Fonte forecasts Crouch clash
Jose Fonte relishes Saturday's Premier League showdown with Stoke City's Peter Crouch
Portuguese defender has tasted defeat just once in seven career visits to the bet365 Stadium
Fonte also has words of praise for West Ham United's Norwegian midfielder Havard Nordtveit
"Peter Crouch is an awkward one to play against because of his size, obviously it's difficult to get the ball against him in the air, but he's not bad with the ball on the floor as well so he's a good player." Jose Fonte did not deliberately use one of football's most common cliches for nothing. He is simply a fan of Stoke City's former England centre forward. For 15 years, Crouch has been terrorising Premier League defences, scoring 101 goals in 428 appearances for six different clubs. Since 2011, the 36-year-old has been leading the line for the Potters, netting 38 times and causing havoc with his unique combination of height and technical ability. "He's been around for a long time and we've faced each other many times, so it's another good test, like it is every week because you always face good strikers in the Premier League," said Fonte, who scored the winner on his first-ever trip to Stoke with Crystal Palace in the Championship in April 2008. "It's the toughest league in the world and another big challenge, but hopefully we can keep him quiet like we did with Romelu Lukaku. "If we do that and keep a clean sheet that would be amazing."
Stoke are about more than just Peter Crouch, however, with Mark Hughes' squad also containing exciting ball-players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Joe Allen. Fonte knows Stoke have plenty of creative ability in their ranks and says the Hammers will need to defend resolutely if they are to pick up a positive result in the Potteries. "I've played many times against them and they've been changing throughout the years and when you have players like Arnautovic who like to have the ball and creative players, they are able to change their style," he confirmed. "They always have that option with Peter Crouch up front with the long ball, but they've been trying to play more, they're a good side, they're comfortable in the league and they know their strengths. "We know it's going to be a tough game, as it always is at Stoke, but we're confident and we're in a good place now. We feel good, we've been training really hard and hopefully we can get the three points, which would be fantastic for us."
One player who could be central to West Ham's hopes of keeping Stoke's attacking stars quiet will be Havard Nordtveit, who enjoyed his finest 90 minutes in a Claret and Blue shirt against Everton last weekend. The Norway defensive midfielder drew on all his experience to quiet the Toffees and is likely to be important again this coming Saturday. "I'm most definitely pleased for Havard and credit to him, because he's always been working hard in training, he's a good lad and when he had his chance, I thought he did really well. "I think we're all pleased he had a good game and he had some important tackles, won lots of balls and the more games he gets, the better he'll play. Credit to him and well done to him."
*Jose Fonte outlines the reasons behind West Ham United's defensive improvement in recent matches in Part One of his exclusive whufc.com interview, which you can read here!
Skipper set for Stoke return
Mark Noble is set to make a return to the West Ham United squad for Saturday's away fixture at Stoke City
The club captain missed two matches through suspension
Manager Slaven Bilic has been impressed, however, with a number of players who have stepped into the squad after absences in recent weeks
Club captain Mark Noble will definitely be back in the West Ham United squad for Saturday's trip to Stoke City, confirmed manager Slaven Bilic. The skipper has missed the Hammers' last two fixtures through suspension having picked up his tenth yellow card of the season during the Club's 1-0 London Stadium victory over Swansea City. In his absence, Bilic's team have drawn both their games, first gaining a point up in the north east after a 2-2 stalemate with Sunderland before recording a goalless draw against Everton last weekend.
Noble will be back amongst things this weekend, however, as West Ham look to extend their unbeaten Premier League run to four matches, although forward Andy Carroll looks set to miss out again. "We have a few knocks from our last game, but we will see today in training and tomorrow our situation," said Bilic. "We were off yesterday. One [piece of news] is definitely that Mark [Noble] is back in the squad after two games suspended. "That is it basically. Unfortunately, Andy Carroll won't be available for this game. "I was expecting him to be back for this Stoke game, but he's not, so he should be for the next game against Spurs. He should be OK."
The Hammers' good run of form has coincided with a number of players returning to the starting XI having missed large chunks of the campaign previously. Centre-back James Collins, goalkeeper Adrian and left-back Arthur Masuaku have all earned praise for their performances in recent weeks and Bilic agreed the trio have done well. "Collins is exactly, in the dressing room, as he is on the pitch. It's great to have him. He is like Braveheart! He does everything, he's one of the leaders and he's there for everyone. "He's also a joker and likes to have fun. The way he's playing, he deserves a lot of praise with the quality of his game, the energy he puts in and the dedication and determination he shows. "With the goalkeepers, I had a couple of meetings with Adrian and Darren Randolph to explain my decision, like I did when it happened after about ten games of the season. Darren, he is a great professional and of course he is disappointed, but he understood my decision completely. "He is working very hard and waiting for his chance, like Adrian did for a long time. I have always said, and I mean it, we have two really good goalkeepers. I am really happy with our goalkeepers. "Arthur Masuaku is a young player who is 23 and he came near the end of the transfer window when we were looking to strengthen in that position when Aaron Cresswell got badly injured in pre-season. We took Arthur for a reason. He has got everything that position requires for a player. "He is quick, strong, he is a good defender, he's got a good touch and cross. Of course he needed time to adapt to the league; it's a new culture, a new language, everything. "In the beginning he was lively, but unfortunately he got injured and was absent for three months, but he waited for his chance and he improved a lot and he's back in now. "He has to continue with the way he has been playing because he has been playing really good."
Cullen - Play-off atmosphere excites me
Josh Cullen is relishing tackling the Sky Bet League One play-offs over the next few weeks
Cullen won four Player of the Season awards at Bradford City's awards dinner on Monday
The midfielder also praised his fellow U23 Hammers as they qualified for the Premier League 2 play-offs
Josh Cullen is excited at the prospect of potentially helping Bradford City achieve promotion to the Sky Bet Championship via the play-offs in the coming weeks. The Bantams have secured their spot in the top six and await confirmation of their play-off opponents after the final regular round of fixtures, which take place on Sunday. Cullen, whose form for the Yorkshire side saw him win four Player of the Year awards on Monday night, says he's looking forward to the atmosphere generated by the play-off games and potential trip to Wembley. "These are the games you want to play in," he said. "The play-off atmosphere is special and these are very exciting times for everyone at the club. "It didn't work out for us last season but we've had a brilliant year and we go into the play-offs with confidence. "Obviously you don't want to look too far ahead. We have two very tough games and every team in the play-offs deserves to be there. "But getting to Wembley, as a player, is what you dream of. You don't know how many times it will happen in your career but when it does happen you want to give it your all and have no regrets."
Cullen emulated fellow Hammer Reece Burke by becoming a multiple winner at Bradford's Player of the Season awards on Monday. The 21-year-old midfielder won four awards, including Social Media Player of the Year and the JCT600 Player's Player of the Year. "It's a great honour for me. To go as a loan player to pick up four awards is a very nice feeling. It's a good personal achievement," added Cullen. "Reece Burke did really well here last season so I suppose we're keeping up the reputation of young players coming through at West Ham."
Cullen also had his say on West Ham United PL2 qualifying for the Premier League 2 Division 2 play-offs on Monday, after beating West Bromwich Albion 4-0. The midfielder helped the U21s win the Premier League Cup last season and believes his teammates can go all the way and achieve promotion. "It's been good to see the lads doing so well. I've made sure to keep a close eye on it. We've had a lot of players out on loan in the second half of the season and it's great that the younger players have stepped up and done so well."
Edi ready for Shaqiri showdown
Edimilson Fernandes looking forward to facing Switzerland teammate Xherdan Shaqiri on Saturday
Attacking midfielder Shaqiri is star of Swiss national side with 60 caps and 18 goals for his country
Fernandes impressed in right wing-back role in West Ham United's goalless draw with Everton
For the past eight years, Xherdan Shaqiri has been the undoubted star of the Switzerland national team. The 'Alpine Messi' has developed a reputation for outstanding technical ability, superb set-piece skills and an unrivalled passion for the game – qualities that have earned him five straight league titles with FC Basel and Bayern Munich, the 2013 UEFA Champions League, 60 international caps and, in 2015, a £12m move to Stoke City. Shaqiri has continued to shine in the Potteries and for his country, for whom he has appeared at three major tournaments and become a hero to West Ham United's young Swiss international Edimilson Fernandes. On Saturday, national team training aside, Fernandes and Shaqiri could share a pitch for the first time when the Hammers travel to take on the Potters in the Premier League – and the 21-year-old is relishing the prospect. "Xherdan Shaqiri is my friend," Fernandes began. "Obviously, this match will be a little bit difficult for the heart, but I'm sure we will put that to one side and focus on putting in good performances for our teams. "It's pretty clear that Xherdan is the star of the Swiss team at this time. He's technically talented and is a good attacking player. He's a good person but, as you've seen in certain moments, he can be very passionate. "His game is all about speed, so we need to make sure we mark him closely and be aggressive when defending him. Stoke is a good team with good players and we need to perform well when we head up there."
Fernandes himself also needs to perform well continue his own development, having impressed in an unaccustomed right wing-back role in last weekend's goalless draw with Everton. The No31 has appeared in 24 of West Ham's 34 Premier League matches, with 19 of those appearances coming from the substitutes' bench, but manager Slaven Bilic has indicated that the young Swiss will have a bigger role to play next season. Whether that is at wing-back or in his preferred role in central midfield remains to be seen but, wherever he plays, Fernandes is determined to give his all in Claret and Blue. "Slaven has told me he thinks I will be playing more next year," confirmed the former FC Sion star. "All I can do to achieve that is to keep working hard and hope that it pays off. "I like playing in that position but, to be honest, my preferred position is central midfield, number eight. If I'm wide on the right, it's not a big deal."
'It's about passing on a legacy to your kids'
For West Ham United fan John Arnold, the decision to renew his Season Ticket at London Stadium for the 2017/18 campaign was an easy one – made by his two sons! John, from Hornchurch in Essex, sits in the Sir Trevor Brooking stand with Sam, nine, and Oliver, five. And the trio will be back at London Stadium next season, after the boys provided a resounding answer when asked by their dad if they were keen to continue attending. John says: "The boys have really enjoyed the experience and, from my point of view, it has been fantastic for them to have the opportunity to watch every game. "Sam is old enough to have been to the Boleyn Ground but the move to the new stadium has made it much easier for me to take Oliver too. I find the whole experience much more family friendly for us, and far more suitable for young children. "When the Season Ticket renewals opened up, I asked the boys if they wanted to continue going next season and they both shouted yes straight away! So we have already renewed and they are really looking forward to next season. "Especially Oliver, the little one. I wasn't really sure if he would take to it at first, but he is so enthusiastic and just loves everything about it. "We've also been to some of the other events that the Club have organised, such as the Family Fun Day, which the boys enjoyed, and overall they have really fallen in love with the whole experience."
And for John, the opportunity to spend time with his two sons sharing a common interest is what makes being a 'West Ham dad' so special. "It's the best thing about it for me," he says. "Like most dads, I'm working all week, the kids have school and so when matchday comes along, it's a few hours where we get to spend some real quality time together. "And in many ways – although we obviously want to see West Ham win – it becomes about more than just the football. "It is also about passing on a legacy to your kids. I hope that, as they continue to grow, they will start to go with their friends and then their children in years to come.
"That for me, is the key to it all, that the Club continues through the supporters and generations of families. People don't just remember matches, they remember who they went with – dads, grandads, friends, and that is just as important. "The children that go now in this first year at the new stadium are the future of the Club. I want my boys to follow West Ham through thick and thin, as I have done. "It's easy for kids now to watch all the football on TV and say they want to support Chelsea or Manchester City because they keep winning things. I've told my boys – no, it's not about that, it's about your identity, where you come from and who you are. And we are West Ham!"
Bilic - We will fight until the end
Slaven Bilic insists that his team will approach Saturday's game at Stoke feeling confident but still fighting for their Premier League status.
Five points from the last three games unbeaten has lifted the Hammers seven points clear of the bottom three and to within just two points of ninth-placed Southampton.
However, with four matches still to be played, Bilic certainly isn't taking the approach that his team are completely out of danger.
"No, I don't feel safe from relegation," he said. "Only when you are mathematically safe, you are safe. That's the only truth. Maybe 38 points will be enough and people will say 'what did I tell you?' But the only proper way to think about it is mathematically.
"There is a higher confidence now, we have a small run of three games unbeaten, five points. Confidence is higher when you have good memories of being unbeaten. It's related to the way you are training and the way you approach the next game."
With Swansea travelling to Manchester United on Sunday, victory for the Hammers at the Britannia Stadium will guarantee safety if Paul Clement's side fail to win at Old Trafford, and Bilic believes that opportunity provides the ideal incentive for his players.
"It's a good gap we have of seven points, but still we need points," he said. "People talk about 38 and you're safe, but it's irrelevant. We have points still to play for and Stoke are the same. We want to finish as high as possible.
"We are in that situation where we have to do both; look over our shoulder but look up ahead too. There's a small gap between us and mid-table, it's a one game gap.
"With four games to go, we're talking about 12 points and that's why we have to think about both. We need to concentrate on the next game and that's the best way to approach things. We approach them as cup finals, all our games."
AWAY DAYS: STOKE CITY
BY EXWHUEMPLOYEE ON 27 APRIL 2017 AT 7:51PM
Written by @CraigPodevin
In my opinion, the home draw against Everton was the best defensive performance of the season. Managing to prevent a free-scoring team from having a single shot on target is incredible for a team in our position and seeing Nordtveit, Masuaku and Collins play the way they did was amazing.
Stadium: Bet365 Stadium (formerly Britannia Stadium)
Address: Stanley Matthews Way, Stoke-On-Trent, ST4 4EG
Away seating: 2,800
Like our last away opponents Sunderland, Stoke moved into the then-called Britannia Stadium in 1997 after playing at Victoria Ground for 119 years. The players come out from a corner of the ground between the South and West stand, and the stadium features a large video screen on the South stand. Behind the Boothen End there are three statues of their former player Sir Stanley Matthews. There's also a statue of World Cup winner Gordon Banks on the main approach to the stadium.
The stadium is quite exposed and the corners being open mean that some cold winds can come through the stadium, so make sure you stay warm throughout the game.
The closest train station to the stadium is Stoke Railway station, however this is located 2 miles away. There is a shuttle bus stop that you can catch from nearby Glebe Street (5 minute walk) and the shuttle busses run a return service after the game. To catch this bus, you can turn right from the station and go down Station Road. At the bottom of the road by the traffic lights, turn right to go along Leek Road (A52) and go straight across the A500 into Glebe Street which is straight in front of you. You will be able to see the line of busses from there.
If you walk this route, the walk to the stadium should be approximately half an hour: turn right from the station down Station Road. At the lights turn right along Leek Road (A52) under the railway line and then left down the tow path of the Trent and Mersey canal. Follow it all the way until you are level with the stadium, where there will be 2 footbridges that will take you over the canal and railway line into the ground near the South Stand away end.
Shuttle busses run throughout Stoke every 15 minutes from various stops until kick-off, they are mentioned throughout the article where you can get them from/to.
You can leave the M6 at junction 15 and go straight across the roundabout onto the A500 towards Stoke. Continue along the A500 until you get to the slip road for the A50 towards Derby, at the top of this slip road turn right at the roundabout (still marked A50) and then the Bet365 Stadium will be signposted. You will be able to see the stadium on your right from here. Please note that some signs will still say the Britannia Stadium.
Car parking at the stadium costs £5, however I'd advise against it. There is a nearby Harvester that is available to park in for £3, however try to get there early as you can't be sure how busy it will get. Also, as mentioned later in the article, there is a Power League complex at Dennis Viollett Road which allows away supporters and parking there costs £4.50.
There is a Screwfix on Stanley Matthews Way, approximately a mile from the stadium, which charges £4 and allows quicker access to the M6 after the game. Alternatively, you can park in Stoke City centre and take the Bet365 shuttle bus which runs on match days. This shuttle bus also stops at a pub mentioned in the next 'food and drink' section.
Food and drink
The concourse at the stadium offers a fair amount of pastries, including Wrights Pies (£3.20), pasties (£3.10) and sausage rolls (£2.60). In terms of drinks, they sell Carlsberg lager (£4.20 a pint), Martsons Pedigree Bitter (£4 a pint), cider (£4.20 for a 500ml bottle) and Smirnoff Ice (£4.20 for a 275ml bottle). All small wine bottles and miniature spirits cost £4.30 and queues can be quite large at the bar.
Next to the stadium is a Holiday Inn or a Harvester restaurant/pub which both allow away supporters. You can park at the Harvester (as previously mentioned) for £3 for the day. Although a little further from the stadium, there is a Power League complex which has a Sky Sports bar which also allows away supporters on Dennis Viollett Road (which is off Sir Stanley Matthews Way). Car parking is also available here for £4.50.
Further down Stanley Matthews Way is the Longton Rugby Club which has two bars showing Sky Sports and parking is also available here for £5 a car. This is a 20 minute walk from the stadium.
If arriving by train, the Terrace Bar on Leek Road is an official away fans pub. It's only 5 minutes' walk from the railway station. You can turn right out of the station entrance, left at the crossroads and the pub is on the left. This pub shows Sky Sports and food for those that are hungry. There's a shuttle bus to the ground which costs £3 that goes to the pub and stadium and carries on running after the game.
As always, enjoy the game and stay safe while supporting the boys. Let's all hope for 3 points to further help us stay in the Premier League this year.
Come On You Irons! -@CraigPodevin
MANUEL LANZINI IS IN UNDOUBTEDLY THE JEWEL IN WEST HAM'S CROWN
BY EXWHUEMPLOYEE ON 27 APRIL 2017 AT 8:28PM
Written by @farehamhammer
It was one of our greatest manager's Ron Greenwood, who when asked what the club's footballing philosophy was replied: "Football is a game of intelligence and beauty, that's what we try to deliver at West Ham. If the crowds go home with smiles on their faces, having jumped up out of their seats at least six times, and hungry for more. I feel I have delivered" It was during Greenwood's period at the club that The Club gained its reputation of being The Academy of Football. Stylish inventive football, football on the deck. At same time bringing through talented youth from The Club's Academy.
So it's no surprise that West Ham fans have always had a special place in their hearts for flair players. Players who could create something out of nothing. The likes of Trevor Brooking, Paolo Di Canio or one of my big favourites, Yossi Benayoun. In fact till recently try as might, we never managed to replace the mericual Israeli. But as they say in life every cloud has a silver lining .Upon taking over the managerial reigns at West Ham, Slaven Bilic sat down with the Owners to discuss transfer targets. He requested two creative midfielders, they did deliver…spectacularly as it turns out.
Even though he has left the club, few will argue that Dimitri Payet was one of the most creative players ever to don the Claret and Blue. A fantastic talent. The second one Manuel Lanzini, the Club simply CANNOT afford to lose. Transfer him at the end of the season, and we are in a relegation scrap next season. As simple as that! What we need to do is two bring in two or three top players, another creative player to assist Manuel 'The Jewel' Lanzini. Do that and the end of next season we will be saying: "Dimitri who??"
When the Club initially signed Lanzini, I was hopeful more than anything else. I had heard what Tim Vickery, the South American football expert had said that was a "skilful little playmaker who might be too light for the Premier League "The cynical part of me said; "God! Yet another Barry Silkman bum of the month! Doesn't Sullivan ever learn! "To be fair we have signed a whole host of South American bum of the month's .Added to that his parent club Al Zazira was hardly one of the great club's in world football.
How wrong I was! Manuel Lanzini is a great talent and most certainly our little magician, even in a poor season like this he was shone. All the good things that have happened on the pitch, have involved Lanzini. In fact he has grown in stature since Payet departed. His leap into the crowd when he scored in the next game after Payet's departure, had the hallmark of: "Yes! I'm your main man now! Lanzini is wasted out wide he must be deployed in the classical no ten role or the old style playmaker. Capable of quick one –two's, beating his man and leaving him for dead, capable of spectacular goal's. Always playing his football with a smile on his face.
Scorer of some spectacular goals, my favourite being his goal against Chelsea last season. I have noticed that he is starting to develop a good understanding on the pitch with Andrew Ayew, given time the understanding will become even better. Enabling them to open the opposition up with ease. With our man Manuel 'The Jewel' Lanzini, able to float like a butterfly sting like a bee, and at 24 is only going to get better. Despite this season's perils on and off the pitch, better days lay ahead. For the first time in decades we have some really promising youth coming through. No more excuses, if's or but's. The Board simply has to deliver and replace quantity with quality. Do that and The Jewel will light up The London Stadium and this seasons perils will be designated where they belong. History, we are more than a football club, we're a way of life!
Ribman rolls onto island
Filed: Thursday, 27th April 2017
By: Staff Writer
West Ham United's ever popular 'Ribman' has been granted a pitch outside the Olympic Stadium. Mark Gevaux, who has been trading under the psuedonym for several years and whose 'Rib Rolls' have become part of many supporters' match day ritual is the first independent trader to be granted a pitch directly outside the stadium. "Fans will be able to find me at Champions Place," a delighted Gevaux - who also has outlets in Brick Land and Euston Station - told KUMB. "I'll be there in time for the Liverpool game!"
Beginning at a pitch by the Boleyn Pub in Green Street, the Ribman and his fayre became hugely popular with Hammers fans during the club's final years in Upton Park. When the club moved to Stratford, the Ribman followed - and since last summer he has been working in conjunction with the Truman Brewery, where fans have been able to purchase a 'Trurib' membership for £10.
Four nicked in France as investigation continues
Filed: Thursday, 27th April 2017
By: Staff Writer
Four people have been arrested in France in connection with the HMRC raid on the Olympic Stadium yesterday. West Ham United staff were ordered to halt work on Wednesday morning as around 40 tax officials entered the club's offices in order to access sensitive financial data from the club's internal network. They are also reported to have seized a number of PCs. This morning, Le Parisien has confirmed that four individuals - three agents and one current player - are currently helping French Police with their enquiries, as the latest twist in an operation that involved around 180 officers on both sides of the Channel. Sylvain Marveaux - who represented Newcastle United between 2011 and 2016 - is said to be in custody assisting Police. The North East club were also raided by HMRC officers yesterday as part of the operation - whilst Chelsea were similarly asked to provide specific documentation relating to the enquiry.
HMRC confirmed in a brief statement that a number of raids had been carried out in relation to a suspected £5million fraud. "Several men working within the professional football industry have been arrested for a suspected income tax and national insurance fraud," it read. "Investigators have searched a number of premises in the North East and South East of England and arrested men and also seized business records, financial records, computers and mobile phones."
Slaven Bilic not panicking as West Ham look to reach 'magic number of 40' points with win over Stoke
Slaven Bilic has insisted he isn't feeling the nerves despite West Ham sitting just seven points above the relegation zone ahead of their trip to Stoke this weekend. The Hammers' goalless draw at home to Everton last Saturday moved the east Londoners closer to safety, with West Ham in 14th place in the standings - seven points above Swansea City, who languish in 18th position. With a trip to Stoke next up for the Hammers this Saturday, Bilic has insisted neither he nor the players are panicking about their situation but admitted securing all three points at the bet365 Stadium will help relieve the pressure on the club as they look to ensure their place in the top-flight for next season. "People are talking about speculation that 38 points will be enough, but in the history of the Premier League it's always that magic number of 40," Bilic said on Thursday. "We are not panicking, but none of the teams, until mathematically, are safe. "Maybe we have enough (points), but we can't be sure. We're three games unbeaten, and of course the confidence is higher. It's related to the way we are training and the games we play."
Bilic started Adrian in goal for the visit of Everton at the London Stadium last weekend, which paid off when the Spaniard helped the Hammers keep a clean sheet. Fellow goalkeeper Darren Randolph has been preferred by Bilic this season, having played 22 league games, but the West Ham boss admitted he doesn't yet know who will start in goal against Stoke. "I had a couple of meetings with them individually and explained my decisions," Bilic added. "Darren is a great professional, of course he is disappointed but he understood my decision. "He is training hard and waiting for his chance, just like Adrian waited for his."
Holland, Makasi, Quina and Rice - the West Ham youngsters destined for stardom
The PL2 squad have qualified for the play-offs and are destined for great things
15:14, 27 APR 2017
It's been a turbulent, up and down season for the West Ham first team as they struggled for Premier League survival, which now looks a lot more rosy than it was a month or so ago. Away from the first team, the Hammers second string - the PL2 side - have just qualified for the PL2 play-offs. They did it in style as well, smashing West Brom 4-1 at the Hawthorns on Monday night to finish the season in fifth. The Hammers side, managed by Terry Westley, are in Division Two, with victory in the play-offs meaning the winners will join Swansea City in Division One, who are champions of the second tier. All players born after 1 January 1993 for the 2016/17 season are eligible to play and each team can field a goalkeeper over the age limit and up to three 'over-age' outfield players in every match.
The likes of Arthur Masuaku, Havard Nordtveit, Jonathan Calleri and goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel have featured for the Hammers U23s this season. First teamers Ashley Fletcher and Edimilson Fernandes have played as well but they are not "over-age."
With West Ham finishing fifth in the table, they will take on Wolves, who finished second, on May 8 at Molineux and football.london will be there as well to bring you the action live. Newcaslte and Fulham's U23s will contest the other semi final at St James' Park on the same evening. The Hammers bolstered their squad with the signing of Nathan Holland from Everton in January and he has been superb for the U23s, while Toni Martinez could also feature in the semi final after his loan spell at Oxford United came to an end. With their successful season continuing, are there any of the youngsters who could breakthrough into the first team next season? We've taken a look and haven't included those players who have spent time out on loan this season. Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about Reece Oxford, Toni Martinez, Josh Cullen or Reece Burke.
The Hammers skipper has steered his side to the play-offs. The centre backs excellent displays for the youngsters this season has seen him rewarded with a first team squad place for the past two Premier League games away at Sunderland and at home to Everton. Rice didn't get any game time but he will surely have benefited for the experience. He was also voted the FAI (Ireland) U17 player of the season and has a a huge future ahead of him. Alongside Reece Oxford, he is the next centre back to be produced from the product line at the Hammers.
One of the more underrated players of the PL2 side, Makasi is a strong, defensive midfielder. Think of him as an almost carbon copy of Pedro Obiang and you'll get the picture. Another teenager who tasted the first team, Makasi was called into the squad for the Everton draw last Saturday. He narrowly missed out on a loan move in January, but continued his fine form and consistency for the U23s and has made 22 appearances so far, making the defensive midfield spot his own.
The winger was pinched from Everton back in February and if you saw his free kick in the vicotry over West Brom on Monday, you'll see what the fuss is all about (click the read more link below to see it). Holland had been training with the Everton U23s after signing his first professional deal but hadn't featured in any of their games before Westley - who first spotted the 18-year-old two years previously while keeping tabs on Reece Oxford - swooped in. Holland made a virtuoso performance in a 2-0 win for the U23s over Fulham at the London Stadium in February which led to Westley declaring him a "young Ryan Giggs." He's scored three goals in five games for the youngsters since joining. Again, Holland's performances haven't gone unnoticed and he was drafted into the matchday squad for the Everton game last weekend. With Robert Snodgrass and Sofiane Feghouli woefully underperforming, who knows, maybe Holland might get a chance before the season is out.
Burst on to the scene after scoring THAT 40-yard screamer against Leicester City at Dagenham earlier this season and has found himself a regular in the first team squad, without getting much game time. Expect him to heavily feature in the play-off and final if the Hammers get there, with the Hammers very highly-rating the young Portuguese star. He's played 16 times for the U23s this season, scoring twice and also bagging three assists. The rapid winger signed a new deal at West Ham earlier this season to keep him out of the clutches of circling vultures and expect him to feature more and more for the first team next season despite being just 18 years of age.
West Ham's Mark Noble to return from suspension against Stoke but Andy Carroll still out through injury
Slaven Bilic has confirmed that West Ham captain Mark Noble will return for the Hammers' trip to Stoke on Saturday, but revealed striker Andy Carroll remains sidelined with injury. Noble has missed West Ham's last two games through suspension after he picked up his 10th yellow card of the season in the 1-0 win at home to Swansea earlier this month. In the midfielder's absence, West Ham drew 2-2 at Sunderland before playing out a goalless draw with Everton at the London Stadium last Saturday. With the Hammers now sitting in 14th place in the Premier League standings - seven points off the drop zone - Bilic confirmed that Noble will be in his squad for the club's game with Stoke this weekend. "We have a few knocks from our last game, but we will see today in training and tomorrow our situation," Bilic said on Thursday. "We were off yesterday. One [piece of news] is definitely that Mark [Noble] is back in the squad after two games suspended."
West Ham United ✔ @WestHamUtd
SB: "@Noble16Mark is definitely going to be back in the squad on Saturday."#COYI
10:09 AM - 27 Apr 2017
However, the West Ham manager ruled Carroll out of the game after the striker failed to recover from a recurrence of a thigh problem which meant he missed the trip to Goodison Park last weekend. "Unfortunately, Andy Carroll won't be available for this game," Bilic added. "I was expecting him to be back for this Stoke game, but he's not, so he should be for the next game against Spurs. He should be OK."
West Ham insist it is business as usual following tax raid by HMRC on Wednesday
The Hammers were hit by a tax raid at London Stadium on Wednesday morning but manager Slaven Bilic remained silent on the issue as the club insist it has nothing to do with the first-team squad
11:58, 27 APR 2017
West Ham insisted it was business as usual this morning after their tax raid by HMRC yesterday, Slaven Bilic remained silent on the issue with the club insistent it has nothing to do with the current first-team squad. Bilic did reveal, however, that Andy Carroll remains out with a groin injury and will miss Saturday's trip to Stoke. He said: "I expected him to be back for this game but he should be for the next game against Spurs, he should be ok."
Bilic has also revealed his players remain well aware that they are banned from gambling following Joey Barton's 18-month suspension for placing 1260 bets. Bilic said: "I haven't reminded them. The players know it is a rule, like the rule that you can't use your hands on the pitch. "You can't be involved in any sort of gambling, the players should know and they do - you don't have to remind them.
"It is a big shame when a player does that because the suspension is severe but it's his mistake and I don't know why he did it.
"It is severe but it has got to be severe. I'm not happy to see any suspensions but when they make such a big mistake then they are the one to blame."
Bilic admitted the issue of gambling remains a thorny one with so much advertising in the sport - including at his own club. He added: "Gambling is bigger now. It is a bit of hypocrisy as well. When I was playing I didn't see a lot of adverts for gambling. Now, at half-time they are twice or three times and most of the adverts are for gambling. "When I was playing players were also gambling and there wasn't so much control. Now the FA are controlling it and have the instruments to find out. "It's a big business and nobody is stopping big businesses."
Bilic's press conference: Everything the boss said as West Ham travel to Stoke without Andy Carroll and praise for Arthur Masuaku
What did the boss have to say ahead of the weekend trip to Stoke?
11:24, 27 APR 2017
Slaven Bilic held his pre-Stoke press conference on Thursday after an explosive 24 hours the day before following HMRC raids at the club.
The boss didn't answer questions on the raids as both he and the players had a day off on Wednesday and were unaffected by everything that was going on at Rush Green and at the London Stadium. Bilic did speak about the trip to Stoke this weekend, the impact James Collins has had and also, Joey Barton's 18-month ban for gambling offences.
Here is everything Bilic had to say at his presser.
Mark Noble is back from suspension. We had a few knocks from the [Everton] game and then we will see today and tomorrow. We were off yesterday and we will see today in training. Definitely, Mark is back in the squad after two games out. Andy [Carroll] ? No. Not for this game. I expected him back for this game but he is not so he should be OK for the next game against Spurs.
Are you looking up the table or over your shoulders?
It's a good gap, we have of seven points but still we need points, the people are talking about get 38 and we are safe but no, it's irrelevant. We have four games have a big game Saturday for us and them. They are one point ahead of us and we want to finish as high as possible so that means we need points.
We are in the situation we have to do a bit of both. There is a gap between us and mid-table which is very small, one game gap, the gap towards the teams below us is bigger but still, four games to go, 12 points, that's why we have to think about both. We have to concentrate on our next game and get points from that, it's the best way to approach the game. Only the next game is important so we are approaching it as four cup finals and try to get points in all of them.
How has the form of James Collins impacted the team?
He is exactly like he is on the pitch great - to have him. He is like Braveheart, he is also very good to have off the pitch because he is one of the leaders. A leader with a big heart, there for everyone. He is a joker also, he likes to make fun. The way he is playing, he deserves a lot of praise with the energy he puts in, the dedication and determination too.
Does that mean you don't need a signing like John Terry?
Well, of course when you look for new possible players, positions that you need, it mainly depends on how the players in your squad already are playing and when you see Collins like that, you are not that crazy to need to strengthen your squad there. It is related, it is the number one reason why you look for a new recruit or not. I only praise John Terry, said things about him not more than any manager that was asked about him as a player, leader, his career. That's all.
How did Darren Randolph react to be dropped?
He was good. I had a couple of meetings with them and explained my decision, like I did to Adrian after ten games or whatever and Darren, he is a great professional and of course he was disappointed and all that but he understood my decision completely and is training hard and waiting for his chance, like Adrian did with his. I always said, we have two really good goalkeepers and it is a blessing for us. You never know what is going to happen in football.
Your reaction to Joey Barton's gambling ban?
I didn't remind them [his players]. We had at the beginning of the season a meeting and one around January when the people from the FA came. The players know it is a rule. It's a rule that you can't play with your hands on the pitch, you cant pull the player on a corner because it'll be a penalty so the same rule is that you can't be involved in gambling. The players know that. Sometimes they think they can get away with it but they know, it is a big shame when the player does it because the suspension is severe. But, it is his mistake and I don't know why he did it.I don't know the history, is it the first time, second, whatever but it is a big fine. Especially when he is not a young player, it is severe. The FA or whoever done it has to show strictness and how serious they are, it has to be severe. It cant be "just don't do it again." I am not happy with any suspensions or whatever because you don;t like to see players not able to do what they do. But when they do such a big mistake then they are the one to blame.
Are your team safe now?
I don't feel safe. To be fair, none of the teams there are, only when you are mathematically, that is the truth. Maybe this 38 will be enough but now at this moment, no team is totally safe just yet until you mathematically are. Thats the only way to think about it.
Are you more confident after the unbeaten run?
There is a higher confidence, we have a small run of three unbeaten, five points, the gap is there. When you have a good memory you are unbeaten the confidence in the players is higher and as a team, you have team confidence to and it is related to the way you are training and approaching the next game.
How important is Arthur Masuaku to the side?
He's very young player, he came a little bit unnoticed from Greece, he's 23 and he came not on the last day of the window but it was the last day we were looking to strengthen that position when Cresswell got injured in pre-season. We took Arthur for the reasons that he plays that position really good, he has got everything that position requires. He is quick, strong, a good defender, athlete, good touch and cross and everything. He also needed time to adjust, the league, new language, culture and evrything. He was lively at the beginning then got injured but then he waited for his chance, improved a lot and is in good form. The way he played last few games is good and impressive, he has to continue like that of course.
The future at West Ham is bright after Josh Cullen scoops four awards at Bradford City ceremony
The on-loan Hammers youngster has been superb for the Bantams
07:00, 27 APR 2017
Josh Cullen had a sensational evening at the Bradford City end of season awards on Monday night, taking home four trophies all to himself. The on-loan Hammers youngster picked up the the Supporters Trust Under 25s Player of the Year, the White Abbey Supporters Branch Player of the Year, the Social Media Player of the Season and the Players' Player of the Year award as he filled up his trophy cabinet in one evening. It's the second loan spell Cullen has had at Valley Parade in the past couple of seasons. He initially joined the club temporarily in February last year for just a month but such was the impression he made, it was extended until the end of that season.
Then last August ahead of this season, he signed for Bradford again on an initial five-month loan. Come the end of that, it was extended for the rest of this campaign and his sensational displays have let to him almost sweeping the board at the end of season shindig. Still only 21, Cullen has now made 58 appearances in League One for the Bantams. His form this year also led to him being named captain for the Republic of Ireland U21 side, leading them to a 1-0 win over Kosovo in the Euro U21 Championship qualifiers.
It's surely got to be in Slaven Bilic's mind to bring Cullen into the first team fold for next season, to learn alongside the likes of Pedro Obiang and captain Mark Noble.
Sunderland should sign West Ham keeper Adrian to replace want-away Pickford
Sunderland should look to West Ham's Adrian if Jordan Pickford leaves the club this summer. Sunderland look set to lose the services of their number one goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, with Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City interested in his signature. The Express reports that the Black Cats will demand £15million for the 23-year-old, who will look to leave the club when the Black Cats are confirmed to be relegated from the Premier League. David Moyes' side currently sit 12 points adrift of Hull City in 17th, having only picked up two points in their last eight Premier League fixtures. With relegation seemingly inevitable for Sunderland, Moyes should plan ahead for Pickford's replacement, and West Ham keeper Adrian could be an ideal replacement. Although Spanish keeper Adrian was restored to the first team ahead of Darren Randolph for West Ham's recent game against Everton, it looks likely his future will lie away from the Hammers. The 30-year-olds contract expires in the summer, and David Moyes should try and tempt the former Real Betis man to helping a Sunderland side facing a likely promotion chase in the Championship next season.
Slaven Bilic should target Manchester United outcast Matteo Darmian to solve right back problem
The right back position at West Ham United has been a problem for years but could a Manchester United outcast be the answer. The Hammers have consistently failed to recruit a player of sufficient quality and experience to make the position their own long term.
Carl Jenkinson showed bags of promise during his season long loan from Arsenal under Sam Allardyce. But when it was renewed for a second season last term the Gunner struggled under Slaven Bilic and suffered a season ending knee injury. The promising Sam Byram was signed from Leeds United but was dipped in and out of the side by Bilic who preferred to use midfielders Havard Nordtveit and Cheikhou Kouyate there instead. Recently Byram has proved he has what it takes to perform at Premier League level but regardless the Hammers will want to bring in better and need competition for places. So Bilic could do a lot worse than compete with AC Milan to sign Manchester United outcast Matteo Darmian, who looks set to leave this summer according to Tuttomercatoweb. Darmian has cast doubt on his Red Devils future after being rarely used by Jose Mourinho this season but he is up against the most consistent performer in the top flight in Antonio Valencia. The former Torino right back and Italian international could team up with compatriot Angelo Ogbonna at the London Stadium. At 28 Darmian has his best years ahead of him and while he remains coy on his future, he intimated a move could be in the offing this summer. "I wouldn't know what to say right now [about the future]," Darmian told Tuttomercatoweb. "The campaign isn't over yet and I am really concentrated on this final rush. I cannot predict my future. "We all know that in this profession you can be somewhere one day and in a completely different place the next, but it would be inopportune to discuss it now. "I am focused on getting the best with Manchester United, then at the right time we'll evaluate the situation."
WEST HAM ARE GIVING EVERYBODY A CRASH COURSE IN HOW NOT TO RUN A FOOTBALL CLUB IN 2017
JOE HULBERT @HulbertJoe
Over the past couple of months, a man who has come under increasing pressure is West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic. A quick search on social media will tell you that the former Besiktas manager is a divisive figure, with the fans being split at almost a 50-50 level over what should happen with him in the summer. I am of the opinion, that it doesn't matter if West Ham sack Slaven Bilic, or keep him, because there are some fundamental problems with the football club that make it near impossible for any manager to function. Bilic has his flaws, but any manager West Ham are realistically able to get will also have flaws, just vastly different ones. Bilic has made some bizarre tactical decisions this year, but in honesty, he has been forced into them because he has been given a terrible squad to work with. Even outside of the Dimitri Payet transfer, West Ham's recruitment in the summer was an embarrassment, and you could make a good argument that the Hammers are about where they should be in the table based on squad quality.
The first problem with West Ham as a club, is that their board members are taking up roles that they simply shouldn't be allowed to be in. After a recent defeat, David Gold came out and apologised to the supporters for the performance. Gold may have had good intentions with this simple act, but it is not his place to apologise on behalf of the manager.
One thing Slaven Bilic cannot be accused of is not caring as he knows what it means to play for, and to be a part of West Ham United. What looked like a simple act of kindness from David Gold was actually an act that completely undermined Slaven Bilic's authority at the football club.
For Gold, such antics have become worryingly routine and it is incredible that more people are not calling him out for it. David Gold is clearly a smart man, but he is far too involved with the matchday side of the football club, and this makes the job highly unattractive for most managers.
Another problem is West Ham's bizarre transfer set-up, which has completely hindered the club for a long time. They currently have a three-man transfer committee of Slaven Bilic, Tony Henry and David Sullivan, and all three men have to sign off on a transfer for it to go through.
With all due respect to Sullivan, there is no way he should be on such a committee as he isn't a football man, he is a businessman. There is nothing wrong with an owner taking a large interest in the club, but having someone without a football background sign off on transfers is just wrong and potentially dangerous.
Some may argue that Sullivan just wants to make sure that anything coming into the football club is of sufficient quality, but it isn't his place to judge transfers in this way. His job is to set the budget, but beyond that, he has to trust Bilic and Henry to use the money well, and build a good squad. The only time it would be acceptable for Sullivan to veto a transfer, is if Bilic wanted to bring in someone with an unsavoury past, but this hasn't been the case at West Ham.
Slaven Bilic is one of the better managers in the Premier League, so the lack of trust in him is simply alarming at this point. Bilic has experience of managing all across the continent and this makes him well connected. If Slaven Bilic wants a player who can be bought for a sensible amount, then it shouldn't matter what David Sullivan thinks, as football matters should be left to managers, and potentially a Director of Football.
Most managers who would be an improvement on Bilic would never want to work in such a strange transfer system, as someone with the experience of Roberto Mancini or Mark Hughes would not want an entrepreneur giving his opinion on footballing matters.
Roberto Mancini is one of the desired candidates for a lot of West Ham fans, but it is puzzling to see why he would take this job. The size of the club and the London Stadium, in combination with a terrific fanbase make the job an attractive one, but a man like Roberto Mancini isn't someone who would take orders off someone he felt to be inferior to him.
While he was manager of Manchester City, Roberto Mancini had a public spat with Director of Football Brian Marwood, who failed to land Daniele De Rossi and Robin van Persie in the summer of 2012. The end result was that Marwood was moved to a different role, but it was clear that Mancini had little time for him as he gave Mancini players he felt were not good enough to help Manchester City challenge in Europe.
However, at least Marwood was a man with a footballing background and someone who knew how to navigate the increasingly brutal European transfer market. In comparison, David Sullivan is completely out of his depth in terms of transfers, and to put it simply, he should be running the football club like a business, which is something he is very good at.
It wouldn't make sense for Roberto Mancini to take the West Ham job, because the current conditions are similar to, yet worse, than the conditions that caused him to lose control at Manchester City. Mancini would want full control, and West Ham's current structure wouldn't allow him this.
Many West Ham fans have good reason for wanting Slaven Bilic out, some of his tactical decisions have been strange this season, and the defending has been awful, especially from set pieces. But, he isn't being helped by a football club that seems to be being run in a terribly unprofessional and unusual manner.
West Ham's summer was a complete and utter disaster, as they ended up missing out on the big money targets, and resorted to signing a bunch of mediocre players for small fees. West Ham have spent £70 million on transfers over the last nine months, and the only real successes have been youngster Edmilson Fernandes, and potentially Andre Ayew. They spent a combined £17 million on Robert Snodgrass and Jose Fonte, which shows that the people at the top of West Ham United are completely clueless, and they need to overhaul their entire transfer system.
Some may want to place blame on Bilic for these signings, but the reality is that he was completely desperate, as he chased players such as Michy Bathuayi, Carlos Bacca and Benjamin Mendy in the summer, and ended up with Simone Zaza, Arthur Masuaku and Jonathan Calleri.
I am not here to villify those who want Bilic out, but I truly do not know what people expect him to do in such a poorly structured work environment. He has most probably had good signings denied by David Sullivan, and he has certainly been undermined by the ridiculous twitter antics of David Gold, and other figures on social media.
As of now, West Ham United are giving everybody a crash course in how NOT to run a football club in 2017, and Slaven Bilic may become the victim of what has become a shambles of an operation. His sacking wouldn't be a disgraceful one, but sacking him alone will not fix West Ham United, they need to look closer to home if they want to compete in an increasingly competitive Premier League.
TAXMEN HIT BA Demba Ba's transfer from West Ham to Newcastle in 2011 'sparked HMRC probe as other deals were investigated'
It is believed investigators scrutinised the separate UK transfers and launched an inquiry last year
By Paul Sims, Mike Sullivan, David Coverdale, Gary O'Shea and Richard Moriarty
27th April 2017, 12:15 am Updated: 27th April 2017, 6:55 am
NEWCASTLE United and West Ham United were raided by the taxman yesterday as part of a £5 million fraud probe into football transfers and agent fees – thought to have been triggered by striker Demba Ba's transfer between the clubs in 2011. The Senegal star, 31, made 54 appearances for the Toon before signing for Chelsea in 2013. It is believed investigators scrutinised the separate UK transfers and launched an inquiry last year. A source said: "They then started looking at other player transfers, ownership, payments to players and agents and crucially image rights. "Image rights had been widely used to avoid paying national insurance and income tax on player salaries. The money was paid into offshore accounts. "Newcastle and West Ham were repeatedly asked to cooperate but officers felt they were far from helpful. There is a large focus on the movements of players between France and England from 2011 onwards. French authorities are assisting."
There have been numerous transfers between French League One side Marseille and both Newcastle and West Ham in recent years. The most high profile is Dimitri Payet's switch from Marseille to London in 2015 for more than £15million. He rejoined his former club for £25million in January. Newcastle bought France winger Florian Thauvin for a reported £15million in 2015 and loaned him back to Marseille for two seasons. He is due to be sold back to Marseilles this summer for £9.8million. Other French player transfers implicated include those of Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy. Cabaye left Newcastle in 2014 and joined French side Paris Saint-Germain before returning to England with Crystal Palace in July 2015. Debuchy left Newcastle at the same time and joined Arsenal. The defender is currently on loan to French side Bordeaux. Another transfer due to be examined by fraud investigators is that of Henri Saivet who was signed by Newcastle from Bordeaux for £4.5million in January 2016. Saivet's move triggered a row involving his agent of ten years Franck Peslerbe, Newcastle chief scout Graham Carr and the Magpies managing director Lee Charnley. Peslerbe claimed Carr told Saivet he would have to change agents if he wanted to move to Newcastle. The Senegal international, 25, allegedly signed a five-and-a-half year deal after switching to agent Rudy Raba. Peslerbe claims the Magpies subsequently increased the agent's fee from the standard five per cent of Saivet's £35,000-a-week salary to eight per cent. It meant Raba banked £800,000 —— £300,000 more than Peslerbe would have earned.
The contract, seen by The Sun, demands Raba's commission be paid upfront rather than the usual staggered payments over the length of the deal. Peslerbe said: "Henri called me and said he had received a call from Carr, who asked him to sign a mandate with Raba if he really wanted to move to Newcastle. "Carr had apparently said to Henri that it was difficult to make a deal with a French agent, so it was better for him to let this other agent work on the deal. "I immediately called and emailed Carr to give him the chance to say he had no direct part in it. I got no response so I emailed Charnley about it and he replied telling me not to contact Carr anymore about this case. "But what reason could there be for Carr to tell the player to sign for another agent?"
Neither the Metropolitan, City of London, nor the Northumbria Police force were involved in the raids. At a recent parliamentary hearing the HMRC said 43 players, 12 teams and eight agents were being investigated. They said the probe was looking at "the potential abuse" of the rules relating to image rights. It described the image rights issue as "the most significant tax risk among footballers".
In December, Wayne Rooney was revealed as one of the players under suspicion for "tax-dodging". The Manchester United and England star was named by MP Charlie Elphicke as among those being "accused of dirtying the beautiful game with a culture of excessive greed". Rooney denies wrongdoing. Tax investigation expert Mark Taylor said: "HMRC has been targeting football, image rights and payments made under transfer for some time. This is the biggest HMRC criminal action into football. It is on an eye-opening scale." The HMRC said: "We have arrested several men working within the professional football industry for a suspected income tax and national insurance fraud.
"A total of 180 HMRC officers have been deployed across the UK and France. This criminal investigation sends a clear message that, whoever you are, if you commit tax fraud you can expect to face the consequences. Newcastle said: "We can confirm a member of staff has been assisting HMRC with inquiries."
West Ham said: "The club is cooperating fully with HMRC." Chelsea said: "HMRC has requested certain information which the club will provide." Demba Ba now plays for Turkish side Besiktas.