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Match Previews

Why we ended up with Steve McClaren and West Ham got Slaven Bilic…?

8 years ago

Newcastle v West Ham

Who Manages Them:    

You take an ex-international manager with a pretty average recent club record, throw him into a club where the unpopular previous incumbent was hanging on to the mirage of success with a dour brand of football, you give him a few quid to spend and what does he do?

Well, if he’s Steve McClaren you end up talking about “turning corners” and “changing cultures” and needing a win to get out of the bottom three. If that manager is Slaven Bilic (Caption for image above ‘Slaven Adams: I like Rock Music and Pretty Girls’) you end talking about anything being possible and needing a win for a Champions League spot.

Let me see if I can think of a reason why we ended up with Steve McClaren and West Ham got Slaven Bilic?

An uncompromising central defender in the golden age of Croatian football, Bilic played for West Ham and Everton in England and while we knew him as a tough and no-nonsense stopper, he’ll always be remembered in European football for a pathetic bit of play-acting in the 1998 World Cup semi-final which saw opponent Lauren Blanc sent off and banned from a home final against Brazil. Bilic has seemed reticent about his actions, he later said:

 “I swear if I could change that so [Blanc] could play in the final, I would.”

That looks to be more in common with the man than his disgraceful diving, a man who speaks a number of languages, has a law degree, plays guitar in a rock band called RAWBAU and is a deep thinking political activist:

“If you know to share what you own, you live happily and with honour. I am a true socialist. I know I can’t save the world on my own; but if there is a struggle against unjustness, I always prefer to be on the frontline, and that is my attitude toward life.”

“Struggle against Injustice” eh Slaven? Welcome to the home of Wonga, Sports Direct and the permanent relegation battle. I knew there was a reason why he isn’t manager of Newcastle United.

Who Have They Bought?            

At the back, £7.7million signing from Juventus, Angelo Ogbonna, should be joined by Arsenal loanee Carl Jenkinson in helping to form a powerful and mobile back four.

In midfield, £4.2million Pedro Obiang from Sampdoria, £10million playmaker Dimitri Payet from Marseille and Barca loanee Alex Song are all available while, Antonio and Jelavic, both bought from the Championship, were up front on Tuesday against Bournemouth once Andy Carroll had cantered off for a month in pasture.

‘Antonio looking delighted to be at Upton Park.’

They could be joined by Chelsea loanee and previously injured Victor Moses today, on the ‘Premier League Victor Moses Merry-Go-Round’ it was the Hammers turn to sign him this season, we are pencilled in for the 2020/21 season, just after his Chelsea testimonial despite never actually playing for them.

Probably the most interesting player the Hammers signed in the summer was Dimitri Payet. The 28 year old Reunion Islander has risen steadily through the ranks at Nantes, Saint-Etienne and Lille before moving to London from Marseille and turning in a decent PL debut season. He scored twice against us in September in our 2-0 defeat at Upton Park and so far has six goals to his name this season, including a quality if slightly deflected free kick last time out against Bournemouth.

“Graham Carr, I’m over here.”

Why is he interesting then? Well, because we’ve got a Chief Scout who virtually lives in France and where was he when Payet was moving to Lille for a few million four years ago, likewise for 8million Euros to Marseille in 2013. Too busy courting inadequate Remy Cabella, that’s where he was.

That can’t be an excuse as to why during the 2013-15 seasons Carr watched Florian Thauvin score 13 goals in 62 games, presumably the same games in which Payet scored 15 goals, and last season he made the second most successful through balls in European football, only Messi did more. Where were you Graham Carr? Why did you think Thauvin was a better player than Payet? Whatever the reason was in the summer, it’ll sound pretty stupid now.

Who Have We Seen Before?    

Not that we’ll see him today but West Ham are the latest club to be funding Andy Carroll’s settee time, crocked on Tuesday with a hamstring injury that should keep him out for 6 weeks. Not only will it keep him out of a return to SJP today, it might have kept him out of a return to SJP altogether.

Like the re-release of Do They Know It’s Christmas? Every Yuletide, every transfer window sees the Gateshead giant linked with a return home. This injury makes it less likely that he’ll return this season but more likely he’ll return eventually, a paltry 13 games played this season must eventually see Bilic run out of patience and cash in on the patient before he becomes worthless. Would he come back to Newcastle? Probably. Why would we want him? He’s unplayable on his day. Which day is that? The third Wednesday in December.

“Keep it away from me, it hurts.”

Are We Going To Win:                 

West Ham are a decent team in good form but we can definitely beat them and it should be a good, attacking game with plenty of goals, as long as they score first and quickly, we tend to like to keep 11 men behind the ball until we are losing.

West Ham are good at attacking set-pieces, which we are generally rubbish at defending and on Tuesday they scored goals direct from free kicks and worked from throw ins against Bournemouth. On the other hand, despite their size the Hammers are not so good at defending an aerial ball into the box, knock downs and lay-offs from Mitrovic were more encouraging against Manyoo on Tuesday, partly because he actually had someone to knock down to.

The signing of Jonjo Shelvey should also improve our dead ball play, if you can improve something which doesn’t exist, not only can we not take corners, we don’t even seem to know what to do with a throw in.

No matter what the result, I’m looking forward to our new attacking intent after four games without a goal and a hard game against a West Ham team going for a club record nine games unbeaten today. Steve McClaren must now know that our only hope of victory is by attacking the opposition with the same purpose we attacked Manyoo on Tuesday, we just have to do it for more than 45 minutes.

For them, Bilic said this week about NUFC:

“They are definitely improving,they are a massive club which in recent seasons had slow starts or difficult seasons. But they have improved; they have a good squad, great individuals, and great strikers. They made a good comeback against Manchester United and they are on a high, so I expect a difficult game at a great stadium.”

Me too Slaven. Howay The Lads.


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