David Blackmore*, our West Ham United interviewee, is the editor of the Blowing Bubbles print and online fanzine and can also be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/WestHamMagazine. He’s a level-headed Hammer who acclaims Payet’s genius but also the ability of smarter teams to close him down, sees great prospects of Bilic leading his club to a higher level and feels Sunderland’s support has won those crucial end-of-season points in our series of relegation scraps. He thinks we might snatch a 2-2 draw – and stay up again …
Salut! Sunderland: Slaven Bilic and Big Sam: compare and contrast and, having done pretty well this season, how far can Bilic and the current ownership take you?
David Blackmore: These are the types of questions West Ham fans are always discussing in the pub but they are so difficult to judge. If we continue to progress in a similar vein next season and the year after, there’s no reason why we can’t be competing for regular European football. We’re very much in a transition at the moment, and I fear Bilic and the players we signed this season will suffer a bit from second season syndrome so three top eight finishes would be an encouraging platform in which to build from.
And is it happening the West Ham Way, assuming you don’t feel that concept is a little overblown in any case?
Very much so. It’s hard to describe the West Ham Way to a non-Hammer but believe me, what we are doing this season has been the style, passion and entertainment that we were crying out for during the Allardyce era.
Payet, Noble, Antonio … who has been most impressive and where do you still need strengthening?
Payet. Full stop. The man’s a genius. Unfortunately, other sides have clocked this and often he is being man marked. It’s led to him having a few quiet games of late but he is still producing the goods when required, like Blackburn in the Cup last weekend. With Jenkinson out injured for the rest of the season and likely never to play for West Ham again, we need another right back in the same ilk as Jenko. With Carroll and Valencia seemingly spending more time in the physio room than on the training ground, we need another striker to support Sakho.
Looking forward to leaving the Boleyn or wish you could stay?
Bit of both. It’s going to be tough to leave the Boleyn but the move to the Olympic Stadium is one that could see us catapult onto the next level, and see us challenging to trophies and for Europe. The final game at the Boleyn will be one to remember – as will the first at the OS.
What have been your highs and lows as a Hammers fan?
In recent times, the Avram Grant season was one I wouldn’t wish for an enemy (well, except Spurs and Millwall!). The playoff final win was a massive high, but in truth, this season has been a constant high.
And who are the greatest you’ve seen – or wish you were old enough to have seen – in claret and blue?
The performances of Payet this season put him up there with the greatest I’ve seen play for West Ham. I wish I’d seen Bobby Moore play, and wish I’d been old enough to enjoy the Boys of ’86 with our third-place finish.
Is there anyone who should have been allowed nowhere near your colours?
The list would go on for days. My first thought was Benni McCarthy so I’ll leave it at that!
Are you relieved Paolo di Canio was a player not a manager for you?
Very much so. He is a legend for the Premier League generation of West Ham fans. He will ruin that by being out manager.
Did you see our wretched season coming or were you surprised at how quickly and firmly we got stuck in the bottom three again?
Yes. Like Villa, I’ve felt over the past couple of seasons you’ve become weaker as others have become stronger. I feel like your incredible support has helped you get the points you’ve needed to survive in recent campaigns and have probably had a huge impact on the current total you have. Your saving grace this season might be, as West Ham have found in recent seasons, there are three teams worse than you.
This season’s top four in order?
Very, very tough. For years most people could bet on Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd to make up the top four but this year, absolutely anything could happen. All season I’ve been rooting for Leicester to keep going and they have. I’m wasn’t sure they would have what it takes to finish in the top four but Manchester United don’t seem to be doing capable of challenging for anything at the moment. I think it’ll be Arsenal, Spurs, Man City, Leicester.
And, sparing no feelings, the bottom three?
Villa, Norwich, Swansea/Bournemouth
Where will our clubs finish if not mentioned?
16/17 for you, 8th for us
Diving and all the other forms of cheating too much made of it or should we still try to stamp it out?
We should certainly try and stamp it out. Replays would help with this. Diving is tricky as I’ve watched replays with friends and some people say dive, some say they were fouled. There will always be a debate about most incidents but if there were tougher penalties on people who are seen to be cheating, it might take a generation of players to come and go but eventually it might be rooted out of our game. One idea I wish football implemented is a sin bin. It’ll give teams an advantage for five or 10 minutes but won’t have the same impact as a sending off. For something like simulation, it could work wonders.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score? I will. It’ll be very interesting to hear the reaction to Sam Allardyce. Some will clap, some will boo. Either way, it’ll make for an interesting atmosphere. I can see you scoring against us, but equally I can see us scoring so I’ll go for 2-2.
David Blackmore on Blowing Bubbles: we have a simple aim – to inform, entertain and unite West Ham fans across the globe. Edited by a team of journalists, our easy-to-read, well-designed and professional magazine comes out every month packed with interviews, features and opinions. Our magazine has been available to read for FREE every month on PC, Mac, iPhone and Android mobile phones, and all tablets since 2012. As well as the thousands of people who take advantage of our online offering, there are also a growing number of people across the world who sign up to have every issue of Blowing Bubbles posted through their door.
Interview: Colin Randall