Soapbox: losing face


The Herita Ilunga soap opera continues. Pete Sixsmith could hardly let it go unremarked in his report of a grim start by Sunderland followed by stirring fightback and lingering controversy …

Well, where to start after a fairly eventful afternoon at The Stadium of Thugs – according to weeping and wailing West Ham fans.

Let’s start with a moderate first half performance that began quite well and then faded badly as the Happy Hammers took what could and should have been a commanding lead.

We had the better of the early exchanges and Bent missed a good header which would have put the self styled Academy on the back foot. But, credit where credit is due (and never let it be said that I am anything but magnanimous) they came back well.

Jack Collison, an impressive young player clearly destined for a glittering career at Spurs or Manchester United, caught out our defence twice, resulting in two well taken goals, and showing that Carlton Cole is a top class striker with a place in the England team and on the Liverpool bench virtually guaranteed. He was a handful all afternoon and has shaken off the “London Kevin Kyle” tag I awarded him a couple of years ago.

Oh, and I would not dream of suggesting that Herita Ilunga is a cheat.

Now let’s look at the fight back that started with Andy Reid’s exquisite free kick just after Cole had mugged Nosworthy to make us all miserable. Reid’s goal was a catalyst for as stirring a response I have seen at the Stadium since SuperKev frightened the life out of the Mags many years ago.

With only 10 men, The Brucester and his sidekick Wreckless Eric Black decided to go for it. Inspired by the on field leadership from Lorik Cana (can you imagine Dean Whitehead taking his role?) we rattled the Academy to the extent that they were hanging on desperately at the end. Cana, Henderson, Bent and above all, Reid, were relentless in pressing and squeezing a West Ham side that showed as much inclination to fight as Walter the Softie when faced by a belligerent Dennis the Menace.

Richardson’s equaliser ratcheted up the Stadium noise factor without resorting to choreographed songs and brought back memories of the Roker Roar in its heyday.

We should have been ahead by then as Bent wasted two good opportunities and the crossbar and a superb save by Green had prevented our Albanian polyglot and our Paraguayan defender from opening their account for The New Team Of All The Talents..

Oh, and I would not dream of suggesting that Herita Ilunga is a git.

What about the referee? When I saw it was Andre Marriner, I was pleased. I think he is a decent ref who has a feel for the game. Make that past tense. I thought he was a good ref. He had an absolute nightmare here. He was not helped by some of the responses from The Academy (of Football? Of Dramatic Art?) but he was his own worst enemy. The only booking he got right in the first half was Cana and he was no better after the break. A truly shocking performance and I hope he stays under his duvet on Sunday morning in embarrassment.

Oh, and I would not dream of suggesting that Herita Ilunga is a cissie.

He got the sending off right. It is most unlike Kenwyne to get involved like that and I can only assume that it was frustration that caused him to act in such a way. No doubt if Benitez were our manager (God and Quinn forbid) we would appeal against it, but once you raise your hands, you have to go. However, I am sure that the mortally injured Ilunga’s name will be in Lorik’s memory bank and, like all true Albanians, I am equally sure he enjoys a feud.

Oh, and Herita Ilunga could therefore be missing for the return.

As might Gianfranco Zola! He looked shell shocked in the post match interviews and is beginning to realise that he has a full scale relegation battle on his hands. They did have players missing, – I believe Kieron Dyer is nearing full fitness,- but I think they are in serious trouble. The likes of Collison and Tomkins will be away if they go down and I can see a bigger club with more financial clout (Fulham, Notts County, Peterborough) snapping up Upson in the January window.

Still, plenty in the Academy to replace them. They could make Herita Ilunga captain. He will follow on in the fine tradition of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Trevor Brooking. Can’t imagine any of those three going down the way that he did- but they weren’t cheats.

So, a rousing point and an acceptance that, under Bruce, our strengths are beginning to outweigh our weaknesses. A word of praise for Craig Gordon as well. He is a more confident keeper and he made two outstanding saves. His handling is much improved and he seems happier after a tough couple of years. He could turn out to be one of Roy’s better buys.

Spurs next week and Old Flannel Face. We have to do it without three of our better players, but we will see how deep the quality in the squad is. Could be interesting and I would imagine that Bent would like to show him that he is a better player than their Sandra.

Oh, and did I mention that I think Herita Ilunga is a disgrace to the game? No? Well, I will.


Herita Ilunga is a disgrace to the game and the West Ham shirt.

27 thoughts on “Soapbox: losing face”

  1. From the horse’s mouth (below) is the law on yellow/red cards so we can all argue about the interpretation!

    It does seem that Jones’ card is for ‘violent conduct’ and Ilunga’s for ‘unsporting behaviour’.

    The whole set of laws provides interesting reading (for the anoraks) though. Did anyone know that you can play on an almost square pitch? And what happens if you put the ball in your own net from your free kick? Answers on a postcard. Refs, no cheating – you should know!


    Cautionable Offences

    A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the following seven offences:

    • unsporting behaviour
    • dissent by word or action
    • persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game
    • delaying the restart of play
    • failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner
    kick, free kick or throw-in
    • entering or re-entering the fi eld of play without the referee’s permission
    • deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission

    A substitute or substituted player is cautioned if he commits any of the following three offences:

    • unsporting behaviour
    • dissent by word or action
    • delaying the restart of play

    Sending-off Offences

    A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offences:

    • serious foul play
    • violent conduct
    • spitting at an opponent or any other person
    • denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within
    his own penalty area)
    • denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick
    • using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
    • receiving a second caution in the same match

    A player, substitute or substituted player who has been sent off must leave the vicinity of the field of play and the technical area.

  2. I’m an Iron and have been watching them for nearly 40 years. I was thoroughly embarrassed by Ilunga (and surprised – never seen him do anything like that), Franco and Kovac. If Diamanti had played the full 90 you could have almost certainly added him to that list. I realise that a desperate situation might require desperate measures but cheating isn’t one of them.

  3. No matter how much play-acting Ilunga subsequently indulged in (and there was certainly more than enough to justify booking him), there’s no escaping the fact that Jones did raise his hands to the guy and that’s a red card.

  4. Regarding the sendings off:

    Jones: stupid = red card. No complaint

    Ilunga: play acting = yellow card, which indicates that the referee (see below) either acknowledged the foul on Jones by Ilunga, or the over reaction. Cheat

    Kovacs: Unlucky, not a deliberate foul on Bent

    Mariner: Only if we know why he booked Ilunga (refs’ report?), can we pass judgement on the Jones/Ilunga incident. I’d imagine the ref. booked Ilunga for the foul and so that seems proportionate to the red for Jones.

    Could not see the Kovacs/Bent Incident from his position so appeared to be a booking. Imagine it will be resinded if appealed.

    So, one question remains- if the ref. actually booked Ilunga for ‘simulation’ surely he would find a red card for Jones difficult to justify.

    Oh, Steve Clarke: Cana was lucky to stay on and the rest of your list it is sour grapes but what does the last line of your post mean?

  5. Not the youth set up, Sam, which is clearly of a very high standard, just the attitude that some Hammers fans have that every decent player produced in this country in recent years has started at West Ham. I know I am exaggerating, but it does rankle a bit with me – as do most things. I know you have produced better players than we have in recent years. Maybe Henderson will be our first home grown player to make a mark since Colin Todd!!

  6. – Cana’s two 2-footed tackles (potential career enders)
    – Cana’s disrespect and swearing towards officials
    – Malbranque’s dive for Reid’s free-kick
    – Nosworthy’s professional foul at 2-0 down
    – Malbranque feigning an injury when Upson won the ball clearly
    – Bent “screaming” in pain to get Kovac sent off for nothing

    Sunderland are a disgrace to Northern Football and Sunderland AFC!

  7. What’s the obsession with our Academy in this piece Pete?

    Wouldn’t happen to be the same Academy who produced Kieron Richardson for you would it?

    Obviously you’re annoyed with Illunga, I am too, but what’s you problem with our youth set up?

  8. you dirty northen scum

    Well done spammer your r’s causing problems as usual.

    It really is pitiful that after all that money spent on your education that is the epitome that your intellectually challenged brain cell can manage.

    We enjoyed one of the most excitement filled fight backs of the premiership, despite a visually impaired ref who gave strange decisions against both sides. The paucity however of footballing talent in your side was underlined by the cheating mentality of some of your players. Your team worked hard to get Cana sent off. your players climbed all over Jones until he stupidly saw red and retaliated with a push so gentle one of our lasses would have put it down to fore play.

    Instead of laughing it off and getting back to the battle for survival facing the Irons, your Nancy boy decided to play the drama queen and sealed your fate because you removed the player least likely to show any heart of fighting spirit on our side.

    You gave us cohesion, spirit and unity of purpose which had Bent been at his clinical best would have given you the battering your poor side deserved. 5-2 based on the chances created would not have been unreasonable, as it was we ended up with a very creditable draw and you with egg all over your team’s faces.

    It is a pity that we dropped those two points because it would have done justice to the attitude which Bruce is instilling into this slowly improving team.

    The crowd was beginning to sound like the memories of my childhood from Roker Park and that is because for once we are being given something worth shouting about.

  9. Nugsy was great at set pieces accelerating from behind or next to WH players and stopping them getting to Bent, giving him time and space to, err, have an off day. Well we can forgive him!

    Obviously a training ground plan the so nearly worked!!

  10. what a carry on like.
    jones was daft to do what he did, and bruce should hoy the book at him.
    ilunga should be ashamed, but (sadly for football) probably wont be.
    however he did stop to sign an autograph for my gran after the game, so fair play to him.
    unfortunately the pen top was a bit hard to get off, causing him to fall into a crumpled screaming heap on the floor. after the attention of paramedics (cpr defibrillator etc etc) he was whisked to sunderland general by air ambulance where surgeons operated through the night, and is now stable in intensive care. doctors are confident his chipped fingernail will be right as rain in a few weeks.

  11. Amid the controversy, let’s not forget what a fantastic, spirited second half performance this was. At half time I was wondering why I go to matches … we were 2-0 down, I was miserable and pessimistic. The 2nd half answered all of that. Passion, energy, a never-say-die attitude and a great atmosphere.

  12. Can’t see the Woods for the trees. As for rival fans who express themselves passionately, had this been a home game for the Hammers, they’d no doubt have invaded the pitch to express themselves there.

  13. I have no difficulty with rival fans who express themselves passionately – and in opposition to our views, as many have done in the post-match debate this weekend. “Paul Woods” almost certainly doesn’t exist bythat name as it is unlikely that he would want his real identity associated with such a moronic contribution.

  14. I truly hope this website will not descend to the level of some others I have visited where comments left are nothing more than a tirade of crude, abusive, personal insults against the people doing the postings and those who leave comments. Let’s try and stick to intelligent reasoned arguments and without diluting the passion we feel for our teams, in the words of Roy Walker let’s “Say what we see” from an individual perspective.
    Doubtless someone will call me a ponsy, intellectual, liberal tw** for that (or more likely something with less letters).

    What I saw yesterday was a referee who made a rod for his own back early on and followed it up with a succession of errors. Some mind boggling decisions (although it has to be said as yet no Sunderland fan has said Jones shouldn’t have been shown a red card) and a West Ham team whose behaviour reminded me of Gordon Strachan’s Southampton side and Robbie Savage.

    No Sunderland fan I know has issues with hard players. Had Cana played against us we may have felt some of his tackling was a bit marginal but we would respect him for his commitment, energy and never say die attitude. But with the Hammers yesterday it is hard not to feel that some of their players were a disgrace, feigning or exagerating injuries to disrupt the flow of the game and get Sunderland players booked. (And I’m not talking about Kenwyne Jones who I also think had to go.) These feelings are compounded when we are in posession and the game is stopped to allow treatment to an opponent and then we are made to give the ball back to Robert Green. Football should remain a contact sport, played by those who are prepared to take the knocks and accept the laws. Those who watch should remember that those who follow a different team may interpret what they see in a different way.

    Argue your case people. Insults are easy.

  15. You make it sound as though Sunderland players newver go down looking for apen or a foul, get over it. Just because one of your players got sent off, don’t try to lay the blame on the one who had a hand pushed in his face. Play acting or not, red card oofence it was.

  16. Ilunga is a cheat a coward and a disgrace to the game.
    hopefully all football fans regardless of their allegiance will share my opinion, as i would feel the same about any sunderland player who dared to behave in this way.
    if eduardo can be banned for simulation using video evidence, then surely this idiot deserves the same, and more.

    jones did deserve to be sent off for his foolish reaction, but how a push to the chest can result in severe facial trauma, followed by instantaneous recovery, is a miracle that perhaps only mr. ilunga himself could explain. unlikely, as it would require honesty and courage, 2 qualities he clearly does not possess.

  17. The red card was correct. I have no problem with this and am annoyed that Jones lost control. The point is that Ilunga went down to save himself from being booked or dismissed as did Kovac at the end. I expect better from West Ham; they are supposed to epitomise all that is good about English football. Not any more. I also thought more of Zola, but he must condone this kind of thing. Very disappointing. And WHU have been up and down like a bride’s nightie over the years!!

  18. Yes Jones had to go for raising his hands, but the histrionics of Ilunga were disgraceful, not to mention that other excuse for a man Franco, any self respecting hammers fan should be ashamed of the conduct of their play acting players.

  19. get over it mate, Jones shoved him and deserved his red. AND Ilunga got yellow carded for it. Are you saying it was not a red?

    Dont think SAFC are whiter than white. All teams do it, especially Arsenal, Fabrigas et all.

    Look to your own house before you criticise. Also when did SAFC become a big club capable of eeping their players, look in the dictionary, they are the definition of a “yo yo club” You think Bent, Jones and Ferdinand would stay if you go down (and lets face it, it’s just a matter of time)


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