Haller can be the new Dowie if he plays his cards right next month

Brian Williams on life after his season ticket and getting to grips with his TV...

They say football can be a cruel mistress.

But, with millions of TV viewers looking on, she flashed her wicked smile and offered one man what so many desire but so few achieve – legendary status at West Ham United.

The man upon whom this great opportunity has been bestowed is not someone who does a lot of smiling himself. But that could all be about to change for Sebastien Haller.

Admittedly, he didn’t appear destined for immortality as he struggled to get into the dreadful game against Fulham at the start of last month. I’m still kicking myself for paying BT £14.95 for the dubious privilege of watching that.

Fans of all clubs who forced the Prem to have a major rethink about pay-per-view by boycotting the games are to be congratulated. Those who gave the money to their local food banks instead deserve a special mention.

I should have done the same thing, but decided I couldn’t face the frustration of a stop-start stream with breaks in transmission that always remind me of the early days of television. 

Following the end of the second world war my dad decided to utilise the technological knowledge he had picked up in the RAF and opened a TV repair shop with his best mate, who was actually a nephew of West Ham great Syd Puddefoot. 

Not only could my old man repair television sets, he could build them too (the only time I heard my mum boast was when she told people that dad made our first telly). 

This was at a time when most people didn’t have a television, which may explain why the repair shop didn’t do as well as my father had hoped. 

By the time I was growing up TVs were much more commonplace – certainly all my uncles and aunts had one. But, unlike ours, theirs always seemed to have a technical fault whenever we visited.

My over-riding childhood memory of my father on Sunday excursions to see relatives was of his feet sticking out from behind a TV set as he tweaked the mysterious gubbins that lay within the wooden cabinet. 

At the time I thought it was desperately unfair that my dad had to spend these family visits flat out on linoleum floors, but I later learned he was perfectly happy to do so.

He was an only child, so all the uncles and aunts we visited – and there were a lot of them – were from my mum’s side of the family. 

Dad wasn’t a big fan of many of his in-laws, and would rather hide behind their television sets fixing their vertical hold than actually talk to them. 

It never dawned on me that when he had to adjust the set at home it was working properly again within minutes, yet when we visited relatives the same job would take hours, starting five minutes after we arrived and finishing five minutes before we were due to leave.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that it’s marginally more interesting than anything that occurred in the first 90 minutes of the Fulham game, and this column doesn’t write itself. 

To be fair, things did liven up when Said Benrahma set up Tomas Soucek for what turned out to be the only goal of the game in stoppage time. 

Benrahma then decided to make things even more lively by giving away a penalty. Those of us who had managed to stay awake until this point will long remember Ademola Lookman’s hilarious attempt at a Panenka that was so abysmal Lukasz Fabianski had time to gather the ball in safely after originally going the wrong way. 

Following the penalty Lookman was clearly in distress, and it was a nice gesture by Fabian Balbuena to console him. 

It reminded me of Freddie Flintoff and Brett Lee after an epic cricketing encounter at Edgbaston that at the time captured the nation’s imagination, although I suspect Balbuena was not aware of that historic sporting moment. I’m guessing the 2005 Ashes series wasn’t widely shown in Paraguay.

We then had a two-week break until the next league game, during which time Declan Rice scored his first goal for England. Fingers crossed that it’s the first of many. If that lad doesn’t go on to captain the national side I’ll eat my shoes. 

I can’t believe there’s a single West Ham supporter alive who was shedding a tear at the thought of Sheffield United being bottom of the table when we visited Bramhall Lane.

By the same token, many of us quietly feared that the Blades would end their winless streak at our expense.

The fact that they didn’t was largely down to a fantastic strike by Haller. Apparently it was the first time in his career that he had scored from outside the box – not that you would have known it from his surly celebration.

The other big takeaway from the Sky commentary was that Vladimir Coufal pronounces his name Soo-fal rather than Koo-fal. Many thanks for the heads up, Bill Leslie.

Had Haller had a smile on his face following that game, in which he had a particularly good second half, it would have disappeared sharpish when he discovered he was back on the bench for the home match against Villa the following week.

Again the Sky Sports cameras were there. Their colleagues from the nature channels might like to borrow the footage and check out Jack Grealish’s performance. He dived more in 90 minutes than Jacques Cousteau managed in an entire career. 

Haller came on at the start of the second half as David Moyes introduced two subs immediately after the break. 

It did the trick, along with a bit of help from VAR and another missed penalty, and a 2-1 victory took us to the heady heights of fifth in the league. I’m sure we’ve all got a screen shot of the table from that night.

However, what may prove to be the biggest moment in Haller’s career didn’t happen at the London Stadium – it occurred an hour beforehand in the televised draw for the third round of the FA Cup.

West Ham, of course, were paired with Stockport – a club we’ve had problems with in the past. 

I was still at school when I first remember losing to them in a League Cup tie, much to the delight of my Chelsea-supporting classmates. But that match is not to be confused with the 2-1 defeat at Edgeley Park which I feel could be the template for Haller’s redemption.

This was the game in which Iain Dowie wrote his own page in the West Ham history books – and I believe Haller can emulate what Mr Bouncebackability achieved that monsoon night.

Dowie, you may recall, scored with one of the finest headers you will ever see. Unfortunately, the goalkeeper who was left stranded by this brilliant effort was none other than our very own Ludek Miklosko. But there is no getting away from the quality of the finish. That’s why West Ham supporters talk about it to this day. 

So, Seb, all you have to do is watch the video on YouTube – then go out there and emulate a true Hammers hero. 

And when the ball hits the net, even if it’s our net, remember to smile. That’s really all we’re asking of you.

If you enjoy Brian Williams’ Blowing Bubbles column look out for his two brilliant books, Nearly Reach The Sky and Home From Home.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.