The skipper has spoken of the togetherness on and off the pitch at West Ham
Monday's game against West Bromwich Albion may have looked disappointing
from a league point of view - a team in seventh place not beating a team at
the bottom, but we have got to see our third clean sheet in a row as a point
gained rather than two lost.
West Brom are fighting for their lives and it was never going to be easy.
Maybe with more experience firepower-wise we may have done it, but we had to
do a reshuffle mid-game which didn't help and then relied towards the end on
youthful exuberance rather than experience and knowledge.
It was a little disappointing as we could have gone four points clear of
eighth place, but we're still two points clear of the team one place below
us and we've reached that magical 40-point mark, with nine games to go.
A lot of people, if you remember at the start of the season had us down as
one of the relegation candidates, and now we appear to be one of the three
favourites for the UEFA Europa League. I am very proud of everyone's
achievements at the club, in particular the players.
We have now in my eyes, another opportunity this weekend when we take on my
old club, Blackburn Rovers, to possibly open up a bigger gap in that seventh
place. We are certainly looking to go and win the game, for sure.
In the worst case scenario we will go there making sure we won't lose. But,
at this stage of the season, with Blackburn fighting for points, the
pressure is all on them to come out and try and win the game - that could
We have certainly got a team that is set up to be solid in shape and good on
the counter, so from that point of view, it could pan out in a good way for
We will be missing the huge influence of Carlton Cole on the pitch and a few
others, but when you get thrown challenges like this, you just have to adapt
to them and take them head on.
One person's bad fortune is another's opportunity - so I have no doubt that
the boys who come in to play in the roles that have been made vacant will do
a great job. I am quietly confident that we can get something positive out
of this game.
I have played them five times since I moved here and we have won all five,
so long may that continue!
It's great for Greeny and the whole team to recognise that we have had three
clean sheets in the last three games and we will be looking to extend that
to many more. It is nice to see that, even if we don't play well, we are not
conceding goals and, last Monday, we never looked like we were going to lose
the game, which is always nice.
So from that point of view, there is a lot to take from all of that into
We will then have a much-needed break for this squad, giving the guys a
chance to freshen up, to get over a few knocks they have and they can be
straight back into contention. Those who were two or three weeks away will
also hopefully be ready to go again for one last push with eight games to
go. We all know that this team has it in them to do this.
It's still too early to be talking about Europe, but we have put ourselves
into a great position to win four or five more matches. We have the chance,
but let's go one game at a time.
But what a position it is to be in, when there has been nothing but negative
press at the start of the season and now more recently again, which is
something out of the players' control.
Lately, we have been getting compliments about our style of football and the
performances we have been putting in, again which is nice to hear.
We are really not affected by all the negative stuff. For us the football,
on the training pitch and at the stadium, they are the places that you can
escape from all of that and we can just concentrate on our football, enjoy
our football and try to win games.
It's a great release for us, great for us to focus our attention and we will
let those who have to fight West Ham's corner against the barrage of
unnecessary attention do that.
But we know, and West Ham fans know, that on the pitch, we have gone from a
team that has been written off as a relegation side to a team that more
often than not, plays attractive football and is now winning more than
losing. We are very hard to beat with respect of most of the teams, if not
all, that we come up against in the league.
All the boys, the management and everyone associated at the training ground
should take a lot of credit for that, it's been like that since I have been
here. Particularly this season, the spirit has been really strong and I
think that could be one of the main reasons as to why this team is churning
out results week in, week out, winning or at least drawing games instead of
losing them more often than not.
The signs are good. We are quite thin as a squad, but who knows what the
last nine games will bring? We are all excited.
A thank you to all our fans who will be travelling to the game this weekend.
It's a long way to go, but it has been a happy hunting ground for us in
recent years and another win could potentially open up a lovely gap going
into a break with eight games to go.
Green raring to go
Robert Green has recovered from Monday's knock and is ready to battle for
his fourth consecutive sheet
Robert Green is aiming to help West Ham United extend their unbeaten Premier
League run to four matches at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
The Hammers' goalkeeper has been at his consistent, unflappable best in
recent fixtures, helping Gianfranco Zola's men to 1-0 wins over Manchester
City and Wigan Athletic before Monday evening's goalless draw with West
Bromwich Albion at the Boleyn Ground.
While Green admitted West Ham will have to up their game if they are to
collect a seventh consecutive victory over Rovers. The England goalkeeper is
expecting an aerial bombardment from a side managed by former Bolton
Wanderers boss Sam Allardyce.
The 29-year-old has recovered from the nasty mouth injury he suffered in a
clash with West Brom's Swedish defender Jonas Olsson and is ready to put his
body on the line again this weekend.
"It's going to be a tough one. They are full of big lads and I think we'll
have to stand a few of ours on each other's shoulders to deal with set
pieces and stuff like that. It's going to be a battle and a great challenge.
"Realistically, after Monday's game, we can go and improve on our
performance. The pressure won't be on us to attack so we can hit them on the
break, which maybe will work in our favour. We've got the opportunity to
push on and remain undefeated on our little run."
West Ham have left Ewood Park with the maximum three points in each of the
last two seasons. In 2006/07, a Carlos Tevez penalty and a Bobby Zamora
strike cancelled out Christopher Samba's opener to earn the visitors a 2-1
success. Last term, Dean Ashton scored the only goal of the game seven
minutes after half-time to secure another notable victory.
West Ham have won their last six matches against Blackburn in all
competitions, a run Green and his colleagues will be delighted to extend to
seven this weekend.
Zola eager to keep Neill
Hammers boss wants to agree new deal for captain
Last updated: 20th March 2009
West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola has confirmed talks are continuing over a new
deal for captain Lucas Neill. The Australia international raised eyebrows
when he turned down Liverpool to move to Upton Park from Blackburn in
January 2007. Full-back Neill's current contract is due to expire at the
end of the season and Zola is eager to secure his services beyond the end of
the current campaign. "Lucas has been huge for this club since he came,"
Zola said. "The club is speaking to him and hopefully they will find a
solution. "As far as I'm concerned, he is one of the players who is worth
all this money. I'm pleased and that's why I'm very, very keen to renew his
The 31-year-old, who helped the club survive relegation and is now
attempting to get them into Europe, has relished his role as skipper. "Lucas
has been huge for this club since he came," Zola said. "When he came the
club was suffering a little bit, since his arrival he has been fantastic and
he still is, he's very good on the pitch and he's excellent off the pitch
with the players. "We have been go-karting all together and then for dinner
all together. He organises activities where the players can bond with each
other." Neill has been branded as a mercenary by some critics, but Zola
added: "I know him and he doesn't look like that. He cares very much. Not
only about the football, he creates a good atmosphere with the players.
"He's excellent and I have the utmost respect for him."
Franco Fancies Four Play
By PAT SHEEHAN
Published: 20 Mar 2039
GIANFRANCO ZOLA insists four wins can turn West Ham's season of turmoil into
a European dream. The Hammers boss took over in September after Alan
Curbishley was axed. At the time the club was crippled by money worries with
the failure of Icelandic Banks and the Carlos Tevez affair. A £15million
settlement with Sheffield United over Tevez has been agreed and Zola
believes his seventh-placed team can now clinch a European place, despite
their dip in form. Zola said: "I believe 52 points should get you into
seventh spot and Europe. So we are 12 points short. "We have achieved our
first target of 40 points, so now there's a new one. My team has shown it is
strong, mentally strong." Zola admitted he is sick of the Tevez affair. He
added: "I hope we can be left in peace and plan our future. Since I have
been here we've talked about this. Now it is settled, we are still talking
Neil Warnock: If you insist on breaking the rules you will get punished ...
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday, 21 March 2009
I've been in the headlines this week. It all blew up on Monday morning, just
as I was embarking on the final leg of our tour of England and Wales. As I
prepared to head up to Barnsley I heard that West Ham had settled with
Sheffield United over the Carlos Tevez scandal.
My phone soon started ringing, with pressmen asking me for comment.
Journalists have got jobs to do and I try to be as amenable as I can because
if you don't speak to them you find them quoting "a source close to Neil
Warnock". Inevitably, come Tuesday morning, I found that "source" had been
singing like a canary again. I also woke up to find one tabloid announcing:
"Warnock to sue West Ham". That was news to me. When you actually read the
story it said, "Warnock is considering taking legal advice". But why let the
facts get in the way of the headline?
At the time I was a bit preoccupied with preparing the team, but I've since
spoken to the League Managers' Association, whose legal experts are looking
at the issue. If I decide to sue West Ham, you will read about it here
Amid all the debate, what seems to be missed is that if the rules had been
upheld I would not be complaining or thinking of taking any action. I can
see the argument of people who say we should have won more games, but West
Ham broke the rules and if they had not we would not have gone down,
irrespective of my tactics or me blaming a referee's decision.
From the word go Kevin McCabe, Sheffield United's chairman, and myself
thought we had a case. Anyone of lesser strength than Kevin would have given
in to the pressure from the media, and others, but if you break the rules
you get punished, eventually.
Football must be released from the frivolity of the Tevez affair
The absurdity of the Griffiths ruling has merely escalated the problems
created by its verdict
A few years ago an anonymous American prankster with time on his hands and a
grudge against the legal profession produced a list of frivolous lawsuits,
the purpose of which was to illustrate the cravenness of the general public
and the greed of the ambulance-chasing lawyers who persuaded them into
Being the proud father of a feisty three-year-old, my personal favourite was
the story of a Texas woman called Kathleen Robertson who broke her ankle
when she fell over a feisty three-year-old who was running around a
department store. She was subsequently awarded £500,000 by a jury, despite
the fact the child involved was her own.
Thanks to excellent Snopes.com, which serves to debunk urban legends, we now
know Kathleen Robertson, her unruly toddler and the other characters
pressing their frivolous claims before gullible juries were in fact
fictional creations. Alas, this revelation came too late for those
newspapers around the world who reprinted the list as warning to mankind
that the insanity clock was ticking ever closer towards midnight.
Professional solidarity compels us not to laugh at the misfortune of others,
but one couldn't help but join Snopes.com in wondering why anyone would rely
on a list of fictional lawsuits when "real lawsuits of equal silliness can
be found in equal abundance" to support the case we're all going to hell in
a legal handcart.
Which point brings us neatly to the news that the former Sheffield United
manager Neil Warnock, 20 Sheffield United players and the ubiquitous Ken
Bates, the chairman of Leeds, are all considering legal action based on
their belief that the decision to allow Carlos Tevez to play for West Ham
during the 2006-07 season cost them money.
Squadrons of lawyers will no doubt spend endless, expensive hours arguing
the cases. But let us dispense with the detail and imagine for a moment that
a court finds in favour Warnock and his former players. This is not an
outlandish scenario – at least not to anyone with a cursory knowledge of the
Griffiths tribunal, which was established by the Football Association to
rule on the Tevez affair, and duly concluded the Argentinian's performances
had saved West Ham from relegation and, by extension, cost Sheffield United
their place in the Premier League.
By any standard other than those applied to fairground fortune tellers,
Griffiths' ruling was absurd, although no doubt the good lord and his
supporters will view the out-of-court settlement reached by West Ham and
Sheffield United – the London club will pay a reported £25m in compensation
– as some form of vindication of their verdict. The truth is it merely
escalated the problems created by its verdict.
If Sheffield United are entitled to compensation, then surely Warnock, who
lost his job after the club was relegated, and his players, who lost out
when their wage structure was changed to reflect their new Championship
status, are also entitled. The same could be said of Bates, whose club would
have received £500,000 had Sheffield United remained in the Premier League
and been required to honour contingency payments written into the contracts
of players transferred between the clubs.
If we accept that Warnock, the players and Bates all have a case, then how
can we then condemn their cases as frivolous or silly? Here's how: by
asking, where does it all end?
The answer, logically, is nowhere – or at least not until every last person
and organisation with at least a tangential relationship with, or the most
tendentious gripe about, the Tevez affair has had their day in court. If
that isn't silly or a frivolous waste of time, money and public goodwill,
then nothing is.
More serious, however, is the question of how to bring an end to the
silliness. Here the answer lies with those who believe they have lost out,
most immediately Warnock and Bates.
For a variety of reasons, both men would feature in any list of "10 least
popular people in English football". Whether or not they deserve to be
viewed as such is arguable, but what is beyond dispute is if they were to
place the interests of the game above their own, if they abandoned all
thoughts of legal action and released English football once and for all from
the silliness of the Griffiths tribunal, then their reputations would be
enhanced immeasurably. As compensation goes, this has to be worth something.
Win or lose, this King is always a royal pain
There was much to enjoy about Amir Khan's victory over Marco Antonio Barrera
at the weekend, not least that it marked some kind of redemption for a very
talented and likeable young man. But boxing is a zero-sum game, where one
fighter's happiness is another's trip to casualty and the defeat means
Barrera is washed up. If he has any sense he will pack it in, and if the
rest of us have any luck, he will take his promoter with him.
In recent years, Don King's status as the most powerful man in the sport has
been greatly eroded as others, most notably Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy
Promotions, have cornered the market in staging world-class fights. Yet the
old snake oil salesman still has the power to irritate as he amply
illustrated in Manchester, blaming everything but Gordon Brown's fiscal
policies for the defeat. God only knows what King'shis share of Saturday
night's purse was, or what future deals were predicated on him agreeing to
let Barrera fight Khan, but whatever he made, it was too much.
Note to Strachan: In future just answer the question
Remarkably, the Celtic manager Gordon Strachan didn't follow the advice of
last week's column and publicly apologise to Michelle Evans, the female
football reporter who asked him to explain a Scottish Cup defeat at St
Mirren only to be told he couldn't as she wouldn't understand, that it would
be like her trying to explain childbirth to him. Instead, the Celtic manager
spoke to the Scottish hacks in private, pointing out that he had used the
"childbirth" analogy before when dealing with male reporters and that
therefore his comments couldn't have been sexist. Leaving aside the fact
that a post-match interview isn't the place for childbirth analogies,
Strachan failed to realise that context and audience is everything for a man
in his position. Better still, he could have avoided all this hassle, and
his club's supporters their embarrassment, if he had simply given a measured
answer to a respectfully asked question.
A sickening show of wealth disguised as a fundraiser
After years defending the sport of golf against charges of impossible
smugness, it may be time to surrender. Earlier this week, two "teams" of
top-class players, Tiger Woods among them, gathered at a snooty Florida
country club to play for something called the Tavistock Cup – a contest
between two snooty Florida country clubs. The players, representing
whichever of the two clubs they happened to be a member of, were competing
for $3.5 million. The whole thing was televised live in the US, and what a
sickening spectacle it was, watching these rich men at their rich country
club playing in a meaningless event for what, in these straitened times, was
an obscene amount of money. No doubt the organisers will point out that
money was being raised for charity, but if charity was the main purpose,
they should have cancelled the show and given every penny to Red Cross or
another worthy organisation.
Thank You so much to those who have already contributed