Five out of three Ain’t Bad

It's not so much Tales from the Sandpit as Tales from the Storm this week as I write this from Scotland after attending my brother's wedding on the windbattered west coast.

It’s not so much Tales from the Sandpit as Tales from the Storm this week as I write this from Scotland after attending my brother’s wedding on the windbattered west coast.

Wave after wave of rain pelting in on high winds meant that after all the wedding merriment was over and I had a few days to relax, any activity had to be of the inside variety. Thus in time honoured tradition Tales from the sandpit 24 BLOWING BUBBLES a trip to the cinema was made.

I had resisted previous attempts of others to get me to watch Skyfall. In fact I can’t remember the last Bond film I’d actually bothered to go and see. Definitely not Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale and that lot, and Golden Eye I’d only experienced on the N64.

However, the hype had been so intense, the reviews had been phenomenal, everyone I spoke to said it was brilliant, even the woman at the ticket counter said it was ‘och, absolootely amaaazing’ in her Scottish drawl. So it had to be good, it had to be great, I had to be entertained. Yet I wasn’t. Is it just me that found it tedious, contrived, poorlyscripted and definitely NOT the best Bond film ever made?

Maybe so but I think you might get exactly where I’m going with this (talking of tedious and contrived). My expectations had been elevated to such a degree that I don’t think I could have failed to be disappointed at the cinema, pretty much just like Monday night’s match against Stoke. West Ham had no given right to win that match, just look at the results over the previous couple of days — Man United losing, Chelsea losing, Everton losing, Southampton beating QPR away, Sunderland scoring THREE – yet I had the expectation we should win.

I guess it shows just how many strides we’ve taken forward in the time since Sam Allardyce arrived that I did expect that we’d come away with three points and we would catapult ourselves in to fifth place in the league. It’s that cycle, though – the team does well, the expectation grows. The team does better, the expectation grows further until a result comes in that doesn’t exceed expectations and spirits sag.

Yet ask anyone how many points we would achieve over the trio of matches, Man City, Newcastle and Stoke and I reckon only a few would hazard a guess at more than three. We got five and only conceded once in the process. Indeed, that’s another great improvement since Sam came in – who would have thought our defence would ever be described as being ‘miserly’ rather than ‘suicidal’ or ‘calamitous’? What is a tad frustrating, however, is the number of times the team seems to struggle in the first half of matches at home before getting a kick up the backside at half time.

Why is that do you think? It happened against Stoke, it was the case against Southampton, our first half against Sunderland wasn’t great and Aston Villa on the opening day of the season wasn’t a barrel of laughs at all, to be frank, despite the win. There just seems to be an air of lethargy sometimes like they’d rather be out for a stroll or, better than that, in front of the fire with their feet up, reading the paper or watching Eastenders. Then it’s inside for 20 minutes and back out with all guns blazing — I’d love to know what Sam says to them in the dressing room after forty five minutes – just wish sometimes he’d say that before the first half kicks off.

Or maybe he does and the extra oomph is more due to something the tea lady puts in the half time cuppa. It’s frustrating at times and possibly has lost us a point or two this season. Perhaps that was the case on Monday night but, overall, the Stoke game wasn’t bad — it wasn’t the best match ever, but it definitely wasn’t up there with the worst — there was a lot of huffing and puffing, a lot of hoofing and in the case of Andy Carroll a lot of swearing, so I guess 1-1 was a fair result.

And I suppose a little lowering of expectations could be seen to be a good thing; it’s just a somewhat unusual and enjoyable experience to go in to matches expecting or hoping West Ham will come away with three points rather than fearing a disaster is about to be played out over the next 90 minutes!

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