we need to improve up front and that is the majority of the job." According to the Express, a possible move for old team-mate Eidur Gudjohnsen is still in the offing. Gudjohnsen has been made available by Barcelona and with funds limited at Upton Park, The Star thinks Zola may have to persuade both player and club that a season-long loan deal is an attractive proposition.

Elsewhere, the Mirror claims Julien Faubert is wanted by Bayer Leverkusen after the former France international spent the end of last season on loan at Real Madrid but barely played. Faubert has endured a miserable time in London since his move from Bordeaux in July 2007. He ruptured his achilles tendon in a pre-season game just weeks into his stay, and did not play for the first team until the following January. When he did return it became apparent that the injury had miraculously robbed FauxPas of some of his pace, most of his crossing ability and all of his first-touch. Subsequently relegated to bit-part status by successive managers, he has regularly voiced his dissatisfaction with the club through the French media. The article states West Ham United do not actually want their £5-6million signing back and are ready to do a cut-price deal, with Leverkusen hoping to land Faubert for as little as £1million.

Julian Faubert- La Nausee (one man, assailed by metaphysical doubts, attempts to cleanse himself of the sin of existing)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Grays Athletic 1 West Ham United 2

Gianfranco Zola declared himself pleased with the side's 2-1 friendly win over Grays Athletic this afternoon. In the absence of established first-teamers Robert Green, Matthew Upson, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Valon Behrami, Luis Boa Morte, Scott Parker, Carlton Cole and Dean Ashton, academy products Zavon Hines and Cristian Montano scored the goals in a game that also saw the return to action of Danny Gabbidon. The injury-plagued defender played his first half of football since a reserve outing back in January 2008. There were also encouraging run-outs for Kieron Dyer, the returning Julien Faubert, Anthony Edgar and Junior Stanislas.

Zola used 22 players in all during the game and he saw plenty to be pleased about ahead of the new season, while the game will serve as ideal preparation for the squad's trip to Austria tomorrow. "I was very happy today," he said. "Everyone came through which is good because we have only had one week of hard training and this is still very early in pre-season. I am pleased with how the young players did and they had lots of confidence. It is very encouraging."

While it was a welcome pipe-opener for established names such as Herita Ilunga and Jack Collison, there was also a tantalising glimpse of two players who are set to play a part in Tony Carr's Under-18 set-up this coming season - namely Republic of Ireland Under-17 midfielder Eoin Wearen and England Under-17 forward Robert Hall, who are still only 16 and 15 respectively. As stated on the official site, both may feature again at Cambridge United in a West Ham United XI next Saturday.

Meanwhile Savio travelled with the squad to Grays but was rested as a precaution. He is expected to figure when the team play in Austria, perhaps in the opening match of the ten-day trip against local third-division team SVL Flavia Solva on Wednesday. New recruit Luis Jimenez will also be in Austria after his arrival in London earlier today. Although he was not in time to watch his new team-mates play after sorting out some personal matters back in Chile, Zola was clear about how the man dubbed 'the Wizard' will improve his options. "He will give us something extra especially in the last 30 metres. That is the kind of player we have got."

Valon Behrami and Scott Parker are also expected to make the trip to the training camp in Bad Radkersburg, although only the latter has a chance of playing in any of the four games. After Flavia Solva, the Hammers take on German Cup holders Werder Bremen on Saturday in Bad Waltersdorf (check out possible live internet streams for that one) before meeting Turkish team Bursaspor on Wednesday week and then finishing up against ND Mura 05 across the border in Slovenia a day later.

Finally, England Under-21 duo James Tomkins and Mark Noble will fly out with Jonathan Spector midway through the camp, having had just a fortnight or so off so far after their summer international exertions. According to the official site, it remains to be seen if Dean Ashton and Terry Dixon will be joining them as they continue to work hard on their fitness after lengthy injury lay-offs.

Friday, 10 July 2009

New Home Kit Revealed?

At the risk of upsetting Ray Winstone and the West Ham United commercial department, here is a sneaky pre-launch look at the new "dicky dirt" for next season, as appeared on several Hammers sites this afternoon. I'm not that convinced by it yet but obviously it will look a lot better if worn by Luis Jimenez and Amantino Mancini come Monday's big launch. I would attribute credit for this reveal but, in the circumstances, repectful anonymity is probably the way to go.

Julian Dictates

Below is an exclusive WHO interview with Irons legend Julian Dicks as conducted by Leigh Jim, Julian's agent for the past 10 years...

Q. Did Perry Groves really plead with George Graham to take him off when you kicked his arse years ago ?

A. Yes he did... it was pretty embarrassing to watch actually but it made me laugh at the time. I was smacking him all over the park.

Q. Were you actually serious about the Ray Winstone as chairman thing?

A. Ha Ha – of course not. I get journalists ringing me up all the time. On this occasion, he asked me – ‘in an ideal world, who would you have running West Ham?’. I actually said ‘Me’, but as that wasn’t allowed, I chose Ray.

Q. What do you think was your best performance for us? (IMHO it was the 4-3 win over Spurs when Hartson & Kitson joined.)

A. Well from a fan’s point of view, I would have to agree with the Spurs game but I also really enjoyed the Man Utd 2-2 game as well. We were fantastic that game.

Q. What handicap do you play off these days?

A. I still play off scratch – but I can't play as much as I used to. I can play but it’s the walking that does me. My knees are shot after a 3-day tournament.

Q. Iron Maiden or Guns and Roses?

A. Oh it has to be Guns and Roses. I love a bit of Iron Maiden and get on well with the lads – but it can't compare to Appetite for Destruction!!

Q. Is Graeme Souness as bad a manager as he is TV pundit?

A. Ha Ha – I actually like him as a pundit – he is honest and doesn’t take any crap… much like he was as a manager. I have worked under many managers and I have never heard players slag him off. The only people he upset were the useless ones.

Q. Do you really believe your hair cut stopped you getting picked for England?

A. I believe my image did. I was in Linekers in Tenerife and John Gorman told me that if I grew my hair that they would pick me! I just told him to fuck off. What a stupid thing to say.

At the time the England team had alcoholics in it, gamblers etc... I just couldn’t understand their logic.

Q. Does it annoy you to see the salaries that players are on these days?

A. No why would it? I was always paid well and loved every minute of it. Would I have wanted more? Sure – but then who wouldn’t?

Q. What made you move from striker to left back?

A. John Bond at Birmingham asked someone to volunteer and I put my hand up. I had a blinder and played their ever since! I was too short to play up front!

Q. Have you forgiven David Mellor and Andy Gray for comments they made re John Spencer?

A. Look, I don’t hold grudges but what Andy Gray did, for me, was pathetic. He demanded the FA investigate me and, along with Mellor, started some sort of media vendetta against me. I thought it was all pretty sad. John Spencer agreed to stand up at the tribunal and defend me but Hoddle banned it. Best leave that there...

Q. Who is the hardest player you have played against?

A. No question, Mark Hughes. He was strong and gave as good as he got. If you clattered him, he got up and never moaned. A great player and a good bloke

Q. Do you regret anything you have done in your career injury wise?

A. No. Sure I could have had an operation and come back but that is a major risk – as it was, I had 12 great years and enjoyed every minute of it. How many people get to say that?

Q. What would Harry, Bonzo etc say to you after getting sent off?

A. Billy would never say anything but Harry would have a moan if it was avoidable. To be honest, I can't really remember them ever shouting at me. Me and Harry always got on really.

Q. Why did you leave to join Liverpool and do you regret how it turned out?

A. I didn’t want to leave. My agent tried all she could to stop it happening but Harry wanted a change. I had no choice. After the Derby game, Harry gave me such a roasting in the press that my position became very difficult. I don’t regret going to Liverpool – I just regret the fact that Souness left. I loved it at West Ham. I still do.

Q. Who was the biggest tool you ever played against/with?

A. There are players I didn’t like but genuinely no hatred. Marco Boogers was probably the strangest player I played with. He was literally crazy. It was always fun playing against Man Utd as they were so easy to wind up!

Q. Did you feel that Bonzo/Harry resented your relationship with the fans?

A. I don’t think so, no. Harry might have resented aspects of it but no – I think they appreciated the reasons for the relationship I had with the fans.

Q. Do you still go down TOTs?

A. Ha Ha .. is that still there??? No, I am too bloody old for that now. We used to have some blinding nights out but not anymore!!

Q. Do you ever look at websites such as westhamonline.net?

A. No, I can't say I do to be honest. I might now though.

Q. What was Harry Redknapp like? There are many players who criticised his managerial style during the mid 90's. Did he rub people up the wrong way on a regular basis?

A. Harry is Harry. He does things I don’t agree with but then nobody is perfect. I tell you what though, he knows how to get the best out of people.

Q. What was your favourite goal for the club?

A. The penalties against Spurs and Man Utd will always stand out – but maybe the goal against Forest Away? It's hard to choose just one.

Q. Are there any West Ham players you admire today?

A. From the games I have seen, I would have to say Rob Green is the stand out player for me. Consistent and doesn’t fuck about. A good old fashioned goalie.

Q. Do you remember back in about 1995 in Dukes, Chelmsford, when some bloke helped you and John Moncur get away from John Rollinson by hiding you both in the cloakroom?

A. Who the hell is John Rollinson? Maybe you should ask Moncs that one! It's safe to say if I was in Dukes, then I can't remember this incident!

Q. Who do you consider to be the modern day hardman of the game?

A. In the Premier League now? Nobody – how can there be? The last one was Keane. But since then, nobody. Saying that, Keane was fine dishing it out but never enjoyed taking it back. I remember once I went in two footed on someone (maybe Cantona) and Butt responded by taking me out. Butt got sent off, I squared up to Keane and Cantona tried to swing a punch at me. He missed, and Keane ran off.

Q. How did the players see the Redknapp and Bonds fallout?

A. To be honest we heard what we heard the same as the rest of you. My take on it was that Billy never wanted to be a manager – he was happy just being at home with the kids. Harry, on the other hand, wanted it and was determined to succeed.

Q. Sorry about this, but it's a site tradition - favourite crisps?

A. Worcester Sauce Walkers

Q. What went wrong with your first managerial job at Wivenhoe?

A. Nothing went wrong – I spent 6 months there, kept them up and that was that. The club had no money, the players didn’t get paid, I didn’t get paid ... it was just all a real shame as I loved it and would have stayed. The previous manager there really stitched the club up, and I am not sure there is any way back for them.

Q. Do you still harbour serious ambition to break into management?

A. Absolutely. I love football and I am good at motivating people. My agents are working on trying to get me something so fingers crossed. I want to learn the ropes for 10 years or so and then take over at West Ham! Why not? It would be my dream.

Q. Being the best left back of your era, do you harbour any regrets that you never played for the full England team?

A. Not at all – I am past all that now!

Q. How did you find your time at Liverpool? Was it a culture shock going from being a big fish in a small pond to just another player at a big team?

A. No not really – I just wanted to play football. As I said, I didn’t really want to be there but it was a great opportunity. It was a great day when I came back though.

Q. What are your views on Terry Brown? Do you agree with the fans' opinion that he bled the club for all its worth then sold at a profit; or did you see a different side to him during your years at the club?

A. To be fair I never really got involved in any of that aspect. I had my issues with the Bond Scheme as it seemed to rip off the average fan. It's difficult though, as a player, to get too involved. I had a job to do, and I just got on with it.

Q. Out of all the managers you played under, who stood out as the best? Who would you say was the worst?

A. Worst manager was Lou Macari... ‘Dicksy, win the ball... get it up the field’. That was it. Horrible way to play football.

Best manager was either Ron Saunders at Birmingham or John Lyall. I swear in all the years I knew John, he never once got angry. He just oozed class and was a fantastic man.

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