Preview - Middlesbrough
When and where?
West Ham United v Middlesbrough
Saturday 1 October 2016, 3pm BST
What's the story?
West Ham United will be looking for a boost going into the international break when they host Middlesbrough in the Premier League on Saturday.
A run of four straight defeats in the league has left Slaven Bilic's men 18th in the table, with three points from their opening six games.
Back-to-back losses at London Stadium – to Watford and Southampton – mean the Hammers need to get back on track at home against Boro, with two weeks between fixtures following this one.
Middlesbrough, who include former Hammer Stewart Downing in their ranks, ended a seven-year spell in the Championship with promotion last term, finishing runners-up to Burnley.
Under manager Aitor Karanka, Boro were beaten play-off finalists the year before and were rewarded for their steady improvement last term.
This season, they began with an unbeaten run of three games, drawing with Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, and defeating Sunderland in the Tees-Wear derby.
However, a sequence of three defeats has followed, with Crystal Palace, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur all getting the better of the Riverside Stadium side.
They currently sit 16th in the table with five points.
The Hammers will be without Havard Nordtveit, after he underwent a small medical procedure this week.
He joins Andre Ayew, Aaron Cresswell, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho on the sidelines, although both Cresswell and Carroll are due to return after the international break.
For Middlesbrough, winger Adama Traore is pushing for a start after impressing from the bench against Tottenham.
Defender Fabio Da Silva is back in training and could feature at London Stadium.
Any links between the two?
Yes! Stewart Downing rejoined his hometown club in the summer of 2015 after two seasons with the Hammers.
The England winger scored seven goals in 79 games for West Ham, before returning to Middlesbrough, where he began his career.
Elsewhere, Sofiane Feghouli played with Boro duo Alvaro Negredo and Antonio Barragan at Valencia.
The teams last met in the Hammers' Championship play-off winning season in 2011/12, drawing 1-1 at the Boleyn Ground after West Ham triumphed 2-0 in the north east.
How can I get to the game?
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How can I watch the game?
The match is not being broadcast live in the UK, but you can follow all the action on whufc.com. We've got live audio commentary, in-running stats, photos and more. Get involved in the conversation on social using #WHUMID
Hammers receive international calls
West Ham United's large band of international players will be in action for their respective nations during the October break.
FIFA 2018 qualifiers will take place across the globe, with as many of 13 Hammers potentially involved in Europa, Africa and South America.
The second round of European qualifiers will kick-off on Thursday 6 October, with Darren Randolph, James Collins, Angelo Ogbonna, Simone Zaza, Adrian and Gokhan Tore all set for duty.
Randolph's Republic of Ireland will try to build on their opening 2-2 draw in Serbia when they host Georgia in Dublin in Group D, before heading for their third qualifier in Moldova on Sunday 9 October.
In the same group, Collins earned his 50th cap in the opening 4-0 win over Moldova in Cardiff and will hope to add to his tally when Chris Coleman's side travel to Austria on Thursday before hosting Georgia on 9 October.
Ogbonna and Zaza could both be involved as Italy host Adrian's Spain in a mouth-watering Group G clash in the pair's old home, Juventus Stadium in Turin, on Thursday. Following that, the Azzurri head for FYR Macedonia on 9 October, while Spain travel to Albania. Italy won their opening qualifier 3-1 in Israel, while Spain thrashed Liechtenstein 8-0. The final squads will be confirmed this weekend.
In Group I, Tore's Turkey drew 1-1 in Croatia in their opening tie, and will next host Ukraine in Konya on 6 October before traveling to Reykjavik to tackle Euro 2016 stars Iceland on 9 October. Turkey's final squad is yet to be confirmed.
Dimitri Payet's France continue their Group A challenge on Thursday 7 October, when they welcome Bulgaria the Stade de France in Paris. Les Bleus, who drew 0-0 in Belarus in September, then travel to Amsterdam to tackle the Netherlands on Monday 10 October.
Havard Nordtveit will miss Norway's Group C fixtures in Azerbaijan on Friday 8 October and home to San Marino on Tuesday 11 October, but Martin Samuelsen, on loan at Blackburn Rovers, could be involved. Norway opened with a 3-0 home defeat by Germany in Oslo.
Completing the European slate of fixtures, Michail Antonio and England host Malta at Wembley on 8 October before heading to Slovenia on 11 October. The Three Lions, who have yet to confirm their final squad, won 1-0 in Slovakia in their first tie.
In Africa, Cheikhou Kouyate's Senegal kick-off their Round 1 Group D campaign by welcoming Cape Verde Islands to Dakar on 8 October. The group is completed by Burkina Faso and South Africa.
Sofiane Feghouli's Algeria also begin their challenge in a fearsome-looking Group B when they host Cameroon in Bilda on 9 October. The group also includes Nigeria and Zambia.
In South America, Enner Valencia, who is on loan at Everton, and Ecuador host Chile in Quito on 6 October before travelling to Bolivia on 11 October.
Away from World Cup qualifiers, Winston Reid's New Zealand have two eye-catching friendly matches to play in Nashville, Tennessee. The first is against Mexico on 8 October, followed by a meeting with the United States on 11 October.
Finally, at senior level, Doneil Henry, on loan at Danish club AC Horsens, travel to Mauritania and Morroco for friendly internationals on 7 and 11 October respectively.
At age-group level, Edimilson Fernandes (Switzerland U21), on-loan Bradford City midfielder Josh Cullen (Republic of Ireland U21), Reece Oxford (England U20), Nathan Trott (England U19), Declan Rice (Republic of Ireland U19), Domingos Quina (Portugal U19), Conor Coventry (Republic of Ireland U17), Rihard Matrevics (Latvia U19) and Malyk Hamilton (Canada U18) have also received call-ups for a selection of qualifiers, international tournaments and friendly internationals.
Byram - This is a massive chance for us
Sam Byram is no stranger to being under pressure and feels well equipped to deal with the current situation at West Ham United. The Hammers are currently in the bottom three and with five defeats from the opening six Premier League games, Byram knows the importance of seeing the Hammers get back on the winning trail when they face Middlesbrough on Saturday and feels all the players will have a major point to prove. The 23-year-old was thrown into the deep end when he made his debut for Leeds United and faced a number of battles during his time at Elland Road. Byram feels that experience has made him a stronger character and given him the belief that he can produce his best form in the Premier League. Byram said: "You hear it a lot with players who go to Leeds and struggle to cope with the pressure. "But I played there for three seasons and enjoyed my time there and got used to that pressure. It is something you have to take in your stride and you have to deal with it. "It is something that has helped me massively with the big move to West Ham and being able to play in front of a bigger crowd who have high expectations for the season. "This is a massive chance for us to turn things around. We have been working on things during the week and will take that into the game.
"From seeing the week of training we have had I can say the lads have the hunger to get the win and there is no doubt there will be 100 per cent effort at the weekend."
It has been well documented that the players held a meeting at the start of the week to address the situation and Byram feels it has helped bring the team together even more. The talented full-back has no doubts there is enough quality in the squad to see them move away from the foot of the table and hopes a victory on Saturday will help turn their season around.
Byram added: "We all know the situation is not great at the moment but we had a positive meeting and with a couple of good results we could be mid-table because the table is so tight at the moment. "This is not the best position for us to be in, but this is the start of the season and we will keep the confidence and will keep working hard in training. "We know the victories will come because we have got so much quality and the passion and the hunger to get the points. "The crowd can play a massive part and if they are behind us and cheering everything, it lifts the players massively. "It is a squad full of big characters and players who have performed all over the world. It is part of the game and you get bad times in football but it is about staying strong mentally and being able to overcome that."
Five Talking Points - Middlesbrough
The hot topics for discussion ahead of Middlesbrough's Premier League visit to London Stadium on Saturday afternoon...
Positive approach needed
Everyone who has spoken publicly since last weekend's 3-0 home Premier League defeat by Southampton – Board, manager, current and former players – has stated the need for West Ham United to remain positive. The Hammers may be on a run of four straight defeats, but they cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves if they are to climb the table sooner rather than later. Prior to the season, West Ham would have targeted three points from this home fixture with newly-promoted Boro, and recent results should not change the mindset of those in Claret and Blue. This remains a very winnable fixture.
Something's got to give
While West Ham's recent form has been nothing to write home about, with four straight Premier League defeats in the books, Middlesbrough have also struggled for positive results since opening 2016/17 with five points from three matches. Boro lost all three Premier League games in September, with 2-1 defeats at the Riverside Stadium by Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur bookending a 3-1 loss at Everton, so confidence will not be high in the visitors' dressing room on Saturday. With neither club collecting a single point in the month, both will hope to start October with a morale-boosting victory.
While West Ham may have struggled collectively this season, Dimitri Payet remains key to their hopes of turning things around sooner rather than later. The France playmaker has continued to create chances, making 3.8 key passes per game in his four Premier League appearances so far – third in the top flight behind Chelsea's Willian and Liverpool's Roberto Firmino. Those passes have helped him chalk up three assists in just 293 minutes of action – two for Michail Antonio against Watford and a third for the same player at West Bromwich Albion – to put him joint-second in the Premier League standings behind Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne. Payet is also unleashing 3.8 shots per game on average, good enough for fourth in the league behind Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero and Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho.
Battle of the Spanish stoppers
Saturday's fixture could come down to which Spanish goalkeeper performs best – West Ham United's Adrian or Middlesbrough's Victor Valdes. Adrian, who will hope to be included in Spain's squad for their upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers with Italy and Albania, has made a joint-Premier League high 24 saves in six appearances this season, and looked to be back to his best against Southampton last Sunday. The experienced Valdes, who signed for Boro this summer following spells with Barcelona and Manchester United, has been far less busy, making eight saves in four appearances, but has still conceded an average of two goals-per-game. The battle of the Spanish stoppers could go a long way to deciding who comes out on top at London Stadium.
Finally, Stewart Downing is set to face West Ham for the first time since leaving east London to return home in summer 2015. Some eyebrows were raised when the England international swapped the Premier League for the Championship, but Downing's self-stated hope of being involved in a promotion battle came true last season. Now 32, the Middlesbrough-born winger remains an important player for the club where he started his career 15 years ago, and Hammers fans will be wary of his elusive running and ability to deliver quality and shoot accurately with either foot.
U18s full of confidence ahead of visit to Chelsea
West Ham United's travel to Chelsea on Saturday (11am kick-off)
The Hammers have won their last two matches scoring eight goals in the process
Mark Phillips says his team are full of confidence going into the match
Mark Phillips says his team are relishing the prospect of a battle with London rivals Chelsea this Saturday in the U18 Premier League South Division. The young Hammers are brimming with confidence after two successive victories against Fulham and, most recently, Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend. However, Phillips believes that Chelsea will present a completely different proposition compared to the Hammer's two previous opponents, but said his team are more than up to the task. "Chelsea will think they can outpass us and outscore us and have the lion's share of possession but we're also confident in ourselves," said the U18s assistant manager. "They'll set up in their own way and won't change their style no matter who their playing against. They move the ball around really well in midfield. It should be a good encounter and it's one that me and the boys are looking forward to."
The Hammers strong form over the last few weeks is thanks in large to striker Jahmal Hector-Ingram, who scored a hat-trick against Fulham and twice against Brighton. The 17-year-old's form is no surprise to Phillips who expects him to continue his purple patch in the games to come. "Jahmal's love to score in bunches. Once he's confident and on a roll, he'll score lots for us," he added. "It's five in two for him now and that's not a bad record to have so hopefully he can continue that against Chelsea."
The U18s travel to west London without their tricky No7 Dan Kemp who's earned his place Terry Westley's PL2 squad to face Leicester City in the Premier League Cup. Phillips' team kick-off their league fixture with Chelsea at 11am on Saturday at Cobham Training Ground.
Feghouli - I am representing the Algerian people
Algeria hero Sofiane Feghouli is the cover star for Saturday's 100-page Official Programme for the Premier League visit of Middlesbrough.
The winger talks about his summer move to West Ham United, his pride at representing his national side and relishing the challenge of facing former Valencia teammates Antonio Barragan and Alvaro Negredo, who are now with Boro.
The No7 could make his first Premier League start for the Hammers on Saturday before jetting off to represent his country in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier with Cameroon next week, and the player himself knows the importance of performing well in both fixtures.
"I know that when I play abroad that I am representing the Algerian people," said Feghouli, who will also represent his nation at the African Cup of Nations finals in Gabon in early 2017. "They are back in Algeria supporting me and so I always try to give my best to give the best impression possible of Algeria and to make my fellow countrymen and women proud.
"The Algerian national game has never been as strong as it is today and we have a very talented squad. We have been playing together for a couple of seasons and we are maturing as a team. Hopefully, this will show on the pitch in the upcoming tournaments, especially during the African Cup of Nations next year."
Elsewhere in Saturday's issue, fans can find out more about the star-studded FIFA 17 launch, which was held at London Stadium this week and featured West Ham's very own eSports star Sean 'Dragonn' Allen.
Interview-wise, former player and lifelong Hammer Ian Pearce shares stories of his career and first visit to London Stadium, Ian 'Moose' Abrahams chats to Boro-supporting Olympic table tennis star Paul Drinkhall and new England U19 goalkeeper Nathan Trott talks about his eventful career history.
Supporters can also find out more about Saturday's visitors Middlesbrough and read exclusive columns penned by Joint-Chairman David Sullivan, manager Slaven Bilic and captain Mark Noble.
Fans will also be able to collect the latest four stickers for their Hammers Heroes Sticker Album, which was given away free with the Official Programme issued for the AFC Bournemouth fixture in August.
Steinberg - Slaven could change the system
Guardian football writer Jacob Steinberg believes Slaven Bilic is ready to make some important changes to the system for the game against Middlesbrough on Saturday and hopes it will be a turning point for the Club as they look to turn their season around.
With the Hammers suffering five defeats from their opening six league games, Steinberg knows the importance of the Hammers getting back on the winning trail before the international break takes place.....
Despite the situation that West Ham are in, I still thought Slaven came across really well during the press conference and had a good sense of humour. He is obviously trying to remain positive.
He was fairly honest about the meeting which took place after the Southampton game clearly he knows it is not working at the moment.
That is not just from a defensive point of view, but also a collective point of view as well.
At least he is not under any illusions about what is going on at the moment.
If they play like they did against Southampton last weekend, then Middlesbrough will have a very good chance of winning the game.
It really depends what kind of response they will have at the weekend and I will be very interested to see what team Slaven names for the game.
Will he change the formation because if you analyse what he said during the press conference, he said he has spent a lot of time thinking about the system which suggests he could be considering a change.
Maybe Payet could move into the middle and will this be the game that Feghouli get his first Premier League start?
Even giving someone like Zaza more support upfront could be another option.
I look at someone like Pedro Obiang who does not get much of a chance from the substitutes bench.
The defence might not be playing well but it is a collective issue and there is a case for adding a bit more steel to the midfield.
I think the West Ham fans should be concerned by what is going on at the moment. I think they have got a good squad of players, but you can say the same back in 2003.
They went down that year with 42 points so these things can run away with you.
If they don't get a victory on Saturday, they will then face two weeks of negativity over the international break before another difficult game against Crystal Palace who are playing pretty well at the moment and have a striker in form.
They then face Sunderland which is huge and a difficult run after that.
The top teams have improved so you need to start winning games against the likes of Middlesbrough and Sunderland.
West Ham United v Middlesbrough
SAT, 01 OCT 2016PREMIER LEAGUE
Venue: London Stadium
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic says he will give "almost" the same squad that lost at home to Southampton a chance of redemption this weekend. Havard Nordtveit will miss the game following a minor medical procedure, while Aaron Cresswell, Andy Carroll, Andre Ayew and Diafra Sakho remain out.
Middlesbrough winger Adama Traore is pushing for a start after an impressive cameo against Tottenham. Defender Fabio Da Silva is back in training and could feature.
MOTD COMMENTATOR'S NOTES
Jonathan Pearce: "West Ham's new home seems badly disconnected with their fans, and their season is desperate on all fronts. "They've lost five of their opening six league games of a season for the first time ever. They are reportedly investigating claims that players were drunk this week. Their signing of Enner Valencia may now face probes after the Sam Allardyce allegations. "Boro also look troubled. Three defeats on the spin, just five shots on target away and only two wins in 22 trips to London. The Hammers need a redemptive win to calm concerns but it's crucial for both sides."
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic on a club-sanctioned night out on Monday: "The team bonding was completely my idea. I told Mark Noble to take the guys out and go for a meal. "I am totally concentrated on the game on Saturday. It is good for us all to stick together and good for team building." Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka: "We need to improve our performances. We are learning but we have to learn quickly. When we play in our intensity and our style, and with the right attitude, we will win games. "The players need to know that we can compete, but we must compete from the first minute."
The Hammers looked all over the show at the back against Southampton last week. But Boro are probably the perfect team for them to play at the moment, because they don't pose much of an attacking threat - they have had the fewest shots per game on average of any Premier League team so far this season.
West Ham have won their last seven Premier League home games against Middlesbrough. It's their second longest winning streak against a Premier League opponent: they won nine in a row against Blackburn. Middlesbrough have not scored more than once in an away league game at West Ham since a 2-1 victory in April 1989, managing only four goals in 14 subsequent games.
West Ham United
West Ham have lost five of their opening six matches of a league season for the first time.
They could lose five consecutive Premier League matches for the first time since May 2011.
Slaven Bilic's side have conceded as many as 16 goals in their opening six games of a top-flight season for the first time since 1967-68, when they let in 18.
The Hammers have conceded at least two goals in 13 of their last 16 league matches, letting in 36 goals overall.
Dimitri Payet has lost all four Premier League games he has been involved in this season - he only lost six games in the whole of 2015-16.
Middlesbrough have won only one of their last 12 Premier League matches (D4, L7).
Boro have lost their last five Premier League away games in London.
Alvaro Negredo has scored in only one of his last 18 Premier League appearances.
Víctor Valdes has played six Premier League games (two for Manchester United, four for Middlesbrough) and never been on the winning side.
Most probable score: 1-0 Probability of draw: 23%
Probability of home win: 60% Probability of away win: 17%
SAM (Sports Analytics Machine) is a super-computer created by @ProfIanMcHale at the University of Salford that is used to predict the outcome of football matches.
West Ham's Slaven Bilic: It hurts when I look in the mirror, it hurts when I look at the Premier League table
I have been told that I looked very "down" in interviews after the defeat by Southampton. Well, yes, I was "down" but how am I supposed to be? I don't think there is a problem if a manager is like that after his team have lost, especially four times in a row. The defeat did hurt, so why should I pretend that it didn't? It hurt me personally, totally. It hurts me when I look at the Premier League table, it hurts me when I look in the mirror. What is the point of smiling? Does that make me a brave leader? I am a leader and I am very brave but I hurt after a defeat. Most of the managers are the same. It doesn't mean I have lost my faith or determination — on the contrary – but we lost again and I don't like it. It hurt me. I can hide it, I can pretend but what is the benefit? Yes, I was "down" but it didn't drag on. I was ready to do my job soon after and prepare for the next game, which is Middlesbrough tomorrow.
In every team the players don't always start from zero. It helps the manager to know, from previous experiences, what your players can do on the pitch, what is their capacity. After a good season, you remember what every player did to bring you to that position and that helps you set the goals and standards for the following season. It enables you to set the bar higher. That is why, on paper, the players here have the credit. When, however, things are not going well, some of those players inevitably lose that credit. These players are not robots. We know even before the season starts that some of them will gain and others lose. If other players within the squad are training well, then I must consider them seriously.
We can't say that anyone in this squad hasn't been involved. Because of the Europa League and injuries, everyone has had their chance. No one can say they didn't get their chance. The reason why I'm saying now the credit has run out is to mobilise the players, put them on red alert if you like. There's no more: "We're going to do it next week." It has to be now. That's the message I want to get across. I'm not suggesting that everyone will lose their place in the team but I am no longer saying: "I'm not worried, it will come." I am worried.
What I am saying is: "It's time to mobilise yourselves. Do it — and do it now. Don't be too casual, too calm."
In training they are not like this, they care — but you have to do it in a game. At the moment the confidence is low. That is to be expected. When we concede, we sink down. Against Southampton, they scored in the 41st minute and then created more chances in the four minutes before half-time than they had done in the rest of the first half. We have had our meetings but talking can only go so far. I will never give up but, now, we have to do it. On Monday, I said to our captain Mark Noble: "Why don't you all go out? You are off tomorrow. Have a meal, a few beers."
Generally it was good and a lot of time it helps. Okay, I've seen some stories about one or two of our players maybe staying out longer than others and we will deal with that after the Middlesbrough game. When you are not doing well there seems to be many of these stories. I understand that. There was another one this week about players' children at the training ground.
I am tempted to give a two-word reply to that but if my mother in Croatia saw it, she wouldn't be happy. Seriously, come on. I know how it works with these stories, though. It was the same for Chelsea last year, for Newcastle, for Manchester City, a few Italian and German clubs as well. When it happens to them, you might think about it for a few minutes and ask yourself: "What is happening there?" When it happens to you, though, it is a little different. Last season there were more kids at the training ground at Chadwell Heath, so that's it. The bottom line is that your methods are great — when you are winning. If you are not, your methods come under question. You are either too strict, or too soft. If you are winning, you are good because you are strict or good because you are friendly with them. I want to say, though, that these things are my responsibility and I take it. These kind of stories don't keep me awake at night but do they affect me? Yes, for a few minutes. The only way you can stop these things are by starting to win matches and there are three reasons why, I believe, we will: Training — the players are doing well, they remain hungry, they know the situation, they want to change it — they are a good bunch. We have some players coming back from injury.
It is still early and it is not so hard to catch up. We can't keep waiting, though. It has to be now.
West Ham United v Middlesbrough
Filed: Friday, 30th September 2016
By: Preview Percy
Whatever it is Preview Percy drinks when he writes these previews, he assures us that he has a "therapeutic use exemption" for it. You may wish to apply for one yourself before reading any further...
Next up we play host to Middlesbrough. It's a Saturday 3pm kick-off which is just how it should be of course. Travel? Well the bad news is that all the stuff that is going on in and out of Liverpool Street, including replacement buses to Newbury Park, will still be going on. Worse still, if you come in from east of Pitsea on C2C be prepared for diversions and replacement buses between Pitsea and Upminster. If you left the ground early last week you might just wish you had stayed put.
So Boro' then. They have 5 points from 6 games so far leaving them two points and two places above our good selves. All their points thus far came in the first three games which consisted of a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke, a 2-1 win in the "other" North East derby at Sunderland and the world's least surprising 0-0 draw at West Brom. Since then they have lost their last three at home to Palace & Spurs (both 1-2) and away at Everton (3-1). They were also knocked out of the League Cup 2-1 at Fulham. So they have a few things to think about then.
Of course this time last year they were in the Championship having been relegated in 2008-09. Their promotion last season, which was achieved by virtue of their finishing in second place on 89 points, four points behind champions Burnley. They were there or thereabouts for most of the season though it wasn't all plain sailing. Manager Aitor Karanka is said to have had a bit of a contretemps with club owner Steve Gibson over none other than Stewart Downing. Now Downing's a bit of a favourite up there, not least with Gibson. However, it seems that Karanka doesn't share the general enthusiasm for the player that abounds on Teeside. Things came to a head in March when a frank exchange of views between chairman and manager took place at the club's training ground. Convention dictates that any disagreement that takes place on a training ground should be referred to as a "bust-up". At the end of the bust-up it looked as if Karanka would be on his bike as assistant Steve Agnew took charge of the team for the trip to Charlton, a match that they somehow contrived to lose 2-1 against a team destined for relegation with a whimper. The result may or may not have had something to do with the fact that on the Monday hands were shaken, backs were patted and bygones allowed to be bygones and Karanka returned to lead the team to second place. In a neat spot of predictive processing by the fixture computer (or more likely, by fluke) their last game of the season saw them play Brighton with whom they were level on points, carrying a two goal goal difference advantage. The 1-1 draw thus saw them promoted on goal difference.
According to the work experience girl wearing the Department S t-shirt without knowing who they are, the promotion gave us a bit of a windfall as the Downing deal provided for an add-on payment of a reported £1m to be paid should they get promoted. Hurrah. Whatever Karanka's misgivings about the player – and with the exception of one or two matches I myself could never quite see what all the fuss was about – that particular hatchet would seem to have been buried as Downing has started all 6 league games this season.
The biggest fee shelled out this summer was the £12m that went out on Dutch midfielder Marten de Roon who is probably known as "Wayne" to his mates. He came in from Atalanta where he had spent just the one season following three years with Heerenveen. Although he got 36 matches under his belt with Atalanta last season It seems the new boss didn't fancy him and the lure of Middlesbrough's lights (red, amber , green) proved too great to resist.
Between the sticks they brought in veteran custodian Victor Valdes from our old friends FC Unattached, with whom he had been training since the expiry of his contract with Moan Utd. He spent much of his time at Old Trafford on the naughty step having fallen out with management after refusing to play in a reserve match. The latter part of last season was spent on loan in Belgium which surely counts as cruel and inhuman punishment. Standard Liege were the beneficiaries before he signed for Boro' this summer on becoming a free agent. Clearly Belgium must be worse than I thought. Valdes is one of those chaps with two countries on his international appearances list. To his 20 Spanish caps he can add a further 12 for his native Catalonia which, like Scotland and Wales, isn't a proper country. Unlike Scotland and Wales they don't have FIFA membership so don't get to play with the big boys that often.
For once, the work experience girl's t-shirt this week is, in fact, quite apt given that another £3m (or, if you prefer €5m) went on another "Vic" in the form of Dane Viktor Fischer. Danish Vic's early days were spent with that club with the typing error for a name that Winston Reid used to play for. However, there is some sort of Danish connection with Ajax, who have sourced many players from that part of the world over the years and Fischer ended up completing his youth career in Amsterdam. He then spent four years in the first XI before Boro' swooped during the last window. Variously described as an attacking midfielder or a winger he's now into double figures for Danish caps.
They also pulled in a new right-back in the form of Spaniard Antonio Barragan. This is in fact Barragan's second spell in England. As an 18-year-old he raised a few eyebrows when Liverpool nicked him from the Seville youth set-up, despite him not having ever played for Southampton as far as anyone could tell. He managed just the one first XI outing for the scousers – in a so-called Champions League qualifier – before returning to Spain where, following shorter stints with Deportivo La Corunna and Valledolid he pitched up at Valencia. He spent 5 years there, a particular highlight coming in scoring in a 2-1 win over Real Madrid that brought a 22 match unbeaten run to a conclusion and wiped that silly smug grin off Christiano Ronaldo's boat. At 29, and with his last international recognition coming at U21 level 9 years ago, it's probably fair to say that he's not going to be bothering the compilers of international tournament sticker albums any time soon.
One of the more notable arrivals was that of Alvaro Negredo who came in on loan from Valencia. Negredo might be remembered for his spell with Man City in which he scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 1st leg win in the League Cup semi-final a couple of years ago. I forget against who. Clearly stunned by having been present during the Gary Neville reign at Valencia someone has persuaded him that Middlesbrough is a good place to be so here he is. He opened his account for the season in the season-opener against Stoke.
They also spent £2m on Cardiff full-back Fabio. He first came to prominence when on Moan Utd's books alongside his twin brother Rafael. Fabio appears to have been the lesser of the talents in the family, and while his brother is plying his trade in France with Lyon, Fabio ended up at QPR on loan before ending up in Wales. He's been struggling with a knee injury of late though he's on the list as being ready for a return this weekend.
Elsewhere it's been quite a week hasn't it. Football managers on the take? Who'd have thought it? You'll be telling me next that (Name of well-known football personality removed for legal reasons) had been known to (nature of accusation removed for legal reasons) with his dog as signatory. As for the former England manager, well the theory goes that as a player during an era when the rewards were so much lower it must be galling to see bog standard players becoming multi-millionaires hence his rather sad chasing of a pound note at every possible opportunity. The reported million pound pay-off is a bit of an insult though – that's the sort of deal that should get whoever agreed it at the FA put away here in the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered. Only we're full.
Us? Well last week was a complete and utter shambles. I knew it was going to be a bad day when the rest home's "Happy Bus" picked us up to go to the match. Our journey was blighted by the appearance of that short bloke who helps run this site on the radio. Like most right-thinking people I wanted to kick in the "Happy Bus" windows when I heard his know-nothing ramblings. Since it was on the BBC I suggested to Matron that she should withhold the Rest Home's TV licence for this year but she just coughed a bit and changed the subject.
Since then they've had a crisis meeting and been out on a bonding session which ended up either with either a quiet night in with some cocoa or like something like the last days of Gomorrah depending on who you care to believe. Frankly if they stop buggering about in defence during matches and start winning games they can stay up as late as they like as far as I'm concerned. Maybe even as late as eleven.
Team news and Nordveidt will be absent, this putting a dent in his quest to play in all eleven positions in as short a time as possible. We are told that his absence will be due to a "small procedure". The last time I had one of those I (nature of procedure removed for reasons of taste).
Apart from that we'll be pretty much left with the same squad that depressed us so much last weekend, though the injury situation should ease after the break. Unless of course our luck continues on its current trajectory and pick up even more knocks over the coming week or two.
Prediction. Well things were so bad last week that I am tempted to draw on that old phrase "things can only get better". However, I was then reminded that that particular song got used in the 1997 general election and subsequent events proved how wrong that title could be. Nevertheless, I do have a feeling about this one – and it's not the result of that small procedure I mentioned earlier. They are on a bit of a streak of their own at the moment and, let's face it, something has got to start going right for us eventually by the law of averages. So I will be taking the £2.50 we had collected towards Sam Allardyce's retirement fund here at the Swan And Superinjunction and I will be placing it on a 2-0 home win, once the windows have been repaired on the Happy Bus so I can get down to Winstones The Turf Accountants to place the bet.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met at the Boleyn: Drew 1-1 (Championship March 2013). Not much of a game to remember. Faye opened the scoring but we failed to press home the advantage, presumably under instruction not to go forward in case we surrendered the lead. So that we surrendered the lead to an 84th minute drive from Ogbeche. We also endured the statutory turning down of a stonewall penalty. Just to show some things never change.
Referee: Neil Swarbick. When he sent off the wrong player last season one of the papers said that Premier League referees would be "coming under scrutiny" due to their poor performances. Well Daily Telegraph what are you waiting for?
Danger Man: Stewart Downing The law of the ex and all that.
Percy's Poser: Last week we asked you for the name of the alcohol-free beer advertised by Lawrie McMenemy shortly before his arrest for drink-driving. The first correct answer out of the digital hat was provided by Mrs Ursula Macfisheries of East Tilbury who told us "it was called Barbican and McMenemy's catchphrase was 'it's great mon'. Needless to say, it wasn't" Mrs Macfisheries wins a lifetime supply of the product.
For this week's poser we look North East. The fine tv programme Auf Wiedersehen Pet is generally associated with Newcastle but part of series three was actually set in Middlesbrough. Our question is: why did the BBC have to broadcast a disclaimer caption at the end of that series? The first correct answer out of the digital hat will win a genuine can of Middlesbrough Smog (well we'll give you the empty can and satnav directions to Teeside anyway).
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
LOAN WATCH – THE SEASON SO FAR
BY BRIAN KNOX ON 30 SEPTEMBER 2016 AT 12:29AM
The Hammers have a record breaking 11 players out on loan this season but in truth only 3 of those are regular starters for the teams that they have been loaned out to with Reece Burke on the sidelines at present with an injury.
Josh Cullen, Lewis Page and Josh Pask have all been playing regularly for Bradford City, Coventry City and Gillingham respectively in League One and doing very well by all accounts.
Young Irish International Cullen has once again performed admirably since his return to the Bantams, scoring a goal and notching two assists along with 2 or 3 Man of the Match performances to date. Page and Pask have also been praised on numerous occasions by their respective management teams and fanbases alike.
On the other side of the coin Stephen Hendrie hasn't been named in the Blackburn Rovers first team squad in the last month for any of their league games whilst the other West Ham loanee at Ewood Park, Martin Samuelsen, has played a grand total of 7 minutes of Championship football in September since his season long loan move there.
Young defender/defensive midfielder, George Dobson has suffered a similar fate at Walsall. George has actually remained on the bench this month without stepping onto the pitch at all.
Kyle Knoyle who had a very good loan spell at Dundee United last season, playing the majority of their games towards the end of the season, suffered a serious elbow injury during pre-season and has yet to recover, so he is currently still on the sidelines at Wigan Athletic beside Reece Burke who will miss the next month after a hernia operation.
Young Serbian attacker, Luka Belic has yet to make the Motherwell first team squad after joining the Scottish Premier League side on deadline day.
Enner Valencia has yet to start his first league game for Everton since his loan move to Goodison but he did start the game against Norwich City in the EFL Cup last week in which the Championship side upset the odds with a 2-0 win away from home.
Another player that doesn't seem to have much luck on the injury front hasn't yet appeared for his new team either. Doneil Henry joined AC Horsens of the Danish Superliga last month but a knee injury has kept him on the sidelines until recently where he was an unused sub against Winston Reid's former team FC Midtjylland.
Whilst the Hammers brass are sure to be happy with the fact that players like Cullen, Page and Pask are playing as regularly as they are, I'm pretty sure they wont be too impressed that other young players out on loan such as Hendrie, Samuelsen and Dobson are receiving very little playing time at all. Unfortunately under the new FIFA regulations regarding emergency loans, each of those players will have to stay with their respective clubs until January at the earliest and cannot be loaned anywhere else until the window re-opens.
DAILY NEWS: ANTONIO COULD HAVE BEEN SPURS AND INJURIES TO RETURN!
BY EXWHUEMPLOYEE ON 29 SEPTEMBER 2016 AT 9:41PM
Daily News Roundup from @IronsNews:
Social media reports Andy Carroll and Darren Randolph were drunk on Tuesday, after a team bonding meal on Monday night. On the matter, Bilic said: "I spoke to the chairman. After the game, at the start of next week, we are going to talk about it and if necessary we are going to act. But if you are asking who's idea it was it was my idea, completely. I told them to do that, for me it's a good thing to do, not every week but in a great situation or a bad situation it's good to stick together and its a good thing to do. It's good for team building and that's it."
Finally some good news for West Ham as Slaven Bilic's side are handed triple injury boost
West Ham have received a welcome injury boost as they look to bounce back from their torrid start to the new season. Aaron Cresswell, Andre Ayew and Diafra Sakho are all progressing well and should be back in action soon. 'He gave me my first opportunity so I'm definitely sad but you've just got to move on, that's how it is in football.' 'The manager I really like and who's done well over the years, I' d say Alan Pardew, I was with him at Southampton and I think he's a quality manager, I think he'd do well as England manager,' Antonio told ITV London.
West Ham searching for 'One good result'
"One good result can change the whole season. We cannot think it is just going to happen. We need to earn it. I am concerned and it has been a bad start," Bilic told reporters on Thursday. "But with one win we can build everything back with a win over Middlesbrough over Saturday."
Spurs wanted Antonio in their academy after spotting him as a youngster. But Mrs Antonio didn't want her son trekking from their south west London home to Spurs' north London training base. "In hindsight it's definitely made me better as a player. It's made me more hungry, it's made me want to go out… it's made me eager and I'm never satisfied."
PL2 side prepare to begin cup defence
West Ham United PL2 start the defence of their Premier League Cup title away at Leicester City
The Hammers won the crown last year, beating Hull City in the final in May
Saturday's match is being held at Loughborough University (1pm kick-off)
West Ham United PL2 begin the defence of their Premier League Cup crown on Saturday as they travel to Leicester City in Group E.
The Hammers go into the match off the back of a 0-0 stalemate at home to Brighton and Hove Albion in Premier League 2 on Monday, but midfielder Marcus Browne believes the team will show what a good side they are this weekend.
The match is being held at Loughborough University (1pm kick-off) with Terry Westley's men beginning the defence of the title they won last season with a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Hull City.
"We've got a bit of a point to prove, to prove the win wasn't luck and we are a good team and a good club," said midfielder Marcus Browne.
"The changing room is happy and we're looking forward to getting our defence started on Saturday."
Westley was full of praise for his side on Monday night in the draw with the Seagulls, saying they played with a style and identity.
The PL2 boss was keen to stress if the Hammers continue to perform in the same manner and add a touch of ruthlessness, they will achieve more success.
"I often say to coaches, if you can play with a style, panache and an identity, you're half way there," said Westley.
"We didn't create enough in the first half (v Brighton) but if we continue to work at it on the training ground, the goals will come.
Westley was also delighted to see Djair Parfitt-Williams back out on the field against the South Coast side – his first appearance since pre-season.
The winger had been missing through injury but made his first league start of the campaign. He'll also be set to feature in the cup tie with the Foxes on Saturday.
"Brighton was Djair's first game since pre-season so it's great that he got 45 minutes under his belt. He really needs a good three or four games into him before he gets back to full match fitness."
The Premier League Cup (Group E) match between West Ham United PL2 vs Leicester City kicks off at 1pm on Saturday from Loughborough University.
Eamonn Dolan memorial match announced
Filed: Friday, 30th September 2016
By: Staff Writer
Exeter City have announced details of a one-off memorial match in honour of former coach Eamonn Dolan.
Dolan, who began his career at West Ham under John Lyall in the 1980s died earlier this year at the age of just 48 following a long and brave battle against cancer.
And earlier this week it was announced that a charity match will be staged by Exeter City in honour of Dolan, a former player and manager of theirs.
Scheduled for 1pm on Sunday, October 23. entry to the game is by donation with a suggested gift of £10 for adults and £5 for under-18s and seniors.
Watch Dolan's three goals for West Ham United here
Fans also have the chance to play alongside their former heroes as two playing spots are available in the game at £250 per head.
Anyone interested in playing in the match should contact Barry Full (firstname.lastname@example.org). Sponsorship opportunitiesare also available. For more information contact Mark Jenkins (email@example.com) or by phoning 07966 144430.
Exeter have confirmed that some former West Ham stars are set to feature (deatils to be confirmed) along with a number of ex-Grecian stars including Sean Devine and Steve Flack
West Ham's Simone Zaza compared to DENNIS BERGKAMP by boss Slaven Bilic as poor start frustrates fans
22:30, 30 SEP 2016
BY DARREN LEWIS
Italy striker hasn't scored yet in four games but it was the same for Arsenal's Dutch wizard and many Premier League newcomers, points out the Hammers manager
Slaven Bilic has defended West Ham 's capture of £25million striker Simone Zaza and their summer sale of James Tomkins. Bilic insists he still has faith in Italy international Zaza — despite his poor start to his career in the Premier League. The Hammers paid an initial £5m loan fee to take the 25-year-old from Serie A champions Juventus last month, with a further £20m due if he joins on a permanent basis next summer. However, Zaza has left fans underwhelmed with his performances so far, failing to score in his first four appearances. It has even sparked suggestions the club could pull the plug on his loan deal in January, with AC Milan keen to take him back to Serie A. But Bilic said: "He is definitely a good player who came from a big club to a new country. New players need time. If we go back and think about Dennis Bergkamp, who needed – I don't know – a year? "It is quite common with even the best players from abroad. Plus, Zaza wasn't a regular there and didn't have match fitness. It takes time sometimes and unfortunately we don't have that time."
West Ham sit in the bottom three ahead of Saturday's game at home to Middlesbrough . Promoted Boro haven't won in five in all competitions, but the Hammers are even worse — losing five of the six opening Premier League games for the first time ever. West Ham are also investigating claims some of their players were drunk in public on Tuesday morning, but manager Bilic maintains he is focused solely on the three points. Regarding Tomkins, the Croatian claimed the player forced his transfer to London rivals Crystal Palace. He added: "I told you in the beginning the situation with Tomkins. "It was never me or the club that wanted to sell him. James wanted to play week in, week out. I rated him a lot as a guy and as a player. "I used him a lot last year and he played many games for us. But when he wasn't the first choice, he found it very hard in a nice and sporting way. Not in a bad way. "That is the reason. I hate to sell. "For me it was always the plan to play local players – West Ham academy players, then London-based players, then English, then British. Then, if we can't find that, we go abroad. Tomkins is local.
West Ham v Middlesbrough preview: Hammers and Boro target return to winning ways
Last Updated: 30/09/16 11:20am
West Ham and Middlesbrough will look to put a torrid September behind them when they face each other at London Stadium on Saturday. Slaven Bilic's West Ham failed to win a Premier League game in September, while build-up to this match was dominated by allegations Andy Carroll and Darren Randolph were drunk after a sanctioned night out. Bilic admitted he urged the players to enjoy some time off together, with the club currently struggling in 18th position in the table. Boro meanwhile have lost three games in a row following an unbeaten league run in August, most recently falling to a Heung-Min Son double against Tottenham last weekend.
Bilic confirmed Havard Nordtveit is doubtful to face Boro, and Andre Ayew remains sidelined for another three to four weeks through injury. Aaron Cresswell will return to training on Monday and is likely to feature for the Hammers after the international break.
Head coach Aitor Karanka has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the clash. For Middlesbrough, club captain Grant Leadbitter (hernia) is progressing well but remains out for the game.
Karanka also confirmed Fabio (knee) and James Husband (shoulder) have returned to training but the pair are likely to be eased back into action.
Alvaro Negredo has scored five goals in four appearances in all competitions against the Hammers, although all five goals arrived in the EFL Cup.
West Ham have lost five of their opening six top-flight games in a season for the first time in their history.
Boro have lost their last five Premier League away games in London and have won only two of their last 22 trips to the capital (D3 L17).
Since the start of April, West Ham have conceded 19 home goals, more than any other Premier League team in that period.
Middlesbrough have not scored more than once in an away league game at West Ham since a 2-1 win in April 1989, netting four goals in 14 games since.
West Ham have lost all four Premier League games Dimitri Payet has appeared in this season - he only lost six games in the whole of 2015-16.
Victor Valdes has played six Premier League games (two for Man Utd, four for Middlesbrough) and has never been on the winning side.
This is the type of game that makes Super 6 very difficult! You just don't know. This could be any score either way. West Ham are really struggling, their defence is all over the place and they are not playing to the standards they were last season. It was bad business to sell James Tomkins. He might not be the difference, but he makes a difference. He can play at centre-half or full-back, he is comfortable on the ball and at the moment they have no defenders. They sold him for just £10m, it wasn't a huge fee. Middlesbrough are lacking pace and have become a bit predictable. But if they can turn in a performance like they did in the second half against Tottenham last week when the game was lost, then they have more of a chance. It's a really tough one to call.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1 (Sky Bet odds 5/1)
West Ham vs Middlesbrough: Team news, kick-off time, probable line-ups, odds and stats for the Premier League clash
Norwegian Havard Nordtveit is West Ham's latest injury absentee
Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka has no fresh injury concerns
Fabio da Silva has missed the last four but is available for selection
By SPORTSMAIL REPORTER
PUBLISHED: 11:05, 30 September 2016 | UPDATED: 11:05, 30 September 2016
Ahead of this weekend's Premier League action, Sportsmail will be providing you with all you need to know about every fixture, with team news, provisional squads, betting odds and Opta stats. Here is all the information you need for West Ham's home clash with Middlesbrough...
West Ham vs Middlesbrough (London Stadium)
Havard Nordtveit is West Ham's latest injury absentee ahead of the visit of Middlesbrough. The versatile midfielder underwent a small medical procedure on Wednesday and will be out for a week. Left-backs Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku and forwards Andy Carroll, Andre Ayew and Diafra Sakho remain on the sidelines.
Provisional squad: Adrian, Randolph, Arbeloa, Byram, Reid, Collins, Ogbonna, Oxford, Kouyate, Obiang, Fernandes, Noble, Payet, Lanzini, Antonio, Feghouli, Tore, Zaza, Fletcher, Calleri.
Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka has no fresh injury concerns ahead of Saturday's Premier League trip to West Ham. Fabio da Silva has missed the last four games with a knee problem, but is available for selection once again, while fellow full-back James Husband is also back in training after dislocating a shoulder in pre-season. That means only midfielder Grant Leadbitter is still missing, and he could return to the training pitch within weeks with his recovery from hernia surgery progressing more quickly than expected.
Provisional squad: Valdes, Guzan, Chambers, Friend, Barragan, Nsue, Da Silva, Ayala, Gibson, Espinosa, De Roon, Clayton, Ramirez, Forshaw, Downing, Stuani, Fischer, De Sart, Traore, Negredo, Nugent, Rhodes.
WEST HAM VS MIDDLESBROUGH
Kick-off: Saturday, 3pm
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Slaven Bilic (West Ham)
Aitor Karanka (Middlesbrough)
Head-to-head league record:
West Ham wins 17
Middlesbrough wins 7
Recent league form (latest result first):
West Ham: LLLLW
Key match stats (supplied by Opta)
West Ham United have won their last seven Premier League home games against Middlesbrough; only versus Blackburn (9) have they recorded a longer winning streak at home.
Alvaro Negredo has scored five goals in four appearances (all comps) against the Hammers, although all five goals arrived in the EFL Cup (0 in 2 apps in the PL).
West Ham have lost five of their opening six top-flight games in a season for the first time in their history.
Boro have lost their last five Premier League away games in London and have won only two of their last 22 trips to the nation's capital (D3 L17).
Since the start of April, West Ham have conceded 19 home goals, more than any other Premier League team in that period.
Middlesbrough's haven't scored more than once in an away league game at West Ham since a 2-1 win in April 1989, netting four goals in 14 games since.
The Hammers have allowed their opposition 32 shots on target from inside the penalty area in the Premier League this season, more than 14 teams have allowed in total.
Alvaro Negredo has scored in only one of his last 18 Premier League appearances.
West Ham have lost all four Premier League games Dimitri Payet has appeared in this season – he only lost six games in the whole of 2015-16.
Víctor Valdés has played six Premier League games (two for Man Utd, four for Middlesbrough) and has never been on the winning side.
Hammers need big Boro performance to wake London Stadium slumber
Slaven Bilic admits his West Ham side are well below par. Common sense and logic suggest it should happen rarely, but followers of the Premier League know it occurs with alarming regularity in football. Every season a team generally considered to be "too good to struggle" ends up in the relegation mire, as the wheels come off in spectacular fashion. The downfall is depressingly similar. It starts in a small way, with something seemingly insignificant; a loss of form, board level issues, rumours of dressing room spats; then escalates to a couple of alarming defeats, before transcending into a pitiful spiral that no-one seems able to stop. All the while the players claim it's not the manager; that their job is to play football and what happens off the field doesn't affect them. As the drama unfolds into a crisis and someone blames someone else, everyone secretly wonders just how they got into the mess in the first place.
Sadly, no strangers to this, West Ham United have seen it all before. This season, the catalyst seems to be the new stadium. A ground that generally got a thumbs up when fans excitedly entered to see the Hammers defeat FC Domzale in the Europa League back in early August, has now turned into a soulless monster that is sucking the life out of the club. Of course, it may always have been a vacuum -- it's difficult to find anyone who thinks the move was right just now -- but be assured that any current assessment is entirely down to a series of horrendous defeats. At least one of those defeats -- a 4-2 mauling against West Brom -- took place in the West Midlands, but once in a spin, details become unimportant.
Take Mark Noble after the awful 3-0 drubbing by Southampton. "When we play at Upton Park..." he started in an interview, seemingly unaware that he was using the wrong tense, suggesting the Stratford move was, perhaps, just a temporary measure. The anger, hurt and look of frustration was palpable sure, but there was more. The haunted look of someone who isn't sure what the problem is, nor why it's getting worse.
Slaven Bilic has strangely worn the same look since the first game and if body language is anything to go by, then Hammers fans need to hold on for a bumpy ride. Quite what started this nobody seems to know, but sensible talk about the failure to get a right-back or strengthen a creaking defence in the summer doesn't seem to enter into it. Perhaps the manager spent too much time as a pundit at Euro 2016; there's certainly a sense he wasn't prepared for the new campaign.
West Ham supporters are growing frustrated with the team's poor performances this season. What's needed to stop the spiral now is an antidote to all this; something positive, something to hang on to. At the moment that thing seems to be a clean sheet. Under normal circumstances -- whatever they are at West Ham -- a home game against a newly promoted club might be seen as a chance to grab a vital three points before the international break. This season however, Bilic needs to try and sort himself and his defence out and put in a performance that at least assures the crowd that waiting until the January transfer window isn't the only solution.
A point against Middlesbrough at home might seem a small expectation but if there's a solid defensive performance to go along with it, then it will definitely be taken as a positive.
During the break, Bilic can try and regroup and stop the rot, but that will best be done with an encouraging display. If there's to be one then it needs to begin against Aitor Karanka and his men. Something to get the crowd enthused may not be the solution to all the problems at the London Stadium but it would surely be a start.
Peter Thorne, aka Billy Blagg (@BillyBlaggEsq), is ESPN FC's West Ham blogger.