The air of collective pessimism that descended on Sunderland supporters last weekend may have been shifted a little by Dick Advocaat’s appointment but has hardly gone away. He will pick up a hefty bonus if he keeps us up but must inject life and desire into players who have let us and themselves down all season. It remains a tall order. When you get to the ‘who’s going down?’ question in this interview with Gordon Thrower, deputy editor of the West Ham fan site kumb.com (as in Knees up Mother Brown), you get his drift from the reply: ‘Leicester, QPR, er, hmmmmmm’. And we can hardly blame him (he was writing after Villa but before Poyet’s dismissal and his thoughts on that, and Advocaat’s appointment, came as a follow-up). Welcome back, Gordon – we just hope we’re still around to seek out a Hammers fan for this exercise next season …
Salut! Sunderland: Mid-table – 10th top and comfortable – so a useful season despite a slide from earlier heights, recently marked by that bad result at home to Palace. Happy with the football, Big Sam, the two Daves?
Gordon Thrower: Well the start we had spoiled us a bit but compared with last season it’s been a major improvement. The football has, by and large, been better so that when we have the odd match like Palace it sticks out like a sore thumb. A lack of depth in some areas has been highlighted in the recent weeks but we haven’t always got the results our performances have merited – Man Utd, Spurs & Chelsea leap to mind.
Sam has divided the fans like no manager I can think of. There’s been lots of chat about his future at the end of the season and whether the Daves will renew his contract but there’s also the possibility that he’ll cash in his bonus and go himself irrespective of whether he’s offered a new deal. Interesting summer ahead.
As for the Daves the financial stability we lacked for years is now there thanks to them. They’ve put money in but the so called “financial fair play” rules (aka “pulling up the drawbridge”) plus the fact that we still have debt means there’s a limit to what they can do at the moment.
Who have been the heroes and villains of the season so far? I imagine Downing, Noble and Song figure in the former category.
Heroes? Well Sakho hit the ground running and Song had a good first half of the season but he’s been a bit, er, off key (see what I did there?) of late. Downing has been good played more centrally. My personal hats off goes to Kouyate – others have picked up headlines while he’s just got on with it.
Villains? I always think it’s a bit harsh to look on injured players as “villains”. After all it’s not like they do it deliberately is it. Zarate has been the big disappointment – early on he brought in something we didn’t have but there’s lots going on there – he can’t even get a game for QPR and let’s face it you or I could probably get a half there if we turned up with our boots. And the waste of talent that is Ravel Morrison is so annoying. Lazio has got to be his last chance – and let’s face it they won’t stand for much out there.
Can’t wait for the big move – the start of the season after next, I believe – or downcast at the thought of leaving the Boleyn?
I’ll be very emotional when we go. It’s a place I’ve been going to for the thick end of 50 years. I appreciate the reasons for going and can see the opportunities that the new place presents but The Boleyn is the place my Dad first took me to football and it’ll be sad to see a bit of my personal history gone.
Once there, what sort of gates do you expect and can it be the springboard to a grand new era?
I guess that since we pull 35,000 a week or so depending on the away support I’d guess that we’d average somewhere around 40-45,000 on an average week. That’s pure guesswork on my part – hopefully the Daves will have done more meaningful research. Springboard? Well it has the potential to be – it all depends on how any benefits are managed. We have something of a mixed historyof these things. Being debt-free will be nice though.
Whatever your responses to the above, are the Hammers playing in the renowned West Ham way or, glory years (mid 1960s to 1980) apart, is it really just a myth in any case?
For me there were 3 “prime eras”. The mid 60’s saw FA Cup, Cup Winners Cup and World Cup in successive years and the Greenwood philosophy saw the sort of football for which we became renowned. In fact after the Cup Winners Cup we were given another trophy by the United Nations of all people in recognition of the manner of the win – buy one of those Abrahamovic. The 1981 promotion side played some cracking stuff too but not for the last time we didn’t build on that team. Then there was the 1986 side that finished third. We didn’t build on that side either. The game is completely different now though. The football’s not of that order to be sure but it’s a completely different game these days. It has been better this season than last though.
See also: Guess the Score – West Ham vs SAFC. A rollover as no one guessed 0-4 vs Villa. Hammers fans welcome to enter: https://safc.blog/2015/03/west-ham-united-vs-advocaats-sunderland-guess-the-score-rollover/
For those who did not catch your earlier appearances here, what have been your personal highs and lows of supporting the Hammers?
The Cup finals have been personal highs – even the 2006 one where as supporters we outclassed the scousers – possibly the most tediously overrated bunch of fans in the league. The 2003 relegation with so much talent and so many points came at a pretty rough time for me personally (this is cheerful isn’t it!) and that’s the lowest I’ve felt about football.
And the best players you’ve seen – or wish you’d been around to see – in your colours?
I’m old enough to have seen Bobby Moore play for both West Ham and England. Although I was a bit young to appreciate just how good he was, even then I could tell there was something different about him. I had a signed pair of shinpads from the sports shop he had across the road from the ground. I used to wear them!
Who should never have been allowed in the ground?
John Radford. Some players are about as mobile as a tree. Radford had all the mobility of a medium-sized deciduous forest. He was about as interested in playing for us as I was in watching him do so. Stayed a season or so without scoring. Went to Blackburn. Scored on debut. Of course.
We no longer care too much about the 8-0, having a brand new one this season to mope over. But go on, have your customary gloat!
Thank you. I left it out of the personal highs deliberately! Did you know your 8-0 this year took place on exactly the same weekend as the one in 1968? Interesting huh? No you’re right, not really. I still regret the fact we seemed to declare that day. At least we didn’t sign your centre half shortly afterwards. Like we did after beating Bury 10-0!
If it’s any consolation we stuck eight past Newcastle once. Though they did put one past us in return. I watched that one sat next to my best mate who was then the chairman of the London branch of their supporters club. That was some hangover. Apparently.
Are you surprised at how badly we’ve done again this season or has our Premier existence simply run its course for now, as your did a couple of seasons ago?
Up to now I’ve not given you much thought to be honest. Looking at your squad though you seem to have one of those groups that need to be at their best simply to stay in the division. If you’re off form for any reason you’re relying on clubs with similar-quality squads having a worse time than you are. Any side that lets in 4 to Villa has got to be a worry hasn’t it.
Otherwise, your thoughts of the club, city, region, fans, Poyet?
Decent club – supporters turn up rather than tourists. As for the region I like my trips up there – though I tend to stay in Hartlepool when we play you. Poyet? Well I’m writing this on Sunday evening. 4-0 at home to Villa? I have to say that that is the sort of result that makes preview pieces out of date rather quickly.
… and the obvious supplementary question :
Any thoughts you want to add on the Poyet sacking/Advocaat appontment and any impact you think it may have on our game?
I was right about the Villa result being the type that renders preview pieces obsolete wasn’t I! It always seemed to me that there was less to Poyet than met the eye. The stuff that went on at Brighton was a bit iffy wasn’t it? As for Dick Advocaat well I’ve lost count of the number of times teams have parted company with their bosses just before we play them. I guess there’s always the chance of a short term boost but his only taste of British football was at Rangers, so nine games is about four more than he ever had to really worry about before. I’m hoping that by Saturday he won’t have had the chance to get the best out of the squad – and after that it’s not my problem!
What will be the top four and bottom three this season and where will our clubs finish if not mentioned?
Top 4 Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and I think Man Utd will sneak it.
Bottom 3 Leicester, QPR, er, hmmmmmm. Pass.
We have seen another upsurge in pretty blatant diving and playacting of late, not just in the Premier. Is it time to stop bleating about cheating – in which I include the wrestling at corners since it’s done because refs rarely seem willing to punish it – or should we keep trying to eliminate it?
Eliminate it. The trouble is for teams like Liverpool it’s a tactic. Get to 30 yards out, go down and hand the ball to a free-kick specialist. Tony Pulis has openly boasted of training his teams to break the laws of the game which to me brigs the game into far more disrepute than tweeting something rude to a Spurs fan. I’d actually go for points deductions for any club shown to have profited from diving. Plus suspensions for referees who deliberately ignore the laws. It’s about time they did the job they are paid for.
Best and worst refs in the Premier?
They are all awful. I can’t think of a single one that I would trust. Every now and then Mike Riley of the PGMOL who supply the select group will tell you how good the assessors’ marks are whilst forgetting to tell you that he supplies the assessors!
Do you feel West Ham does enough to make the lot of ordinary fans a happy one and what single measure, by club or the football authorities, would be most welcome to you?
Ticket prices are getting silly now. For what I’m paying I’d like an escalator up to my seat – those 85 steps every other week aren’t getting easier! Apart from cutting ticket prices (dream on) there’s lots of small things. Independent assessing of referees with those not up to scratch relegated down the leagues rather than given the ring fence protection they have now. Being a football supporter to be decriminalised (it still seems to be an offence in certain police areas). I’d like to see safe standing tried out as well.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
I’ll be there – I’m leaving now. I have 85 steps to climb you know. With these knees. I think we’ll win – let’s say 3-1.
Gordon Thrower on himself: Aged 53 11/12. Tax Manager at the London offices of a big American bank in Canary Wharf, near to Sam Allardyce’s flat. Deputy Editor of kumb.com The site’s been going since 1997-98 and is owned and run by Graeme Howlett who does all the hard work, which, for some reason people seem to want to credit me for. To reduce the guilt I feel for all this reflected glory I do the occasional piece for radio, magazines and opposition websites, with the exception of anything for Spurs (they can’t handle the long words). I’ve been supporting the Irons ever since I can remember having lived near the ground as an infant, and attended my first match at the Boleyn in 1968. The photo is a couple of years old and pictures the back of my head (my best side) while I celebrate a goal with my youngest brother Geoff who has downs syndrome and is named after a player who I once saw score six goals in a match. I forget who we were playing that day. More about Geoff here: http://www.kumb.com/article.php?id=3548
Interview: Colin Randall