Pub Talk: “I’m now officially in the ‘concerned’ category. I think the next few matches define the season…”

Our team sit down to put the world to rights...

We return to action on Boxing Day, what have been your most memorable Boxing Day games for the right and wrong reasons?

Meirion Williams: The one that stands out for me is our game in 2006 against Portsmouth. The reason for this is that it’s the only Boxing Day fixture I have ever been to. Boxing Day for the Williams household is a family day where we put on a spread for family and friends. But in 2006 we delayed the family day until the 27th so that I could go to the game and why did I bother. Maybe it was the turkey and Christmas pud consumed the day before but by half time we were 2-0 down and being in the Centenary Lower, I was close to Mr Portsmouth ringing his bell for the entire game. Sheringham got one back for us but it was a game to forget and after 2006, it was back to Boxing Day being a family day.

Geoff Hillyer: I remember the Boxing Day match of 2000 quite well – we had relatives over and football was sadly forbidden in the house. But I managed to pop Ceefax on (remember that?!) and saw that we had stuffed Charlton 5-0 with Kanoute scoring a brace. That was quite a nice late Christmas present. Not too sure a repeat is on the cards.

Emily Pulham: Probably the most memorable to me is when I flew back to England early to go to a Boxing Day game thinking it kicked off at 3pm. It kicked off at 1pm. Completely missed it. 

Marcus Johns: The Charlton game that Geoff mentions was a good one, as I watched it as a rather drunk 17 year old with my dad and uncle in what seemed like the last time we had a home game on Boxing Day. Silky build up play for a couple of goals and a Trevor Sinclair volley stand out. Happy Memories. More recently, a packed away end at Swansea City in 2016 was a joyous celebration, as we beat them 4-1 in what must have been Feghouli’s finest moment for the club.

Arsenal, Brentford and Leeds are our next three league games, how worried are you about these three games?

MW: If I’m honest, very worried. My heart says we will come away with seven points but my head says four. I hope Arsenal’s players will come back from the World Cup sluggish and we should beat Brentford. As for Leeds, now under the lights, Elland Road is not a great hunting ground for us Hammers. But in saying that, we have won on our last two outings at Leeds but before that it was an age since we got anything from that fixture. It is winnable but I think the results against Arsenal and Brentford will have a major effect on our players mentality going into that one.

GH: I agree with Meirion – I’m now officially in the ‘concerned’ category. I think the next few matches define the season. That said, Arsenal will be interesting. I’m not sure we will win but I have a funny feeling it could be closer than some think, post-World Cup. Brentford and Leeds are very important but will also be tough.

EP: I’m pretty consistently a ‘Negative Nellie’ so take my words with a grain of salt, but I’m very firmly in Geoff and Meirion’s camp here. We just look poor right now and like a side that doesn’t believe they can win. Moyes’ unwillingness to make adjustments and changes is hurting us and we will likely put the same team out to play the same way in all three games – and we’ll likely be there for the taking.

MJ: In a weird ‘Welcome to the West Ham of old’ way, I’m more confident about the Arsenal game than I am Brentford. With so much of their squad at the World Cup, you have to hope they’re all knackered / dispirited, and that Moyes works wonders in the six weeks off, and we are raring to go. Cue a 4-0 loss. But I think four points will be a decent return from them. Anything else, and questions might have to be asked of the management, which given how we rarely get an appointment right at board level, makes me very worried about these three fixtures.

Speaking of Arsenal, do you think they can go the distance and win the title?

MW: No, I don’t think so. I think they will take it close but Manchester City just have a way of winning as they have shown time and time again. So it’s Manchester City all the way for me.

GH: Manchester City will win this title, and I suspect more convincingly than it looks at the moment. Arsenal won’t be able to sustain this form. Now watch me look stupid in May.

EP: They’ve been great so far, but are also probably benefitting from some of the other top four sides not being in top gear this year – I’m looking at you Chelsea and Liverpool.

MJ: Well, they’re on a roll at the moment, but I do think that that is courtesy of momentum gained from a very kind set of fixtures. Much like we’ve played teams seemingly at the wrong time, they seem to catch them all at the right time. Lady luck will run out sooner or later, some of their players who are caught on that crest of a wave will end up exposed, and Man City will run away with it.

January sees us begin our FA Cup campaign, how seriously do you think Moyes will take the FA Cup given our league form and Conference League commitment?

MW: Sadly I think the FA Cup will be sacrificed. I would love a FA Cup run but the League is all-important and there is more money to be had in a European campaign rather than a rainy day in some place like Macclesfield.

GH: Standard West Ham, not sacrificing too much, probably out in the fourth round. With Europe and problems in the league, it’s impossible that the team will fight on this front too, surely?

EP: I don’t think we have the depth in the squad to add a third tournament to our calendar right now. We’re doing weirdly well in the Conference League, and terrible in the Premier League. We need to give any available resource to retaining our spots in Europe and the Premier League above everything, rather than being the next Wigan and being a future pub quiz question.

MJ: Given how we don’t play in Europe until March, I’d like to think we’d give the early rounds a bloody good go. Progression chances will obviously depend on the draw, but unlike the others, I think the depth is there these days to be able to beat lower league teams, and as the competition gets to the later rounds, see who’s fit and firing.

Do you think there will be much transfer activity for West Ham in January? Is there an area you think we need strengthening urgently?

MW: We need it but I don’t think it will happen. I would imagine after our summer spending spree there is little money available. If we have a new manager, which I doubt, then things may change but I feel we will have very little movement in January. We need improvement all over the park but if the current squad can be motivated, we may just already have the players available to save us this season. 

GH: No, for the same reasons that Meirion gives. There won’t be a new manager and there won’t be any money to spend. What there is, is a selection of players who are underperforming and they need to be significantly better in the second part of the season than in the first.

EP: I can’t see us buying anyone. We spent a lot in the summer and it hasn’t been to our advantage yet to have done so. Bet you Moyes tries to sell Benrahma, though. He hates that man.

MJ: No, I don’t think there’ll be a lot. We’d need to sell before we can buy. I’d not be surprised to see Coufal and Ashby sold and a new right back bought in, and like Emily, I think he’d listen to offers for Benrahma, but we will see.

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