SAFC v West Ham ‘Who are You?’: Newcastle – the worst I’ve seen

Malcolm Dawson writes…regular visitors to Salut! Sunderland will be aware that we have had no end of problems with the host site which our West Ham supporting web guru Sam, has been trying to put right. We cannot stress how grateful we are to him for his heroic efforts but he has other demands on his time so there are still one or two unresolved issues waiting for his expertise. He assures us that he will be able to retrieve lost content and comments but as yet our two main features ahead of the West Ham game tomorrow are still hiding away in the ether somewhere. In the meantime, here is the republished excellent “Who are You” courtesy of Hugh Southon, from the Claret and Hugh fan site

Hugh Southon
Hugh Southon

Four wins and two defeats as I write, and the Hammers are in third place. The Bournemouth home defeat apart, that sounds like a dream start. Is that how it feels?

Oh yes, it gets no better than Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City away. The Bournemouth reverse was down to some terrible individual mistakes and that has been put entirely right since. Yep a great start

You recently wrote about the “West Ham Way”. reality or myth. Assuming I’m right in thinking you believe in it, what did it mean and is Slaven Bilic the man to oversee its revival?

It’s more than a style of play. It’s a whole mood. Ron Greenwood developed it and it is simply about moving the ball to feet at speed through midfield. It’s about developing players out of the academy, it’s about the sort of dignity in victory and defeat displayed by Bobby Moore. Ron said it was about playing entertaining football win or lose. He explained that’s why the fans came back over and over again for entertainment. He actually went further claiming the desperation to win may kill the game. Some would agree. Slaven has shown already he gets it – defending well and carrying a threat on the break via great ‘to feet’ football. The only thing he wants to change is that we win while playing it!!!!

The two Davids are not universally loved or admired but seem to have done a decent job for the Hammers. Your assessment of them?

They will never live down their background with some and the Avram Grant appointment with others. But they took over a club which was virtually in the hands of receivers such was the debt, and have used their own money to loan us out of trouble. They appointed Allardyce to get us up from the Championship and it worked. They had the courage to say goodbye in the summer which only increased their heroic status! They have spent a lot of money and had a real result on deadline day. What more could we ask?

And were they right to want rid of Big Sam? If so, indeed if not, why?

Absolutely spot on decision. Boring one dimensional football and numerous excuses for defeat. Sam’s world most definitely is not my world thankfully. Glad to see the back of him.

Dimitri Payet’s double saw off Newcastle but who else has made the difference this season and where do you still need strengthening?

Victor Moses has made a big impact over his first games and Diafra Sakho’s runs down the channels moves defenders around to create space for the creative players. Defensively Winston Reid is improving although the time under the manager whilst new skipper Mark Noble is in everybody’s face. We need another right back with only loanee Carl Jenkinson other than Joey O’Brien.

How does this squad compare with the greats of the past, and who – for you and from a longish list – were those greats?

It’s too early to compare although it’s clear Payet would have found a place in any past squad. We are strong in all positions and it all looks extremely promising. My greats in order: 1/Mooro 2/Bill Bonds 3/Alan Devonshire.

You’ve told us who you rate or rated/ Who should have never been allowed near the Boleyn?

Oh dear, there have been a few of them. I won’t embarrass them if you don’t mind.

Speaking of the Boleyn, with what inner thoughts do you approach the big move?

Most of my great footballing moments are buried down the Boleyn and I’ll carry the place in my heart forever. But it was never the easiest to get to and from and with the Olympic Stadium negotiated I’m excited. It’s time to move on.

What have been your own highs and lows as a Hammers supporter?

Too many to recall but the various relegations have been dreadful. 85/86 when we finished third with the likes of McAvennie and Cottee around, watching and later working with Bobby Moore have been the highs

Sunderland: apart from that game when you blatantly robbed us (8-0, all starting with Hurst’s fist), which matches between us stand out in the memory and why?

My greatest memory was very early on in my days as a fan when we beat the great Man United
team of the sixties in the ’64 FA Cup semi final played on Hillsborough quagmire. We went on to beat Preston in my first ever Final. Then there was the 4-0 defeat by Nottingham Forest at Villa Park in the ’91 semi final. Tony Gale so wrongly sent off and as every successive goal went in the roars of ‘Billy Bonds Claret and Blue Army got louder and louder. Hairs on the back of the neck stuff. Unforgettable and incredibly emotional. I’ve spent most of my footballing-watching life avoiding Allardyce teams so you can imagine what the last four years have been like.

Any thoughts on the club, the fans, the city, the region, Dick Advocaat?

One of my best mates is a Mackem and I feel for him. Just hope Advocaat sorts it. Great old club. As for Newcastle, they may be the worst team I’ve seen in a while judged on their performance at Upton Park this season.

And have you been more surprised by our appalling start or by the fact we’ve managed to stay up so long?

You should always stay up for me. I believe there are funds at the club and I thought Advocaat would hit the gtound running. It’s a real shame. But I think you will be okay. Hope so.

A Hammers fans once told me he was only relieved you had PDC as a player, not a manger. Leaving aside his dodgy politics, do you agree?

Well firstly, it’s very hard to put his dodgy politics aside isn’t especially for me out here on the left wing! He’s not a manager is he, too emotional, too erratic. Entertaining as a footballer and man but manager? Nah!

Any special memories of players/staff linked to both clubs – Pop Robson, Big Sam, Don Hutchison, Andy Melville, George or Linda McCartney spring to mind but there’ve been more?

Pop was one hell of a player. Loved him, Don was just a bit mad – still is lol – I think we’ve covered big Sham and ‘Linda’ was always adequate

This season’s top four in order?

1/Man City,
2/Man United
3/Chelsea ….and of course
4The Irons 🙂

I really do think we will have a big season.

And the bottom three, plus where our two sides will finish if not listed?


Sunderland 15th

One step the football authorities simply have to take to improve the lot of supporters?

Standing areas

And diving. So prevalent we should just give up and stick it in the coaching manuals – if not already there in some countries -or still worth fighting?

It’s cheating on the grand scale and should be punished severely as should shirt tugging – unless we ask Diego Costa to run the game for us

Will you be at our game and what will be the score?

Unlikely I’ll get there. I have reporters there and need to have my editor’s hat on.

Finally: a paragraph or two on who you are, what you do and your history of supporting West Ham. tell us about your site and other sites/outlets you write for. And please don’t forget the photo.

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Irons supporter and national dailies freelance journalist. He has supported the team since the early sixties and founded – now runs – www. He has been ghost writer for Bobby Moore and still freelances to the likes of The Mirror but says: “The website is entirely consuming and now in the top two independent Hammers site in the country.

Interview by Colin Randall

M Salut’s ESPN preview can be read here.

Malcolm Dawson did his Q&A for the Hammers website

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