Pub Talk: ‘I think we have lost our ruthlessness’

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

What did you make of our results and performances in January after our blip before Christmas?

Meirion Williams: I guess it was what I expected. When you have supported West Ham for as long as I have, you always know that the bubble will burst. The lack of depth within the squad coupled with injuries to key players was always going to make it difficult at the halfway point. But on the positive side we are still in the European places so I can’t really complain.

Geoff Hillyer: Not unexpected, as Meirion says. Lack of squad depth meant that fatigue would always be a factor. But I think we need to remember how far we have come in such a short space of time. Three years ago you would have bitten an arm off for the league position now.

David Meagher: I think we have lost our ruthlessness. The Leeds and Man United defeats were games we could easily have won but in the final phase, we lacked a second striker to shake things up. The real difficulty starts with the shakiness of our defence, which should improve now we have Cressy and Zouma back. Twelve months later and poor Mikey is still having to do it all for a full 90 minutes – that’s poor squad management no matter how you look at it. 

Bradley Holland:  There’s been a bounce back which makes me optimistic. Going off the tracks was always expected, we just were waiting for the how and when, and it’s been because of our squad depth. I think what strikes me as most off is our Czech lads – Vlad has lost the killer instinct for the moment, and Soucek is still figuring out his role with Rice wanting to take the lead in the box-to-box. For Hammer of the Year last year and a runner up, this has been the only shock.

What are your hopes for February?

MW: I guess the first one is to continue our FA Cup run. I would love us to progress in that competition. I’d also like us to stay within the top six. My big hope though is that when the next round of the Europa League takes place, we end up getting one of the big boys.

GH: I think the league is important, but if we finish eighth, sixth, whatever, I’m not bothered. I want to see us go as far as we can in the Europa League and I want to progress in the FA Cup. These are golden chances for further European competition next season and we are capable of winning them.

DM: I think a decent February is very possible as while Wolves and Leicester can be tricky, I think Moyes has their number and Newcastle and Watford are very vulnerable to our disciplined tactics. I think this is a big season and we need to keep focused on a fourth-placed finish (and Champions League football) as next summer will bring a lot of pressure to keep Rice, Soucek and Bowen.

BH: I’d love to see all the injured lads come back to fitness, but at their peak – confidence, fitness, and form wise. We really miss Ogbonna. I’d like to see Antonio rested.

Who do you think will partner Zouma at the back for the remainder of the season?

MW: Zouma was immense at Old Trafford and it showed just how we have missed him in defence. Diop has looked shaky so it has to be Dawson, although I would like to see Baptiste have a run out at some point.

GH: I am so glad to see Zouma back, we have missed him and I believe this bodes well for the rest of the season. I’m not a fan of Diop who I think is massively struggling for form, so I think Dawson slots in that gap alongside him, although I think we need an upgrade on him too.

DM: I’m really disappointed for Issa Diop but he just doesn’t look like he’s going to make the step up in consistency that is required. Oggy will struggle to get back to his previous high standards and along with Dawson is well past 30. In short, we really need to bring in another CB. 

BH: Zouma has been an incredible signing – a perfect pair with Ogbonna. He’s shown sturdy composure and signs of brilliance though I think he is still bedding in the team, especially a team without Ogbonna. Moyes builds on defense and when his whole defensive line is out with injury or suspension, the whole team has fallen apart, creating extra work for Rice and Bowen.  I’d like to see Bowen and Rice be fully supported by a solid back line to reach their potential.

Do you think Jarrod Bowen deserves to be called up to the England squad?

MW: Absolutely, Bowen was good last season but he is great this year. There seems to be just one thing missing in his game and it seems odd to say it but he is just too honest. Where we see other players fall over at the slightest touch, Bowen stays on his feet too long. I’m not condoning cheating but he needs to be a little more savvy. But yes, an England player all day long. But wait a minute, isn’t Herefordshire near the Welsh border? I’m sure there may be some Welsh blood line in his family.

GH: Yep, what a signing by the way. I love him, he has skill, pace, and knows where the back of the net is. But I don’t want him getting injured on England duty – Dean Ashton, anyone? I think he deserves it but he’s a key player for us so I want him wrapped in cotton wool.

DM: Absolutely but I’m Irish so I am much more concerned that he remains fit and sharp for West Ham. That said, he’s a gem of a lad and you’d have to feel he deserves to play for his country. 

BH: I’m with Geoff in that the respect and honor given to our players for the call up only creates a situation in which they are weary or injured or have the possibility of having their egos inflated and their heads turned. Is that a cynical perspective? Perhaps. But it’s affected our other players. I’d like him to get a call up and see a few games, and I do have some hopes of a West Ham World Cup second coming 2026. Sixty years and we could see three West Ham players in the England squad with Rice wearing the armband.

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