I do enjoy it when I know the West Ham match is also being shown live in the UK as well as them being on every week over here in the UAE.
It’s good to follow the Twitter banter and also keep in touch with my West Ham friends at home sharing a common moment separated by more than 3,000 miles. I also like to compare notes on the different ways Sky Sports or ESPN are covering the game and which personnel they’ve installed to provide in studio punditry or commentary.
The contributors to Premier League TV who provide the coverage broadcast on Abu Dhabi Sports do a pretty good job, on the whole, and you’ll find that half the managers you thought were unemployed and disappeared are earning a decent bob or two waffling away before, during and after the matches. Roll up Alan Curbishley to name but one.
Comparing and contrasting the teams involved for the West Ham — Liverpool shift, I was quite happy with who we’d been assigned on PLTV. There was David Pleat, who, I found, likes to chat, doesn’t he? Never one to shut up when a lengthy monologue will do, David was chirpy throughout the match, issuing anecdotes, history lessons and general observations on anything and everything vaguely related to the game playing out in front of him on the pitch.
About halfway through the second half he’d been waxing lyrical about our performance up to then and it was particularly pleasing to hear him comment on how every West Ham supporter should be proud of what we were witnessing and that the team was definitely putting on a performance worthy of a top six Premier side.
I couldn’t have agreed more and was thoroughly enjoying another truly inspiring performance on the back of our Chelsea victory. And then it happened. With West Ham well in control and pushing for a third, down Diame went like a sack of spuds. Seven minutes later Liverpool lead and to be fair we never looked like we’d get back in to the match. I had written in issue 2 of this very fanzine that it looked like Diame would prove to be an inspired signing for us and that has certainly been the case. There’s no doubt in my mind that if he’d remained on the pitch against Liverpool we would not have lost
What must be worrying for Allardyce, perhaps, is the reliance on him we appear to have developed in such a short space of time. Would our second half against Chelsea have been so convincing if it wasn’t for him driving us forward? Would we have been able to shift gear so quickly against Liverpool without him orchestrating the midfield? Him leaving the pitch and the profound effect on the team afterwards would suggest not and it’s a case of what do we do in his absence? James Tomkins, as Diame’s replacement on Saturday, showed that his midfield performances last year in the Championship can only ever be Championship performances.
Indeed, looking at Tomkins, you’ve got to question what role if any he has at the club if he’s not now seen as a first choice defender. However, that’s not for discussion now. So what happens now? With initial reports suggesting that Diame could be out for anything up to 12 weeks possibly proving to be slightly inaccurate the worry is that if he is fit again sooner rather than later, as the player himself suggests, it reopens the possibility of a team coming in and taking him away from us in the January transfer window.
At least there was the ‘every cloud…’ saying to provide a little bit of ‘on the bright side’ banter thinking that Diame would perhaps fall off the radar if not performing his magic on the pitch for us over Christmas and in to the New Year.
And what’s with this release clause of £3.5m? Well, I believe that figure is a standard fee often used in free transfers simply to stick something in and I’m assuming they’re never triggered because, with due respect to free transfer players, in the majority of cases they’d not be seen to be a team changing signing attracting admiring glances from directors now kicking themselves for not getting him in the summer.
In this case it’s different and we cannot and we must not allow Diame to go in the transfer window. However long it transpires he’s out injured for it’s clear that he’s a vital part of our midfield machine and we’ll just have to hope the rest roll their sleeves up, dig in and scrap for every ball until he’s ready to don the Claret and Blue again. And let’s hope Diame’s optimistic self-assessment on his recovery rate is not a ‘come and get me — don’t worry I’ll be fine in a couple of weeks’ plea to other Premier League clubs.