West Ham have been in disarray, hardly on our scale but bad enough with a poor start to the season and lots of unhappiness about the London Stadium. Who better to ask about all this than David Blackmore*, editor of Blowing Bubbles (Twitter: https://twitter.com/WestHamMagazine. He thinks the club will eventually get it right on both counts – but fears for our Premier League;’s tenure …
Salut! Sunderland:No surprise to see Sunderland down in the dumps again but I bet you didn’t expect the Hammers – money to spend, some brilliant players, 50,000+ in the new ground – to be there, too. Explain.
David Blackmore: I didn’t expect us to be down that end of the table heading towards the later part of October but I’ve seen enough to believe come Christmas we will be up nearer mid-table.
The sheer volume of injuries, and injuries to key players, has possibly had the biggest impact on our season. Mix this with the disappointment of a few of our summer signings, brought in to fill the void left by one of our main starters, can further explain the poor start we had to the season. Having said that, I wasn’t too disappointed with August. Sure defeats against Chelsea and Man City were hard to take but not for one second, did I think we’d repeat the four points picked up against both away from home last season.
Wedged in between was a first home victory at the new stadium against Bournemouth and I really felt like we would kick on in September. We didn’t and, in truth, we defended terribly last month. I really feel now the tide has turned and we are set for a positive couple of months leading up to Christmas.
Watching the Payet goal vs Boro (among others), and his first half in the Netherlands v France game the other night, it is beyond belief such a gifted player is in a struggling side. Do you see a battle to keep him?
Yes and no. It’s down to the man himself. He is loved at West Ham but if he wants to go, I don’t think anything the club or fans can really do. You want players who are committed to the cause so if his heart isn’t in it, all you can do is show them how much they are appreciated and where you want them to help take you and leave it up to the player. He is our biggest star but only he can answer what he wants from his career? Does he want to help West Ham reach that next level, for which he would be handsomely paid, or does he want to be challenging for titles but have more competition to actually start a game? I believe he will stick with us this season. What will happen next summer? I don’t know but the focus should be on the here and now.
Who is underperforming in this early party of the season and who do you look to if West Ham are to start climbing the table?
Simeone Zaza hasn’t inspired a lot of confidence up front albeit he played well in our win away at Crystal Palace. Sheikh Kouyaté and Mark Noble haven’t quite reached the same heights as last season but they will.
Our defence as a collective unit haven’t been good enough – not by a long shot – but I know the defenders we have are committed to coming good. Pedro Obiang, on the other hand, has been very good. From his performances last season, we knew he was a good player but the performances of Kouyate and Noble kept him out of the starting XI on a regular basis. Now is his chance to shine and he has grabbed it with both hands. He, Michail Antonio, Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini are key players in our quest for a top half finish. Lanzini is arguably our best player but appears happy for other teams to worry about Payet and Antonio as it gives him greater opportunity to continue to cause problems for the opposition.
And now to the ground. Lots of discontent – is the recent outburst of neanderthal behaviour by a minority linked to this? – so give us your take on the good, bad and indifferent of moving from a beloved in outdated stadium to a brash new home
Quite simply, it’s a minefield. There are so many elements at play that it’s difficult to justify an answer that won’t drag on for a few thousand words.
From my point of view, the new stadium looks very impressive on the outside but the view from inside isn’t quite what I hoped it would be. I knew there would be space around the outside of the pitch but I had imagined it would be more like Wembley – a stadium the club referenced regularly when selling the view ‘no seat is further away than Wembley’ – and in reality it’s worse.
The walk to the stadium is wonderful if you get there early enough but as soon as the gates in Westfield are shut, it’s a bit more of a headache. The procedure has been changed for before and after the game and I’m sure the club and the stadium owners will keep tweaking things until they get them right because at the moment they aren’t quite working for the majority of fans I speak to.
There has been a lot of discontent and I have found myself agreeing with a lot of what’s being said but in reality there were always going to be issues – it’s the same when you buy a new home – and had we won all our home games to date, I think we wouldn’t have had the same outbursts. I’ve also every confidence the owners will continue to right the wrongs.
The manager has taken some stick, too. For all the fawning over him when things seemed better, is his job on the line and, whether yes or no, should it be?
No. It isn’t. In Slav we trust. He will turn things around. He is the man who believes in West Ham and we believe in him.
Sunderland: do you reckon our time is finally up after losing, perhaps, our best hope of stability (Big Sam)?
I suspect it might be based on what I’ve seen of the other teams in the league. You’ve always got to ask yourself if you can see three worse teams and based on what I’ve seen from Sunderland this season, I think you’ve been the worst.
You’ve also mounted great escapes for the past few seasons. You just feel that it would be better for the club to go down, get rid of some of the dead wood, rebuild and get a more winning mentality to bounce back into the Premier League.
Back to the Irons. Where do you see the club in terms of its natural position in the Premier League and is the “West Ham Way” pretty much dead and gone, defeated by the cynical pragmatism of the modern game?
I see us as a mid-table side at the moment. I believe with our owners, the manager, the current squad, and our new home, we have the potential to achieve greater things but in practice we are not quite good enough yet to be challenging for Europe on a regular basis.
As for the West Ham Way, it’s hard to describe it to a non-Hammer but believe me, what we are doing last season was pretty close. There was determination, heart, a never-say-die attitude, the passion to play the game in a positive way – something that we were crying out for during the Allardyce era. I feel Slaven really understands what we expect from our players and I know he will want to see rapid improvements across the park in the coming weeks.
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, last 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 last 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.
Top four this season?
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. I’m going to go for Man City, Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea. Leicester won’t reach the same heights, Manchester United are suffering a bit of an identity crisis at the moment and as much as I like Klopp, I don’t think they have quite got the firepower to break into that top four. As for Everton, their bubble will burst. Good luck to them but come on, seriously?!
And bottom three? Where will our two clubs end if not listed already? I think Sunderland will stay bottom until May, with Middlesbrough and Hull joining them in dropping into the Championship. As for West Ham, I think we will finish 12th. I’d be delighted if we were able to break into the top eight but I can’t see that happening right now.
England: a poor second place in your thoughts to the Hammers, or not in your thoughts at all?
Not at all. I love watching England. Sure it’s frustrating but having watched them home and away for many years, it’s something I’m passionate about.
Having said that, most West Ham fans that I speak to couldn’t care less about England. Over the years there appear to be more and more people that have just given up on the national side. I completely see where they are coming from but, for me, I always look forward to watching our nation play – especially in the major tournaments.
Diving: let’s stop whingeing and start to cheat more effectively – or do we keep on trying 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 be at the game and I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be a cagey game and I imagine West Ham will have the majority of the possession but will we have enough confidence, desire and ability to break Sunderland down? We’ll see. I’m going for a 2-1 win to West Ham with our goals coming from Antonio and Payet.
* David Blackmore on himself: I am editor of Blowing Bubbles Monthly Magazine. Edited by a team of journalists, Blowing Bubbles has been informing, entertaining and uniting West Ham fans across the globe since August 2012 with our easy-to-read, well-designed & professional publication. Blowing Bubbles is available to read on computer, mobile phone or tablet. You can have a hard copy of every future issue of Blowing Bubbles posted through your door before you leave for the game.
Blowing Bubbles has a simple aim – to inform, entertain and unite West Ham fans across the globe. 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