Zoom Talk

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

What have you missed about watching West Ham? What haven’t you missed?

Emily Pulham: I’ve missed everything. The carriage on the tube filling up with more claret and blue shirts the closer you get to the ground. Queuing for beers, groaning at the starting line up, swearing at players losing the ball. I miss my friends, and I miss my community. I miss Robert Snodgrass and the roar of emotion when the ball hits the net. I even miss seeing ‘Decision: No Goal’ flashing across the screen.  

Lucy Woolford: Honestly, I haven’t missed football that much. I felt like all the controversies around owners, VAR, wages, diving, etc had taken too much of the joy out of it. It’s been nice to have a break from the negatives. I’m starting to feel now like I’d like to watch West Ham again, but enjoy the game without the drama!

Meirion Williams: My high blood pressure and stress levels. It’s odd but like Lucy, I haven’t really missed it. I think if the season had not been one to forget it might have been different. I’ve also missed filling the car up with petrol as it’s saved me a few quid.

Brian Penn: I have missed going to watch West Ham play, something I never dreamed I would say out loud. Mostly because it’s a reminder of the normal life we once used to lead. Like Lucy, I really don’t miss the endless squabbling over VAR and the grinding realisation that football isn’t as much fun as it used to be.

David Meagher: I am impressed with our honesty! I am a doctor so quite frankly I have had other distractions. That said, footy is often the anchor when all else seems out of sync in life and I have missed the escapism. I travel from Ireland to matches with my two sons and we have missed our fortnightly adventures. Yes, it has been another frustrating season but we are Hammers and I’m not sure we really mind that so much.

What have you done with yourself in this temporary non-footballing world? Like on Saturday afternoons or Tuesday / Wednesday evenings?  

EP: I spend most of my time thinking about and missing football, but also my garden looks incredible and I bake every week.  

LW: Like Emily, a bit of baking. My cupboards are looking more organised these days too. The occasional session of Lego. Embroidery. I’ve basically turned into a generic grandparent.

MW: I’ve started reading again and picked up quite a few autobiographies mainly on American football players. I also started watching Netflix and got hooked on the Last Dance – if you haven’t watched it you must. It’s probably the best sport documentary ever made.

BP: Working in the garden and praying for rain – any excuse to stop. Lots of telly naturally, I loved ‘The English Game’ on Netflix. Also researching and writing new retro articles. It only serves to remind me how enjoyable the game was back in the 70s/80s.

DM: My kids have returned home for our severe lockdown in Ireland so we have a nightly football game in the back garden – Worst Ham United VS Upton Park Strangers! It gets a bit tasty as my eldest son fancies himself as a Julian Dicks-type enforcer, but all good fun.

When the Premier League announced the season was halted, what were your thoughts at this point? Did you think the season would be completed?

EP: It was halted abruptly and potentially a little late. In other countries, COVID-19 spread alongside inter-European football matches, and it shouldn’t have taken a manager contracting COVID-19 to force the issue in the Premier League. I never would have predicted how long this would last and always presumed the season would resume – now, I’m not sure it should.

LW: I agree, it was probably a little later than it should have been. But then again I think that’s been the general consensus about a lot of things, so I don’t necessarily blame the Premier League. They also acted quicker and smarter than other sporting authorities, so that was in its favour. It did get to a point where I expected the season to just be called off.

MW: I also agree it should have been halted a little earlier, mind you the Government guidance didn’t help regarding mass gatherings, but let’s not get political here. I had hoped the season wouldn’t reconvene as it just won’t be the same watching from home with a soulless atmosphere in the ground. Recent results in Germany have not exactly favoured the home sides so that advantage seems to have disappeared.

BP: Generally we were far too slow to act, particularly as mainland Europe was already ahead of us, but we can only rely on the advice provided. There was a complete lack of direction, with no timelines how can anything be planned. 

DM: No. I think even next season will be affected. Second surge and all that. Sorry to be so pessimistic. 

How did you feel at the end of May when players returned to training?  

EP: It didn’t feel comfortable to expose them to a deadly virus in order to ‘entertain the nation.’ It’s also extremely difficult for players who have family members at risk and for BAME people who, early evidence suggests, are disproportionately negatively affected by COVID-19. Football shouldn’t be worth risking your life for and realistically, unless you’re Roger Johnson, you can’t spend a game staying two meters away from other players. 

LW: Some players didn’t feel comfortable and voiced their opinions, and I’m glad they felt they could do so. If rules are adhered to, I think it’s good to get training safely but only if players are happy to do so. But as with everything, we can’t be certain that everything is 100 per cent above board. And players have to be responsible for themselves outside of training. 

MW: Sadly, I feel it’s a money thing and I believe the season should have been postponed until maybe September when the games could be finished and then given a shorter season next year. I dislike Watford captain Troy Deeney but I respect his stance.

BP: Jury’s still out for me. Like any business sector, football has to return at some point. If the economy is to recover we have to take a calculated risk. There’s a balance to be struck between the nation’s health and economic prosperity. It’s not necessarily about entertainment, many people earn their living either directly or indirectly through football. A very tough call to make but it remains a watching brief.

DM: I’m going to go controversial here – young, healthy men personally have limited personal risk. Their families and other contacts are the issue. Ultimately, it’s only a game and an entertainment source, so we do need to consider  how ‘essential’ football is. I think there will be lots to ponder when we open stadia again – will older / at risk fans really return in the next 12 months? I doubt it.

What do you think should have happened with this season?

EP: I’m in favour of the 22 team suggestion. Call this season as it is; Liverpool were just a game or two from winning the title anyway (and could have done so on 16 March) so crown them, but don’t relegate teams. It just isn’t fair for clubs to have a cut-off based on the way the dice rolled when fixtures were planned last year, nor is it fair to do mathematical predictions. They’d never have accounted for Watford turning over Liverpool, and that’s part of the beauty of football – that on any given day, any team could do the impossible. Promote the teams in first and second place in the Championship and play one beautiful season of 22 teams – lord knows we’ll be hungry for the extra games by then.

LW: I think the fairest way is to complete the season and then have the knock on effects shape next season. I agree with Emily, it’s not fair to relegate teams without finishing the season, but I think teams in play-off places would be hard done by if not given a chance to be promoted.

MW: As I said earlier, postpone until September then play the games. Then a short break and reconvene for the start of the next season. I quite like the idea of having a Premier League split. Play each other once at the start of the season and then in the second half the bottom 10 play each other twice, and the top play each other twice. That would have reduced the total games. I would have also postponed the League cup, or whatever it’s called which would free up more dates.

BP: Oh who knows – the authorities should have made a decision ages ago, it shows how badly run the game is. The Premier League, Football League, FA and PFA have been pulling in different directions. Too many clubs are looking out for number one which is understandable. The Premier League is good at making money but not much else – in my opinion the season should have ended with a points-per-game formula. Existing positions should have been used to determine European places and relegation should have been scrapped which should have been rolled out throughout the pyramid. But you won’t please everyone.

DM: Spurs and Liverpool should have been relegated to League 2. West ham awarded the FA Cup as compensation for the 2006 injustice! Give the League Cup to Orient. But seriously, promote Leeds and West Brom and have a 22 team league next year with five relegation spots – that’d be fun!

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