Pub talk

The Blowing Bubbles team settle down to put the world to rights.

Looking back at the last campaign as a whole, what was your highlight of the 2015-16 season?

Emily Pulham: This is like picking a favourite child – can’t do it. Winning at Arsenal, at Anfield, Andy Carroll’s thundering comeback of a hat trick, every time we came back from a goal down instead of throwing an extra defender on and minimising damage – so many good moments.

Kiran Moodley: The seven-minute turnaround either side of half time against Arsenal at home. When we were 2-0 down, I thought it was going to be a drubbing. But I haven’t experienced such euphoria and optimism in such a short space of time for so long, nor felt a game turn on its head in such an unbelievable fashion.

Lucy Woolford: The win at Anfield and beating Spurs at home both stand out in terms of games, but the ultimate highlight has to be that last home game against Man Utd. You couldn’t have written a script better than that, it was just a perfect closing statement for the Boleyn Ground. Even though I wasn’t there, I’ll never forget it.

Brian Williams: The last game at the Boleyn Ground was an unforgettable night. I don’t generally cry in public, so the pollen count must have been particularly high when the brass band played Abide With Me. I can think of no other explanation for the moisture dripping from my mince pies at that moment.

And the worst moment?

EP: This is tough, it’s between losing to Bournemouth or Swansea at home. Bournemouth was a shambles; we were dreadful but Swansea was worse. All we had to do was beat them and we’d have been in Europe and finished our season on a high – instead we fell to pieces. It still hurts.

KM: The 4-1 defeats against Tottenham and Swansea. They will be forgotten by many, but I feel they may be crucial in showing the cracks that may be come out next season if we don’t tighten things up.

LW: I think the away draw against Leicester was the game that annoyed me the most and I felt like it was season over in terms of fourth place and ultimate glory. I was so frustrated with Andy Carroll for even giving Schlupp the chance to fall to the ground for the penalty in the dying seconds. We should’ve won that game.

BW: Realising our “equaliser” against the Mancs in the replay had been ruled out for offside in the dying minutes. It was only when I saw the lino’s flag being held aloft like the executioner’s axe did I finally accept our name was not on the Cup this year.

Dimitri Payet was named Hammer of the Year at the club’s end of season awards. Who else have you been impressed with?

EP: Michail Antonio has been outstanding but he’s not a right-back. He’s creative, dynamic, and a natural goal scorer. I prefer him and his work rate to Payet. There, I said it. James Collins has been solid at the back and we miss him, and his clean sheets, when he isn’t starting. Sort it out, Slaven.

KM: Michail Antonio. It’s crazy to think he wasn’t a first-team player at the start and that he only got a look-in during an injury-plagued few months in the winter. I genuinely feel he could take on anyone down the right and beat them.

LW: I love Lanzini. On the field, he’s comfortable and shows some immense skill, while off the field he’s settling in well to life in London, hopefully making him a long-term prospect. It’s easy to forget he’s only 23 and he’s made a great improvement to the team. Notable mentions also to Noble, Antonio and Kouyate for me.

What do West Ham need to do in the transfer market this summer?

EP: Sign a right back! Maybe even sign two right backs, or three right backs, but for the love of all things holy, at least one right back.

KM: Replacements for Sakho and Valencia. We need a proven goalscorer who can get those decisive goals. That Carroll one-onone against Manchester United, and Sakho’s miss against Stoke are perfect examples of our need for someone who you don’t have to worry about in situations like that. Also, fresh faces at the back, cover for Cresswell and I’d personally have a total defence rethink.

LW: If we’re to make a serious contest of the Europa League this year, which I think Bilic will, we just need to increase the squad size with healthy and reliable players. We need a consistent striker as well, mainly for league purposes. The best teams have someone they can rely on and we just don’t, unfortunately.

BW: Find a 20-goala-season striker. Easier said than done, I know. Don’t s’pose Harry Kane fancies turning out at the OS on a regular basis?

Which players, if any, would you like to see leave the club in the window?

EP: I don’t like seeing players leave, it always feels rather sad, but I think I’d like to see Alex Song and Joey O’Brien find happy forever homes. Whoever thought you’d include them in the same sentence though!

KM: Sakho’s time has gone, Valencia doesn’t seem bothered anymore, Emenike and Moses have rarely really impressed. Tomkins hasn’t ever really reached his potential either.

LW: I don’t like to wish anyone out of the club after a season like that, but there are a few we can manage without. Although on his day Sakho can be useful, I think we can do without the offfield antics and unpredictability. It doesn’t look like the loans of Song, Moses and Emenike will turn into anything more, which to be honest isn’t too disappointing.

BW: I never like to see any player go. I always have the horrible feeling that once they start playing for another club they will suddenly become a world-beater. Just imagine if Joey O’Brien turns out to be the new Gareth Bale!

Are you confident the club can cope with Europa League football as well as their Premier League commitments?

EP: Nope. We have a good team, and we’re building towards great things, but those Thursday games are a killer. Look how much better Spurs and Southampton did after getting dumped out. Liverpool gave it their all but had to sacrifice the league as a result and so have finished with nothing. Not for me, thanks.

KM: I think it’ll be a good test of the side. If our season was fantastic, it was also a season of missed opportunities; especially in the last half dozen games there was an inability to shut a game down and take the three points. Europa League will hopefully vastly improve the squad to coping with pressure and expectation. I’m more thankful we didn’t make the Champions League.

LW: Hopeful, yes. Confident? Never! It does rely so heavily on a good, fit squad. We’ve seen the Thursday/Sunday dilemma for so many clubs, but I think West Ham will go into it with a positive mindset and if they put their minds to it, they can have a decent Europa League run and a successful Premier League season.

BW: It will be a real problem if we pick some injuries. And I’m dreading the prospect of so many Sunday league games. But, secretly, we all love the idea of European football – so bring it on!

Finally, finish the sentence: Slaven Bilic’s first season at the club was…

EP: The start of something big. I’m so excited about what we could do next season.

KM: Amazing but not 100 per cent convincing.

LW: Memorable. Not only was it a historic season for the Hammers, it turned out to be better than we could’ve imagined at the start. Who would’ve thought that we’d be a bit disappointed with a seventh place finish? That’s largely down to Bilic’s positivity and man-management. He’s been a joy to listen to as well. Couldn’t be happier with him in the hot seat.

BW: The living proof that the phrase ‘careful what you wish for’ really is a load of billicks

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