Blowing Bubbles’s top writers settle down to put the world to rights

We have interviewed Harry Redknapp in this month's issue, where does he rate in the list of best West Ham managers?

We have interviewed Harry Redknapp in this month’s issue, where does he rate in the list of best West Ham managers?

Marcus Johns: I think Harry has to be judged on merit, and not people’s opinions of him as a person. Finishing fifth in 1999 was an incredible achievement. Had he not been forced to sell the good young players, who knows what we could have achieved. Without the longevity of Greenwood or Lyall, it’s difficult to say what could have been, but we’ve yet to hire a better manager since he left.

Brian Williams: I used to love H when I was a kid. Harry, Harry Redknapp, Harry Redknapp on the wiiiiing! I used to sing that to myself when I was standing outside the headmistress’s office waiting to get another bollocking after getting into trouble for pledging my allegiance to WHUFC with a sharp implement on the desks at school. But I can never forgive him for stitching up Billy Bonds. You just don’t do that to your mates, do you? And you certainly don’t do it to my all-time favourite Hammer. Our best ever manager? For me it’s John Lyall.

David Meagher: Certainly the most amusing! Hazza brought a whole added dimension to our fabled “West Ham Way” with his crafty wheeling and dealing. He created a buzz around the club that has only returned with the prospect of the Bilic era. Only ‘Arry could manage madness ranging from Di Canio to Boogers in one crazy spell.

Andrew Hosie: Well, let’s say he did a reasonable job. He got us a fifth placed finish but that success couldn’t be replicated, infact it quickly dropped away, so in that respect it was a one off – an over achievement. He also never got us to a semi final in a cup competition. Even Avram Grant managed that. So, definitely not listed as one of the greats, but perfectly adequate!

Where do you think West Ham will finish this season?

MJ: A lot will depend on how far we progress in Europe. Many people cite the sacking of Sam as West Ham fans having ideas of grandeur — we know we are not a top six club. I think an improvement on last season’s twelfth but playing attractive football will be a plus. I think eighth to tenth is realistic.

BW: Like most West Ham fans, I hope for the best and fear the worst. We all know we’re not going to finish in the top four, but I do hope we get a chance to roll out the ‘Barcelona, we’re coming for you’ chant again this season. That was hilarious, even by West Ham’s unbelievably high standards. I kinda think we’ll avoid relegation, too, although I have got my fingers and toes crossed as I say this. A good cup run would be nice. The last ever game at Upton Park being against Swansea is a real anti-climax — a trip to Wembley would almost make up for that.

DM: We had this out last week in our local. Sixth but only if we bring in a reliable striker. The excellent options in defence and midfield suggest that we can avoid the usual post-Christmas slump. Payet looks like he could be a talismanic signing who will keep opposition defences nervous, while our full backs should be freed up to rampage down the wings under the new 4-2-3-1 Bilic system. We will concede more but score plenty.

AH: This is a difficult one. If we don’t produce results quickly there’s a danger of a snowball effect building quite quickly. Looking at the fixture list, nowhere do we seem to have a run where we could win four in a row to help us out if things are getting a bit sticky. I think we’ll do very well to get into the top eight, but it wouldn’t be out of the question to end up in a similar position to the previous season. Although I’m sure it’ll be a more entertaining watch

Which of the Hammers’ summer signings are you most looking forward to watching?

MJ: It’ll be interesting to see how quickly they all adapt, but the one most buzz seems to be around is Payet. We’ve been crying out for a genuine playmaker, and it seems as if we’ve finally found one. After a great start against Southend, it’ll be interesting to see how he manages the step up.

BW: Martin Samuelsen could be the real deal by all accounts. And I think we’re all expecting great things from Dimitri Payet. I fear Manuel Lanzini could be another one of those punts that looks exciting at the time but turns out to be nothing special in the end. (Sorry, did someone just say Savio?) There is one bloke I’d like to see turn out for us occasionally, though. Big fella with a pony tail. Andy something or other. I’ve heard he’s quite useful.

DM: It’s got to be Payet who looks amazing. Lanzini has plenty to do to replace Downing of pre-Christmas last year but Bilic seems chuffed to have captured ‘the jewel’. It’ll be interesting to see if Ogbonna is the addition at centre back that Bilic believes him to be. Andy Carroll is again like a ‘new’ signing and might finally deliver on his undoubted potential. Season two will be defining for Valencia as it often takes time for South Americans to fully adjust – if he gets off to a good start we can expect fireworks.

AH: Dimitri Payet. His debut may well not have been against the greatest opposition but we can still say he made an impression. I do hope he won’t have to carry us though and that once we’re playing our first choice eleven the whole team will work as a cohesive unit.

What do West Ham still need to do in the transfer market?

MJ: People talk of another striker, but I’m not so sure. Sakho, Valencia and Carroll, if/ when fit, are more than sufficient to cover a lone striker role. Some of our better business would be to move on some of the players who are now surplus — Nolan, Jarvis etc. — and concentrate on the youth prospects.

BW: Buy some luck. And some decent referees. But you can’t buy referees, can you? Not unless you’re Fifa.

DM: We look sorted apart from a striker or two, and a winger. Charlie Austin is a proven consistent Premiership poacher and looks perfect for the job of striker. We need a winger who can cross the ball with speed, unlike Jarv and Amalfitano who prefer to float the ball.

AH: I do feel we need another striker. It looks like we’ll at least start with Payet and Valencia playing opposite sides of the pitch feeding Sakho and hopefully the Payet/ Sakho partnership will flourish. However, with Carroll out until at least October, it’s taking a risk not reinforcing in that area and let’s face it when West Ham take a risk it never pays off. Also hopefully another winger to replace Downing. I think Jarvis will be OK for Europa League games for the moment but Lanzini will need time to grow into his role

What is West Ham’s best current centre-back pairing?

MJ: Who can say?! Without seeing Ogbonna play, it’s too early to assess. Until we signed Ogbonna, with the amount of midfielders being bought in, plus with Song and Diarra linked, I’d half wondered if we were going to see Kouyate as a centre half prepared to bring the ball out from the back. Right now, I’d probably controversially say Kouyate with Reid.

BW: This is a really difficult question. Win ston is a great defender, but gets done for pace occasionally. Tomkins oozes class most of the time, but his positional sense can be dodgy. The Reeces (Oxford and Burke) are both tremendous prospects, but centre-back isn’t the position to chance your arm on a “prospect” in the Premier League. Big Ginge is a legend, albeit a rather static legend these days, and Ogbonna is clearly no mug having played for Juve 41 times. How you pair that lot up is anyone’s guess. But the one player I would find room for every week is Cheik Kouyate. I’d prefer him in midfield, but if there’s no room for him there I’d rather he was in the back four than on the bench.

DM: A tough one. Reid and either James Tomkins or Ogbonna. We will probably play further up the field this year which won’t suit Collins. The Reeces are on the way but they will need another season to really push for places in the starting line up.

AH: I think the strongest pairing for us at the moment is Reid and Ogbonna. Let’s hope our centre halves can remain relatively injury free and so the first choices will be continually pushed to perform at their best. It’s good to hear that James Tomkins has welcomed the competition and will fight for a first team place, maybe he’ll up his game. Collins is an adequate replacement if needed and we have some strong academy players coming through to help out.

Who do you think will win the Premier League title?

MJ: Chelsea were streets ahead last year, but haven’t really strengthened. Similarly, I’d say Man City are about on a par with where they were last year. I think this year will see the re-emergence of Arsenal and Man United challenging. With Liverpool to pip City for fourth.

BW: Crystal Palace. This prediction is based less on form and more on the fact that my mate who supports the Eagles, and with whom I have a pound-a-point bet now Palace are back in the Prem, is such a jammy dodger they will undoubtedly finish above us again this year — meaning I will be obliged to put my hand in my pocket once more. The one thing that would make it bearable, should it happen for the third season on the bounce, is that they actually win the title and wipe the smile off the collective face of every Chelski supporter in the country.

DM: Chelski again unless teams work out how to expose their ageing defence. Man United will be stronger for LVGs bedding in year but are probably still porous at the back and Old Trafford isn’t as terrifying as of Fergie times. Man City will continue to intermittently stumble. The Gooners will struggle to recover from a first day hammering from Bilic’s braves.

AH: It was interesting that Jose Mourinho has accused other teams of trying to buy the title this year and I guess that’s aimed directly at Louis Van Gaal as Wenger had a slight dig at Manchester United too. Van Gaal says he needs one more superstar signing and relying on Rooney so much might mean they fall a little short. Arsenal have looked almost unplayable at times in their pre-season so they could be strong contenders this year, if their midfield keeps on producing the goods, Liverpool again appear to be employing a ‘scattergun’ approach to transfers. Man City will challenge, but I think Chelsea should hold them off.

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