West Ham Soapbox: Vaughan excels against feeble opposition – Nolan, chickens and all

Jake glimpses a Sixer smile
Jake glimpses a Sixer smile

Pete Sixsmith has not been the world’s most cheerful chappie this season. He was in decidedly happier fettle after yesterday’s sweet demolition job, finding warm words of praise for the entire Sunderland team, spirited and dominant as they were, and for the fans’ equally spirited mockery of the ineffectual pantomime villain, Kevin Nolan. He even offers sporting applause to the sizeable away support who must have been appalled by what they saw but kept up decent encouragement of their players throughout …

That was a satisfying start to our 2013 home programme wasn’t it? We had three well taken goals, a clean sheet and a master class in ball retention and use from the forgotten Welshman, David Vaughan. On a cold afternoon (full lightweight thermals for me) there was a warm glow around the vicinity of the Stadium as we walked back to cars, buses and firesides with a sprightly step, looking forward to Match of the Day later on.

That’s why we watch football and follow a team. Not because we want to win every game and trophy going – let’s leave that to the glory hunters of Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge – but because we want to see our team play with verve and flair and give us some relief from the sheer drudgery of our everyday lives.

When we see Sess leave a defender for dead with a feint of his body or Titus Bramble take ball first and man a split second later, we roar and cheer and think that there is nothing finer than watching your team play well.

We had plenty to be cheerful about yesterday. The tempo was fine as we took control of the game right from the start. The catalyst for our performance was David Vaughan, who was outstanding throughout the 90 minutes.

He kept the ball and passed it, something which we have found very difficult to do this season and he brought the best out of Seb Larsson. There was talk that Vaughan might not be at the club as the January window progressed. Yesterday must have put an end to this speculation. He looked like the player who destroyed us on Boxing Day 2010 and who had such a good season at Blackpool. Welcome back to the fold David.

This was his first Premier League appearance of the season and beggars the question, “Why?”. There were injury problems in autumn, but he has been a regular bench warmer for a while now and must have desperately wanted to show fans that his Everton aberration was all in the past.

"Dominant" says Jake
“Dominant” says Jake

The fact that we did not give the ball away meant that our flair players had a platform to build on, something which they took full advantage of.

Sess had the kind of game that has you purring in delight at what he can do. As several folk have said, if he could finish, he would have every club in Europe chasing him.

But let’s just enjoy what he can do. The ball to McClean (good performance from the Derry man), that lead to the Keystone Cops second goal, was a gem of the highest order, as was the feint that left Joe Cole standing and the shimmy and the shammy that resulted in McClean wrapping the game up.

In fact, there was not one weak link in the team. Both full backs did well, Gardner, up against West Ham’s one decent outfield player in Matt Jarvis, contained him and Jack Colback was excellent against the puffing and wheezing Cole – a candidate for the most overrated player of the last 20 years – and even had time to go forward and rattle the crossbar.

The O’Shea/ Bramble combination was a mixture of imperious interceptions and thundering tackles with Titus being roared on by a crowd who love to see this kind of thing.

Both wingers did well and I thought McClean was very good indeed. He is eager to be involved, helps his full back when needed and is once again running at defenders. MON has done well to persevere with him and hopefully he will continue to repay the faith.

Fletcher showed what an excellent player he is and he led the line brilliantly. He is very good at holding the ball up, gets other players involved and the lob for his “goal” was sublime – pity that he was offside. Definitely £12m well spent.

Larsson’s goal showed us what a technically proficient player he is. Watch how he makes a decision on which foot to use. He chooses the left one and produces a great finish which effectively wins the game for us.

I had a very enjoyable conversation with some Swedish fans over New Year and we all agreed that Seb was a wide man, not a central midfielder. On this evidence, we should hang our heads in shame.

So, a veritable feast to place before Monsieur Salut, making a second consecutive appearance at the SOL. He thoroughly enjoyed it as did the vast majority of the almost 40,000 crowd.

The ones who would not have were the Hammers fans sat in the Upper North Stand. It was an impressive turn out a few days before an important cup tie at Old Trafford, but they must have been bitterly disappointed with the rubbish that was served up for them.

Jaaskelainan had a good game, Jarvis looked dangerous in flashes and Joe Cole had some half decent touches, but the rest were woeful. Young Potts at full back was about as effective as the Potts character in Happy Days while Diarra showed why he hasn’t played this season. Even Big Sam said they were poor.

Jake captures Notre Alf with all the liberte, elegalti and, fraternite he needs
Jake captures Notre Alf with all the liberté, égalité, fraternité he could wish for

A choice of magic moments; Seb’s goal, N’Diaye’s shot that just missed with his first touch, Mignolet’s fine save from Vaz Te (worst haircut in the PL) after an hours inactivity, all contributed to the glow.

But for me, the crowd won it with their rendition of “Kevin Nolan, your chicken is dead”. Loved it – wit, relevance and it must have annoyed the ageing Nolan who got testier and testier as the game went on. Great stuff.

So, a good start to a very important phase of our season. We have games against teams who are at our level or below in Wigan, Swansea and Reading and we have the opportunity to strengthen the squad by bringing in and moving on players.

The relegation scrap is widening and we are by no means out of it, but West Ham, Norwich and Fulham will all be worried as January rumbles on and the likes of QPR, Reading and Southampton pick up wins and good draws, while Aston Villa and Newcastle slip further into trouble.

Wigan v Sunderland and Newcastle v Reading is an important North East double next week. Wigan could be the making of us as it was 12 months ago. Ha’way The Lads.

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23 thoughts on “West Ham Soapbox: Vaughan excels against feeble opposition – Nolan, chickens and all”

  1. Phil. Why don’t you just go and boil your addled head.

    Yes I was happy to call for his head “when we were not playing well” and I’m quite content to see in the coming games whether we are indeed “playing well” or whether we are only gathering points against the whipping boys.

    You are clearly too dumb to understand that point of view and in your customary manner start to throwing insults and resorting to puerile petulant slurs when you are losing your argument. I don’t quite understand what your problem is Phil but if you look in the phone book you’ll find there’s someone who can help with whatever it is.

    I haven’t insulted you and will desist from doing so now, although if you are like this in an internet forum I can imagine that your social exchanges regularly result in you being told to **** off.

    • Oh dear!

      That diatribe would suggest that you need professional help!

      Not once have I insulted you, I have only reminded you of your own words and asked you to justify them – no more, no less!

      You, though, seemingly, wish to take this to an infantile level.

      I thought better of you!

  2. If you look further up this thread Dave you will see just how positive I was about the performance against West Ham, but as usual people get carried away. Our wins have come against W Ham, Reading and Southampton all newly promoted sides plus Man City. It was a fluke Dave because Hart would have saved that speculative effort from Johnson 99 times out 100. That’s a fluke. There’s nothing to get excited about getting wins over relegation fodder because that is all that is saving us from being relegation fodder ourselves.

  3. Phil. We had a good performance against a poor team in West Ham and I am pleased with the win the same as we all are. Come back and ask me that when we have outplayed a couple of teams in the top 10 and won convincingly. MON has a lot to prove in this transfer windows. Had we lost on Saturday people would be a lot less prepared to be convinced by the signings of both N’Diaye and Mangane, two players most of us (and I’m sure that includes you), that we’ve never heard of. At present we are only doing as much as I would expect a team in our position in the league to do and no more than that. West Ham have collected 5 points away from home all season and save the flukey win over City we have only beaten the likes of Reading and Southampton, and were two goals down at Bolton of all places little over a week ago. If you are expecting a ringing endoresement of O’Neill then you are going to have to wait a little longer I’m afraid.

    • Jeremy
      Is there any chance that you could be positive just for once? We have won 4 out of 7 and have only recently been beaten by Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs. West Ham were poor on Saturday but we were also VERY good. They may not have won many away but they have not been stuffed often and they were stuffed by us.
      Of course the jury is out and we need to play as well as Saturday many more times and the next few games will go a long way to determining where we are but it would be nice to be able to bask in a good performance for a few days without your constant ‘realism’.
      I am also fed up of you saying that the Man City result was flukey. In what way? Yes, Mignolet made some good saves early. I don’t see having a good goalie as being flukey. Over the course of the 90 minutes we created more and better chances than they did. I don’t know if you were at the game or are relying on tv highlights but if it is the former you will know that to be true. They had the better of the first 30 minutes. We had the better of the last 30. There is no doubt that Johnson meant the shot and, while I agree Hart should have saved it, that just means that our goalie was better than theirs. Last year was flukey. this year, despite what Mancini and Shearer’s mob on MOTD would have you believe, was not.

    • You are asking me to “Come back and ask me that when we have outplayed a couple of teams in the top 10 and won convincingly.”

      You, though, were quite happy to call for his head when we were not playing well.

      It would appear that you wish to, continually, move the goalposts in the way I would expect of a 15 year old.

      Did you, perchance, teach the “unwashed” how to spell the word “boycout”?

  4. Phil. How can you possibly assume he isn’t happy with Larsson when he picks him every week out of position?

    • All I was doing was to read into his words what I thought they COULD mean.

      Now, given that we are in the January transfer window I think it will be interesting to see where Larsson is “in the pecking order” at the end of it.

      Incidentally, Jeremy, do you still want Martin O’Neil to be sacked?

  5. Good report, as always, Pete.

    I couldn’t help, though, but pick up on this, from the Martin O’Neil post match press conference, when he was quoted as saying.

    ““I thought Stephane Sessegnon did great, David Vaughan was terrific and then Seb Larsson has scored a great goal and for the next 15 minutes has not put a foot wrong”.

    Now, I believe MO’N chooses his words VERY carefully and (to me) that showed that he was (and, possibly, is not) happy with Larsson.

    Maybe, I read too much into things but I don’t think so!

  6. Two wrongs don’t make a right but Taylor went on record to say he’d rather be dead than play for SAFC. The fans offered their condolences by wishing he’d had his way. He took it in the right spirit. Nolan gets little sympathy for the demise of his poultry…I recall his performances against us and never begrudged his ability to poach goals. I did however despise his wind up tactics eg raking our defender’s shins whilst waiting or a corner. Our defender reacted and was punished. A wind up merchant who lives by the sword etc etc

  7. I thought that Maclean had a decent game. Yes, his first touch can be poor but he works incredibly hard and also puts in a lot of good crosses. Before anyone forgets, he was magnificent against Man City and the work he puts in covering back should not be underestimated. I have been calling for Vaughan to be given a chance fof ages and so am feeling a bit smug although I agree with the consistency point. Both Colback and Gardner are better at fullback than midfield as they are good tacklers and get a bit more time on the ball. Please can we get behind Johnson as well. There were still complaints about him form people sat near me on Saturday who seem to think that he should score or set up a goal every time he touches the ball. If you look at our goals this season, I think you would be surprised as to how many he has been involved in. He had key parts in the build up to both the second half goals but I am not sure people noticed.
    Finally, while I agree about the chicken song being really funny, it started off near me as the same song that was sung to Steven Taylor, which is really embarrassing. However much we dislike someone, singing that we wish they were dead is wrong and will rightly get us a bad press. It was really encouraging on Saturday to hear a number of people telling those singing to shut up and stop embarrassing us.

  8. From my view in the first half nearly sitting on McClean’s shoulder,he was awful.First touch was elephantine and his passing woeful.Other than that nothing negative to say,absolute 10/10 performance from the lads.O Shea back maybe helped….though I d never thought I d ever say that.Vaughan was simply superb.

    We are improving slowly which is hopeful as we head to the second half of the season,players are getting a bit of form at last and starting to gel,we looked like a proper team for the first time…..all credit to MON for sticking to his guns when us mortals wavered.

    • So when Rose is fit do you think it might be an idea to play Colback at fullback and Rose left midfield instead of McClean? I agree McClean’s touch in the first half lacked finesse but he covered a lot of ground, got in the way and broke up West Ham’s play. Rose could do the same and is quicker, but perhaps not such a physical presence.

      • Yes,definitely,I believe Rose was a winger in a previous life,he certainly looks like one.We should try it.MON seems to have soft spot for our Mr McClean which may yet pay off.I hope it does though,but we should have that as a back up option.

  9. I have to agree about Vaughan – how can I not?

    In a way perhaps the fact that Rose was injured was a blessing in disguise. I hope he’s back very soon but the fact that Colback had to play at fullback gave Vaughan his opportunity. This meant that we had a player who was looking more to break down the opposition’s defence than one whose first priority is ball retention.

    I also think that Colback, who could make the number 3 shirt his own if we don’t sign Rose, has benefited from playing alongside the Spurs’ man. On Saturday he defended well but also got forward at every opportunity. My God he nearly scored!

    Ditto Gardner who is a better passer of the ball than Bardsley. McClean got through a tremendous amount of work and Bramble played like he wanted to keep his place.

    Despite the fact that West Ham offered little this was a good performance from The Lads. I said a couple of months ago that I thought the current squad was good enough to get us into the top half of the table if they played to their ability, being as good if not better than a lot of the other teams in this league. I also said that if we adopted an attacking mentality from the start and looked to play more in the opposition’s half we were more likely to get positive results. I was glad to see that approach paid off at the weekend.

    Obviously there is still a need to strengthen the squad but Wigan, Swansea, Reading and Arsenal gives an opportunity to pick up at least 8 points and to push on for a top half finish.

    Oh and there’s a cup to win too, if we can just turn over the Blue Scouse menace.

  10. Vaughan was imperious with that performance, his positional play and reading of the game was spot on. His energy/ hunger throughout the game was excellent

    West Ham were poor, but you can only beat what is put in front of you. I can empethise with their support as to wondering where that performance came from, Sunderland have done it enough in the past, a couple of great performances and then we don’t turn up next game (Everton in the Cup at the SoL springs to mind).

    This is a great opportunity for Vaughan, if he can reproduce that performance against Bolton and Wigan then MON will have some selection decisions to make, but that is what we want to see. I wonder how much recent signings and paper talk have motivated players.

    Long may it continue, earkly days but signs of hope (again!).

  11. That was the best performance I’ve seen from an individual midfielder in red and white since the days of Schwartz and Hutchison. David Vaughan was flawless from the whistle. The problem is that he has never really seemed to have become a mainstay in the team. He needs to be playing week in and week out. When he came to the SoL I was delighted and to be blunt about him he hasn’t quite produced the sort of performances of which he is more than capable. He was incredibly consistent for Blackpool and whilst Adam was getting the plaudits at that time, for me Vaughan was a more complete player. Let’s hope this is the start of a great run for him. He was magnificent. He didn’t waste a ball.

    • He is a very good player.It’s worth recalling that he got player of the year ahead of Adam. I think he does need to be playing consistantly. He is what I call a continuity player. He seldom gives the ball away, and is always looking for someone in space. I don’t understand why O’Neill hasn’t used him more? Our central midfield has been woeful all season, at times, seemingly incapable of stringing two passes together.Lets hope he can get a decent run of games now.

  12. West Ham may well have had a bad day at the office however we made the most of the situation. It was a shame we didn’t score another as it would have taken us above Fulham. Seems cruel to have such a resounding victory to stay in the same League position.

    Regarding the relegation battle the Hammers are in it along with everyone in the bottom half. They have a run of fixtures where they can pick up results in January….assuming they turn up. If not they’ll get turned over and could quickly drop places. We have some breathing space but not enough to relax. A win at Wigan would make a big difference. Lose it and we’re back in the thick of it

  13. West Haam were poor because Sunderland denied them time and space to play, this is a tactic they use often and is how they beat Man City. Fat Sam should know this its his job. Instead he slouches in his very comfortable chair with poorly crossed arm chewing gum like a call girl. He then berates his players publically. I think he should haave a look at himself his tactics and his motivation techniques. For a player to look over and see his manager slouched in a chair like Jimmy Clitherou can hardly be inspirering

  14. Yes West Ham made Sunderland look very good yesterday. You were better all over the pitch and the only ones that turned up in Claret & Blue were us fans.
    Our away form has been poor for most of the season and we can only hope that we maintain our home form otherwise we will be dragged into the relegation fight.

  15. I think Sess did very well on the wing coming inside and when he’s running at you like that he’s a real threat. I would play him wider like that regularly.
    McClean did very well, defensively too. For the 2nd goal he made up ground sooooo quickly in a terrific turn of pace.

    Vaughn, I have to say, has an inconsistency problem. He can be brilliant and a game-controlling midfielder. However, he has games where he can be anonymous. Thats his problem. Like Pulis says of Kenwyne Jones that he’s one of the best players in the PL. Trouble is, he turns it on for one game in ten.

    What we saw on SAturday v West Ham was a hungry Sunderland who started well (for a change), but also a very poor West Ham. Their poor performance made us look good. Wigan might not do us such a favour next week.

    Bramble, I say he looks a bit slow and his days are numbered at S;land. As are Kilgallons. MON will bring in beefy centre backs with muscle and height.

    • In fairness, Vaughan has hardly had an opportunity to be consistant. His type of player needs to be an integral part of the team, because he keeps the wheels moving. The biggest problem we have had all season is keeping possession, and IMO he is the player most suited to do that.

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