Thursday, July 30

Daily WHUFC News - West Ham United v Astra Giurgiu

Astra coach wary of Hammers threat

Astra Giurgiu manager Marius Sumudica is wary of a West Ham United side
evolving under their new manager Slaven Bilic ahead of Thursday's UEFA
Europa League meeting at the Boleyn Ground. Sumudica was an interested
observer as the Hammers took on Norwich City on Tuesday and the 44-year-old
admitted to being impressed with they way they ended their 1-0 victory.
Having seen off Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the last round and reached
the group stage of this competition last year, Sumudica believes his team
possess the ability to cause the Londoners a headache but knows Astra will
have to be at their best. "This is a very important match for us," he said.
"It's the first leg, so the first battle to win the war and I'm sure it will
be difficult. "The crowd will try to make our lives very hard, but we are
ready to fight here and we will give everything. "I watched West Ham's game
against Norwich on Tuesday, and I watched the games against Lusitans and
Birkirkara too. "They left a very good impression, the team has changed
under the new manager and I can say they play a different type of football
to the other English teams. "They have a high pressing line and they try to
play football. We will have to be very careful, and watching the last half
hour against Norwich, the nine players they brought on, who I think will
start against us on Thursday, have a very high quality. "We have to fight
our enthusiasm, because we had an away win at the weekend, so it's human to
be in a state of enthusiasm after that. "We have to be careful that we're
not over-confident so we have to focue and concentrate very well."

James Collins press conference

West Ham United defender James Collins also faced the media on Wednesday at
the Club's pre-match Europa League press conference. The Wales international
looked ahead to the UEFA third qualifying round tie against FC Astra at the
Boleyn Ground and talked about the preparations for the new season.

James, how have you found the Europa League in terms of preparation as part
of the pre-season?

"As the gaffer said, it's a lot of games, but that's what we're here for, to
play games, to get fit, and that's the way we view it.
"We've had a couple of tough games already and the game on Thursday is not
going to be a walkover. "They are a good side we are playing against, and
it's good preparation for us to know the gaffer, and for the gaffer to get
to know us as players and see us play. "As players we've used these games to
impose ourselves on the new staff, and tomorrow night we have a good chance
of doing that."

It has been an unusual route into the competition. Is there a feeling around
the club to go as far as you can and hopefully get some big clubs to play at
the Boleyn Ground?

"To have a big European team there would be great. We have a strong squad,
and some top quality players, so all credit to the gaffer and the chairmen."

Is this the strongest squad of players at West Ham since you've been here?

"Yeah, I'd say so. We're still trying to get to know each other, and how
each other plays, but the signings have been quality, and obviously to go
with the lads we had here last year, the additions to the squad have been

Slaven Bilic press conference

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic faced the media ahead of the Europa
League tie against FC Astra on Thursday night.

Slaven, I would imagine that you want Thursday to go more smoothly than the
last round?

"For that time it was good training for us, for the guys in Malta. Of course
we are going to try but we are playing a good team.
"The Romanians have a good side, it's a good club, they are investing money.
They have a good mixture of players. Last year they knocked out Lyon, it's
going to be a good test for us."

Are you hoping to get a good enough lead in the first leg so you can rest
players before the Arsenal game?

"We are hoping, but the most likely thing is that it is going to be a two
legged game. It can be the other way round, but either way it would have to
be an exceptional game for both teams. Exceptionally good for one team, and
bad for another. "But as I said they are a good side, and we are a good side
as well, so I am hoping to rest a few players . We are going to try to do
it, but to be fair we are not expecting an easy ride."

How are you finding the process of having to prepare for a Premier League
season, gettingt to know your new team, play in the Europa League , and get
everybody fit?

"Well I've said it a few times already, and I don't want to repeat myself,
but we are taking it day by day, and week in week out.
"It's not ideal, but there's no point in moaning over it, we just have to
cope with the situation, and that's it, no excuses."

You must be finding out a lot about your players very quickly though?

"You have to be quick but I've done my homework on the players. These
European Qualification games, are not ideal, looking at the big picture
you're getting the best from your players individually and as a team, so in
that case it was good. "We didn't have a first team or a second team, it was
a mixture, some of the players had a longer summer holiday than others and,
have only trained together for the first time as unit last week, and this is
not ideal. "But, as I said, I am very optimistic, and we are going to be
ready for the start of the Premier League Season."

What is the latest about a new striker coming to West Ham?

"As I said before, we are not panicking, but we are trying to sign one. We
need to find one that best fits the team. "I'm happy with my squad. The
transfer window is still open just like every other club, so there is still
the possibility that some players will come and some will go."

West Ham v Astra Giurgiu
KO 19:45
29 July 2015
Last updated at 17:18

Europa League third qualifying round
Date: Thursday, 30 July. Kick-off: 19:45 BST. Venue: Upton Park
Coverage: BBC Sport website, live commentary on BBC London 94.9.

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic says his side can have "no excuses" despite
the early start to their season. The Hammers face Romanian side Astra
Giurgiu in the Europa League third qualifying round on Thursday, in a
campaign which began on 2 July. "We just have to cope with the situation and
that's it - no excuses," said Croatian Bilic, who replaced Sam Allardyce as
boss in the summer.
West Ham start the Premier League season against Arsenal on 9 August. They
ended the 2014-15 campaign on 24 May with a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle, but
were back in competitive action just 39 days later in the first qualifying
round of the competition against Lusitanos.
They beat the Andorran side 4-0 on aggregate, followed by a win on penalties
against Maltese outfit Birkirkara in the next round.
But Bilic feels the number of matches can enable him to assess his players.
"I've done my homework but these European nights we've had so far, they are
not ideal," he said. "At the same time they give you the best pictures from
your players. "The negative side of that was that we had so many games
because the club had to arrange friendly matches because we didn't know we'd
compete in European qualification."

New signing Dimitri Payet is in line to make his full debut, but defender
James Tomkins is suspended after a red card against Birkirkara.

West Ham United v FC Astra


Filed: Wednesday, 29th July 2015
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy went to Malta for last week's match against Birkirkara. We'd
just like to apologise to the good people of that fine island - it wasn't
our idea. We'd also like to apologise to Romania for what follows.....

Two rounds down and another 94 to go (or something). If it's Thursday night
it must be the Thursday Night League and our next opponents are FC Astra
Girgiu who are based in the Romanian town of, er, Girgiu. The home leg is
this Thursday at the usual time with the return over there a week later.

After Andorra and Malta, I guess that Romania opposition is another step
forward in terms of league quality for the opposition, though the Romanians
– not to mention the Maltese - might be a bit cheesed-off to discover that,
according to UEFA they are roughly on a par with the Scottish leagues. Astra
are, of course, one of the less familiar clubs in Romania, which has
traditionally been dominated by the Bucharest giants Dinamo and Steua.
Despite this, the club is one of the older clubs in Romania having been
founded over 90 years ago. The club started as a series of works teams for
an oil company based in different towns across the country. Eventually these
teams merged to form one club who then set about moving into the Romanian
League system. There have been numerous name changes following mergers and,
more recently, a change of home from Ploiesti, where they had been based for
91 years, to Girgiu.

Nationally, they had been bumping about the secondary and tertiary levels of
Romanian Football before finally making the leap up to the top flight in
1998. They hung around with the big boys until 2003 when they were relegated
back to Liga II. Then Liga III. However, they've been on an upward curve
since then, winning the Liga III title in 2007/08 and following that up with
promotion from Liga II in second place in 2008/09. After a few relegation
battles the last three seasons have seen them finish 4th, 2nd and 4th.

2012/13 was probably their peak as they took the Romanian Cup on penalties
from Champions Steua on penalties, also defeating the same team in the
Romanian Super Cup.

Whilst we're on the subject of the Romanian League it's fair to say that the
league has not been in the rudest of financial health of late. Of last
season's 18 clubs in the top flight, no fewer than 7 entered into some sort
of insolvency arrangement – including Dinamo Bucharest. They cut back the
size of the league from 18 teams to 14 for this term which, incidentally,
commenced on 10 July. This reduction was achieved by relegating the bottom 6
sides into the respective regionalised second tier leagues and promoting the
winners of each of the two sections. Incidentally one of the promoted teams
from last season were our old friends Poli Timisoara, who we faced in the
1980/81 Cup Winners Cup.

The league is one of those affairs that has been tinkered with by a no doubt
well-meaning committee so that, once everyone has played everyone twice,
they split the league. The top 6 go into another round of fixtures carrying
forward half of the points they won in the first half of the season (rounded
downwards in the case of half points) to decide the league. The same will
happen with the bottom eight teams to decide relegation. The question that
immediately leaps to mind is "why"? Ok there has to be some alteration to
the system to ensure that a full league season can take place but it seems
rather an odd way of doing things.

As mentioned the season has started already and, at time of writing, Astra
sit in 6th place of the nascent league having won, drawn and lost one of
their three matches so far. In fact but for CFR Cluj's starting the season
with a five point penalty for an infringement of licencing regulations
(watering down the beer I expect) Astra would be a further place down into
the relegation group zone, though with just the three games played it may be
a bit soon to hit the panic button just yet.

On the European front, this is their third consecutive season in the
Thursday Night League. In 2013/14 they were knocked out at the play-of stage
by Maccabi Haifa 3-1 on aggregate. Last season they made the group stage by
disposing of the not-inconsiderable scalp of Lyon on away goals in the
play-off round. Despite a home win over Dinamo Zagreb and a home draw
against Celtic, that was pretty much as good as it got or the "Black
Devils", who lost every other match, twice shipping five goals away in
Zagreb and at Red Bull Salzburg, a club from a city as beautiful as the
club's name isn't.

As for their players, whoever was responsible for the draw in this
competition has clearly sat there and said: "I know. Let's give that
miserable old so and so who does the previews for Kumb a hard time in each
round. Let's give him a tough time researching stuff". After Andorra and
Malta I thought Romania ought to be a doddle. Well it might have been had we
been playing Dinamo Bucharest maybe. Information on Astra'a players is,
however, a bit thin on the ground. I can find stuff about the club itself
easily enough, but the biographical details for each player seems to consist
of the standard phrase ***** ****** is a professional footballer who plays
for FC Astra Girgiu. Like, thanks.

Their first choice 'keeper has the wonderful name of Silviu Lung Jr. The
usual biographical source helpfully informs us that Lung Jr is a
professional footballer for FC Astra Girgiu, adding – in case the reader is
hard of thinking - that he is the son of Silviu Lung. A bit more digging
about the Romanian databases provided the information that he has made over
100 appearances for Astra since signing from Universitatea Craiova in 2011.
He's been capped three times at senior level by the Romanian national side,
though the fact that the first of these came in 2010 and the last 2013
suggests that he's not uppermost in the mind of the national coach.

The skipper is Constantin Budescu, a midfielder who makes a useful
contribution on the goalscoring side of things. Last season's top scorer
with 10, he picked up the soubriquet "Hero Of Cyprus" for his efforts in the
2013 Thursday Night League when he picked up a brace against Omonia Nicosia.
Which is nice I suppose, but it's hardly "Lion Of Vienna" stuff is it? (ask
your great-grandad about that reference). He is also a professional
footballer for FC Astra. Apparently.

They brought in Portuguese defender Geraldo Alves during the close season. A
signing from their erstwhile local rivals Petrolul Ploiesti, at 34 Alves is
at the veteran stage of his career, which includes shifts at Befica, AEK
Athens and, Steua Bucharest. A professional footballer with Astra Girgiu, he
is the elder brother of Bruno, the much-capped Portuguese centre half.

It seems that no European team these days, however unlikely the location, is
complete without a Brazilian. Astra are no exception – in fact they have a
pair in the form of midfielder William De Amorim ("William") and Fernando
Boldrin ("Rick"), who arrived in the close season. Both William and Rick are
professional footballers who – oh you get the picture.

And so to us. Having popped over to stay with our friends at the Dom Mintoff
Home For The Frankly Quite Bonkers last week we found ourselves in the
middle of a heatwave, the likes of which had even the locals running for
shelter. Our mobility scooters were melting and it was all we could do to
sit for much of the day in the nearest air-conditioned hostelry with a pint
of Cisk. For medicinal purposes, obviously. Even the late kick-off of the
match still saw us sitting in temperatures of the mid-80's and it was humid
and uncomfortable to sit and watch. So it must have been horrible for the

We didn't play well – and for the first 20 minutes at least, tactically we
seemed to play into their hands. It was as if nobody had considered the fact
that they would need to score to have any chance of progressing. We duly
conceded – a good goal but one that stemmed from our inability to keep hold
of the ball in the early period.

The other way we played into their hands was on the disciplinary front. Yes
the bloke that Tomkins tangled with made a twenty course meal with fine
wines and post prandial liqueurs in the drawing room out of the incident,
but Tomkins did react thereby giving the ref (who seemed to be on work
experience) the chance to make a decision, however incorrect. That's the
second "sucker" red card we've had in this competition and, assuming that
Astra have seen video of the matches played so far they may be considering
continuing the trend. They might possibly have a look at targeting Mark
Noble who, for a ten-minute spell in the first half looked like a second
yellow in waiting. It's definitely an area we need to improve on.

With Sakho and Tomkins out – there was an appeal proposed re Tomkins but
I've heard nothing as yet – we are shorn of two of our goal threats. Sakho
will be available for the second leg though. Squad-wise, Payet, Jenkinson,
Valencia and Ogbonna are all eligible for selection according to the UEFA
list and Payet in particular would be a welcome addition to the Thursday
Night League squad – his pre-season friendly appearances so far have been
impressive so if he's fit enough use him I say. Jenkinson's return would
also be an improvement on the game-but-limited Joey O'Brien should he be fit
enough to join in. I'm not sure how much running he could have done by
hiding behind the sofa every time Sunderland came knocking though.

Prediction? Well with all due respect to Birkirkara, who played out of their
skins to push us all the way last week, this match represents another step
up in terms of the class of opposition faced – the fact that they beat
someone of the pedigree of Lyon on their way to last season's group stage
shows that they are capable of causing an upset in this competition.

However, the Maltese adventure will have proved useful for a number of
reasons. Apart from the improvement in fitness levels gained from playing
120 minutes in that heat – one of the targets at this stage of the season –
the scare will have concentrated the minds of both players and staff and
brought into focus the requirements of the task in hand.

With our opening match at the Library coming only a few days after our trip
to Romania it would be nice to be able to rest some key players from the
second leg and, with a strong squad promised for the home leg much will
depend on whether the quality of finishing can improve on that displayed in
the home leg of the Birkirkara match. Overall I think we should have too
much for them so I'll take us to get through to the Play-Off Round on

Enjoy the games!

When last we met: You haven't learned your lesson from last time, have you?

How did they get here?:

QR1: Bye
QR2: Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-0 (a) 0-0 (h) (agg 1-0)

Danger Man: Constantin Budescu – last season's top scorer.

Referee: 1st Leg: Adrien Jacottet (Switzerland) – can't be as bad as last
week's Albanian. Can he?

Daft Fact Of The Week:: Famous people born in Romania include:

Johnny Weismuller – five times Olympic gold medal winner and Tarzan actor;

Nadia Comenici – five times Olympic gold medal winner and the first gymnast
to achieve a perfect 10 score in competition; and

Nicolae Ceausescu – zero times Olympic gold medal winner and former
President. He was tried and executed with his wife Elena within an hour on
Christmas Day 1989 as part of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.
Just to add to his misery, HM The Queen stripped him of his honorary Order
Of The Bath 24 hours before the execution and, just to really rub it in, one
of the first actions of the new regime after his death was to abolish the
death penalty.

No Europa stream but CandH on case!
Posted by Hammers Newshound on July 29, 2015 in News, Whispers

West Ham's army of fans will be without a stream to watch tomorrow's Europa
Cup clash live. The game will not be screened on the official website while
tickets remain available for the Europa League game. Although tickets for
tomorrow's game against Romanian team Astra FC are selling well, it is
unlikely to completely sell-out so like the game against Birkirkara at the
Boleyn Ground two weeks ago. So no TV or streaming coverage will be
provided. A senior source told Claret and Hugh that it would have been
possible to sell the TV rights in the region of £35,000 as Birkirkara
arranged with Premier Sports last Thursday. However, the club made a
business decision that it could damage ticket sales although they declared:
"These are marginal decisions." Our source added: 'Most people were
surprised that the Andorra match sold out, so we decided to offer it to
armchair supporters free. Some 26,000 watched the game on the internet.
"Malta wasn't sold out, hence we didn't offer it free. These are all
marginal decisions, had we known Andorra would have sold out we'd have sold
it to TV.' However, ClaretandHugh will be carrying the planned BBC London
commentary on BBC London 94.9 FM along with our popular match text

Slaven Bilic predicts another tough Europa League mission for West Ham as
they take on Romanians Astra Giurgiu
West Ham face Romanian side Astra Giurgiu in Europa League
PUBLISHED: 14:34, 29 July 2015 | UPDATED: 16:04, 29 July 2015

Slaven Bilic has warned his West Ham players that their status in Europe is
about to be seriously tested on Thursday night. West Ham only scraped past
Birkirkara in the Europa League second round of qualifying by beating the
Maltese minnows on penalties, and now face Romanian club Astra Giurgiu.
Astra have already beaten a British team to face West Ham by seeing off
Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the previous round, and they progressed to
the group stages last season by defeating Ligue 1 side Lyon. Astra even drew
with Scottish Premiership giants Celtic in the competition last year, and
beat Dinamo Zagreb too. 'They have a good side,' Bilic admitted when asked
about his opposition in the third round of qualifying. 'They are a good
club. 'They are a club that spent money and have a good mixture of local
Romanian guys. Last year they knocked out Lyon. It's going to be a good test
for us.' Despite this being a Barclays Premier League club against their
Romanian counterparts, Bilic is not expecting this to be over and done with
in the first leg at Upton Park. 'This is most likely going to be a two-leg
game,' Bilic added. 'They are a good side and we are a good side. We are not
expecting an easy night.' West Ham have had a hectic time in pre-season with
friendlies and Europa League qualifiers being mixed together, and Bilic
admits it is not a situation he finds comfortable. 'It is not ideal but
there's no point of moaning,' he continued. 'We just have to cope with the
situation and that's it. No excuses. 'I've done my homework. I know the
players. I didn't come to a country where I didn't know the football. I
learned it here.'


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