Pub talk

Blowing Bubbles' top writers settle down to put the world to rights

West Ham’s League Cup campaign kicked off with a late win over Accrington Stanley last month but the competition was characterised by Premier League teams playing their B teams to half-empty stadiums. Is it time the competition was scrapped?

Emily Pulham: No, absolutely not. It gives lower-league teams a tremendous opportunity to get gate receipts and make money from televised games. For some clubs, this can be a financial lifeline, plus they have the chance to go as far in the competition as their legs will take them. That’s exciting!

Kiran Moodley: I don’t think it should be scrapped just because larger clubs have started to give priority to other tournaments and competitions. Something needs to be done to enhance the status of the cup, although I am not sure what that is. But still, this is a trophy that is more attainable than the FA Cup and gives smaller clubs a chance of European football.

Julian Shea: If the snobs think it’s below them, then fine, we’ll have a go at winning it thanks. Although it’s a chance to give some of the kids a go too, fielding a seriously weakened team is asking for trouble. It’s a trip to Wembley and a chance to win something up for grabs. If we want to start building a new era, then cups and success matter as they make a winning mentality.

Danny Rust: No. The League Cup is a good opportunity for lower-league sides to test themselves against top-flight opposition. Although many Premier League sides play their second string side, it gives some of the sides that don’t win trophies very often a good chance to contest for a leading trophy. So sides outside of the ‘Big Five’, teams should perhaps take the competition more seriously.

The Hammers face Chelsea in the next round. Is this just the sort of game West Ham needed to make the Olympic Stadium feel like home?

EP: Depends on the scoreline but yes! The atmosphere has the potential to be electric, gritty and passionate and it could be exactly what we need. Just please let’s make sure the barriers are sorted out in time! They looked better for Accrington Stanley, but we can’t take chances.

KM: I’m not sure this is the game the operators wanted so early in the season. So it’s less about making the OS feel like home as it is about ensuring the game goes off without any trouble. The fans will surely be up for it, but will the players? They were tepid and uninspiring at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.

JS: From every point of view, both on and off the pitch, this will be the stadium’s biggest game so far. A win over Chelsea would produce an atmosphere in the ground greater than any seen so far, give the whole season a huge feeling of lift-off, and would definitely make people feel a bit more at home there.

DR: A London derby under the lights is exactly what we need to feel at home. Poor performances, being knocked out of the Europa League and a capitulation against Watford have contributed to the moans and groans around the stadium. A night game against Chelsea is a fantastic opportunity to put it right.

Are fans standing at games within their rights or are they being unfair to their fellow supporters?

EP: I’m pleased that our co-chairman is actively campaigning for safe standing and that the club is already pro-actively moving people around to ensure that the standers are in the unofficial standing sections and the sitters are in the sitting sections.

KM: It’s a tough one. I understand the argument that they just need to sit for a couple of games before things can change, but the questions is – how long will that be? Will you ever be able to safely stand in the ground? The key thing is the planning: the owners have talked about this move for years, it’s been planned, we had to choose our seats over a year ago so why was none of this foreseen?

JS: They may have got away with it at Upton Park because people weren’t so fussed, but it was actually against the rules there too, and has been for years. You might want to stand all game, but you might also want to scream abuse at the top of your lungs for 90 minutes — you don’t have a right to, though. There’s plenty that can be improved about the new stadium, this silly distraction doesn’t help.

DR: It’s a bit of both. It was tradition to stand in the Bobby Moore Stand lower tier at the Boleyn Ground and I think it should have been the same at London Stadium. Then, when supporters were buying their season tickets, fans should have been told that the Bobby Moore Stand lower tier would remain an area where supporters are allowed to stand, while all other supporters must sit.

West Ham’s defence has looked all over the place at times, what can be done to sort it out?

EP: Pray. Also, possibly, some team building exercises. There’s something definitely wrong with the communication and the cover for each other. They aren’t supporting each other or even aware of each other and it’s just all collapsing.

KM: I’m not sure. I’ve been worried about the defence not just this year but last year. Although everyone was on such a high last season, they didn’t want to contemplate the thought that Slav and Julian are slightly clueless when it comes to organising a defence. I mean we let in four goals against Norwich and Swansea City.

JS: Aaron Cresswell can get fit again and restore a sense of normality! It’s not helped that others along side him have lost form, but he was one of the absolute rocks on which the last two seasons have been built, and when he returns, the whole will be much more than the sum of its parts. Hopefully Arbeloa will finally sort out right back, and the centre backs will finally realise the season’s begun.

DR: Slaven Bilic was a fantastic defender during his playing career, so he is the right man to turn this around. A big problem has been the absence of Aaron Cresswell. The left back has been a regular for West Ham in each of the last two seasons and is not only a good defender, but also fantastic going forward. Cresswell will improve us at the back. Sam Byram, at right back, will improve over time.

James Collins has struggled so far this season. Are the ‘Ginger Pele’s days numbered?

EP: To be fair, everyone has struggled this season. Get him playing regularly with Angelo Ogbonna again and he’ll come good. If he doesn’t, Nordvelt put in a really good show at CB against Accrington Stanley, so who knows!

KM: Collins was always on his last legs. Last season he had some very, very good games, but at his age, he will never be consistent and it is unfair to rely on him at the back. I don’t think James Tomkins had a good season and can understand why he went, but to not have anyone in to replace him is shocking. Again, these problems were there last season. The manager has had time to sort this out.

JS: Yes. He looked past it early last season when he had a shocker against Watford, but maybe motivated by playing for Wales at Euro 2016, he turned things round and had a great second half of the campaign.

DR: James Collins has had a few difficult games in recent weeks. He was particularly poor in the defeats to Watford and West Brom, but then again so was the whole of the defence and not just Collins. He looked good at Chelsea. Perhaps recent displays show that we were wrong to sell James Tomkins.

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