Pub Talk: “We are back scoring goals and look to know what we are doing when we get forward…”

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

Players observe the minutes silence at the West Ham United v Leicester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on November 12, 2022.

Three victories, we reached the Conference League semi finals, drew against Arsenal and went toe-to-toe with Liverpool, was April a bit more like the West Ham we saw in previous seasons?

David Meagher: Yes. We are back scoring goals and look to know what we are doing when we get forward. Paqueta has been key to this transformation. I guess the big question is to what extent we link this to simple bedding in time or that Moyes has decided to ditch all caution and tell the lads to go out and play? Suddenly a drab season looks interesting with deep European action, Premier League safety looming with plenty of games to play and an outstanding youth team winning all around them.

Meirion Williams: It was a bit of a shock as I expected a lot worse. I think our results in April have just about saved our season. Those away results were pretty special and a bit unusual for us long-term Hammers. It was a typical West Ham end to the month. The Liverpool game was so frustrating. If we had only taken the game to Liverpool a bit more, we would have won it but we gave them too much respect.

David Blackmore: Newcastle game aside, it has been great to see the likes of Antonio, Bowen and Coufal reclaim form that has been missing for long periods this campaign. It’s been great to see the emergence of Paqueta and his influence in games growing with every week. Last season, we ran out of steam. It feels like we’re hitting form at the right time with a European semi final coming up.

Lucy Farrell: Same old West Ham! We tend to reach a peak when we need to and April was it. It was enjoyable and definitely more of what we expected from the whole season. We’ve been tired looking but even against Liverpool we gave it a good shot, which is what we want. 

What did you make of the ‘handball’ in the Liverpool game? What have you made of the handball decisions this year? 

DM: I think it was a penalty as he impeded ongoing play with the arm intervention. I guess the whole handball business has become tiresome as most that are given would not be in other eras or indeed at amateur level. Adding more rules to fix existing poor rules is foolish. 

MW: I have to say I was so angry at that call against Liverpool as even from my angle in the ground it looked like a definite handball. Even the BT commentary team who were just behind me thought it was and couldn’t believe it wasn’t given. I’m not sure what they said on television afterwards but Crouchie had his head in his hands when it happened. VAR was created to sort out these problems but sadly it hasn’t. The technology is there but it’s the operators that there is an issue with. It’s the inconsistencies that are annoying. Yes we got away with one earlier in the season but when it’s clear and obvious it’s got to be at least checked if not called. 

DB: I agree with David. It had to be a penalty based on other handball decisions I’ve seen given recently. And, as Meirion says, I just feel there is such an inconsistency when it comes to what is and isn’t deemed a handball. Antonio gave away a penalty recently and I can’t see how that is any different to the decision that went against us during our Liverpool game. 

LF: David’s right, rules added to rules for ‘clarity’ is just making it more muddy. It’s always one of those that if it goes for you it’s right, but if it goes against you it’s irritating. Based on what I’ve seen throughout the season, it should have been a penalty, Moyes was right to question it so passionately. But I don’t even know if I know the rules any more. 

Have you seen enough to make you think we will ensure our Premier League status for next season?

DM: We are really playing well again and have finally connected defence and attack. I think we are very close to safety now. I think two points would almost certainly suffice, and we should finish 14th or thereabouts. I think it’s all about Europe now.

MW: Liverpool was a point lost. After that game, I thought we needed at least another four points. We certainly don’t want to go into those last two games against Leeds and Leicester needling points. But with the other relegation candidates having to play each other I think we are now safe.

DB: We’re really hitting good form at the right time and there are teams below us that aren’t showing the same levels or desire that we’ve shown recently. The quicker we can get to 40 points the better but I don’t think we’ll need as many as that. Having said that, a top half finish isn’t off the cards if we continue this form until the end of the season.

LF: We’ve had a good run of games and results that allowed us to feel more comfortable. Even with a dip in performances now, I think we should be ok. There are certainly three worse teams than us and hopefully other results will go our way too. 

How are you feeling about our Conference League semi final against AZ Alkmaar and our chances of not only reaching the final but winning it? 

DM: Alkmaar will be tough but this is a deep and experienced squad. We should get to the final and then it’s a toss of a coin in a single game. We can do this.

MW: I worry about AZ Alkmaar because it’s as if we have already reached the final with many already booking their flights to Prague. Alkmaar are no mugs. If we get through it won’t be an easy ride in the final but silverware is a real possibility. Winning could have a significant impact on our management situation. How can you get rid of a manager that has just won you a cup? I believe we need a change of manager and I worry that will not happen. As for the squad, the Newcastle project worries me and I can see a few players heading north. Rice is gone, the question is who will follow.

DB: The draw has certainly favoured us throughout this competition but as we found against Gent in the first leg, we still need to go through the gears and we will need to get a good lead after the first leg against Alkmaar to take to their place. Having said that, we are arguably stronger away from home with how we set up and our counter attacking qualities.

LF: I’m not as confident as I was last week. It’s going to be a tough semi final and we’ll have to be at our best. And then if we get to the final, it will just depend on which West Ham turn up on the day, which is anyone’s guess. I’m nervous. 

Our young Hammers ran riot in the FA Youth Cup Final; Who impressed you on the night, and who do you think could be the next Academy product to follow in the footsteps of Rice, Johnson and Noble?

DM: Mubama and the ‘keeper look to be a level above but the 5-1 scoreline probably flattered us as it was a disciplined team performance against a free-flowing but less cohesive Arsenal team. Kevin Keen can be very proud indeed.

MW: It was great to see us win again but we have to remember that sadly not many players get to senior level in the Premier League. I think the last time we won it only Carrick, Cole and Bywater played in the Premier League. Others like Garcia had successful careers at the lower levels. Gideon Kodua really stood out for me plus Patrick Kelly. I feel those two at least could break through into the first team.

DB: Aside from those who have featured in the first team this season, this was my first experience of watching one of their games and I was impressed with players all over the park. They’ve had an incredible season but now the hard work starts for the likes of Scarles, Earthy and Kodua to use this past year as a foundation to build from and make it as a professional footballer.

LF: I didn’t see the whole game, but from what I did see it’s clear why Mubama is on the fringes of the first team. He’s such a mature player and I hope he’ll continue on his path to more Premier League football. Meirion’s right though, it’s a shame that so many of these players won’t necessarily play for us in the future. 

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