Charles Pulling profiles Nenê, West Ham’s already forgotten Brazilian from the 2014-15 season…
In 2011, workmen expanding a road in eastern China discovered the mummified remains of a woman dating back 700 years. It was, in terms of the quality of the find and its location one of the most stunning Ming-era discoveries in recent times, a perfectly preserved echo of a long fallen dynasty.
Also in 2011, another altogether less lauded dynasty began in east London. The Allardyce-era at West Ham United may not have stretched over centuries, but for many of the Upton Park faithful the all-too-often turgid, grinding performances may have felt something close to a lifetime in length. And so, with the ominous boos reverberating around Upton Park, ‘Big Sam’ was afforded no reward for securing West Ham’s Premier League status for a third season running and the sun came down on the Allardyce dynasty.
Now, with optimism, a new manager, an impending move to a fancy new stadium and Europa League sojourns West Ham seems a happier, more contented place, despite a ball barely being kicked in anger. But what of the relics of the past four years? What do they tell us?
One of the more rarer finds whilst sifting through the wreckage is the name Nenê, a name that stands out in contrast to the more ‘meat and potato’ Allardyce players such as Nolan or Downing. The name is barely a footnote. Understandable considering the man from São Paulo spent little over three months parking his car at the ‘Academy of Football.’ Continue reading
TFN debutant Will Magee re-imagines the top four and the race for the Champions League…
Do you like football? Any football at all? Then the chances are you’ve read several astoundingly reprocessed ‘top-four race’ pieces in the last few weeks. These articles are the reanimated undead of the Premier League season, the phantoms that plague the minds of hungover sport writers, the ghosts at the top-flight feast; they appear every year at exactly the same time to remind us that our lives are, essentially, hauntingly repetitive – and that Arsenal will most likely finish fourth.
The prediction for this year goes like this: Chelsea in first, Manchester City in second, two of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool in the lesser Champions League spots. It’s really no more complicated than that. A maverick journalist will throw Tottenham into the mix every once in a while in an attempt to break the cycle, but do so with the poignant knowledge that this is totally, utterly futile – a puny act of rebellion in an uncaring existential void. Likewise, somebody will always root for a rank outsider, the last hope of escaping his or her recurring top-four nightmare. This never comes off, and said somebody is quickly institutionalised.
Still, at the risk of my own mental wellbeing, I fancy making an attempt at exorcising the eerie persistence of the ‘top-four race’ article and re-imagine the entire thing. Despite our numbing collective awareness that it will never be so, what clubs would we actually like to see finish in those coveted Premier League places? And in what precise order? Let’s settle down, hold onto our minds, disregard those creepy voices telling us to do terrible violence against the ones we love – and bloody well find out. Continue reading
Joe Devine returns to discuss five things that may or may not have happened in the Premier League this weekend…
1. Nigel Pearson Looked After Himself
Unconfirmed reports on Saturday afternoon that Nigel Pearson was – at times – unattended over the weekend. As panic swept the nation, thousands flocked towards Leicester in what is now being described as the ‘Pearson Pilgrimage’. A spokesperson for National Rail described the event as a crisis after several trains were cancelled due to overcrowding. Witnesses described the crowds as “hoards of sensible adults” all terrified for the safety of the Leicester City boss. A new theory emerging this morning suggests that Pearson’s supposed firing was a board-organised rouse to deter worried adults from the doors of the training grounds. Nigel Pearson is scheduled to appear at a news conference on Monday at 2pm and the early word is that he will be hand-holding with another adult. The nation can relax at last. Continue reading
Hugo Greenhalgh believes Ravel Morrison should follow in Paul Gascoigne’s footsteps and join Lazio…
In November 2012, Paul Gascoigne made an emotional return to the Stadio Olympico to watch two of his former clubs, Lazio and Tottenham. Although he won nothing in three, injury-ridden seasons at Lazio, Gascoigne received a hero’s welcome. A banner made by their fans declared: “Lionhearted, headstrong, pure talent, real man. Still our hero”. They had completely fallen for the offbeat humour and swaggering technique of a player who had burst onto the European scene in the 1990 World Cup in their own backyard.
Ironically, the Englishman who may follow in his footsteps to Rome is once alleged to have uttered the words, “Who’s Gazza?”. Ravel Morrison has been strongly linked this week with a move to Lazio and given the stuttering nature of his career so far, there are certainly worse places he could go right now. Italian football could offer a fresh start for Morrison and allow him to come back a stronger player. He is too good for the Championship and other Premier League sides seem reluctant to take a punt on his precocious talent. Continue reading
Simon Smith looks at the growing examples of loaned-out players outperforming their parent clubs…
This Christmas I will have to contend with a shocking and unexpected horror when I visit my family for the annual yuletide celebrations. As an Arsenal fan, albeit one who always strives for objectivity in my writing, having a cohort of West Ham fans in the family has on occasion provided me with opportunity for many a laugh at their expense. The Hammers have had their revenge on occasion. They were the first team to win at the Emirates Stadium, and their often pragmatic underperformance in the Premier League is at least easier to deal with than the aneurism inducing heartache of disappointment all Gooners know all too well. But nonetheless I have usually been able to content myself with beating them most of the time and generally being the better club.
Barring a series of favourable results this weekend, I will have to arrive late on Christmas Eve knowing that my beloved Arsenal are lower than West Ham in the table. What’s more, they have done so playing largely eye catching and attractive attacking football, and by getting some of the best out of loan signings Carl Jenkinson and Alex Song.
Song has proved to be something of a coup: if his move to Barcelona seemed a little bizarre, a touch above his pay grade, then it should still be accepted that West Ham is a little below the level that the football community might have expected to drop down to. That shouldn’t be taken as any disrespect to West Ham, especially given their excellent form throughout the season so far, so much as an indication that his status as something of a joke figure in English football was misplaced. Continue reading
James Dutton looks at Sam Allardyce’s return to form and the struggle of other Premier League managers to adapt…
“There are two types of coaches. There’s coaches like me who weigh up the opposition and ask the team to adjust. Fergie was similar. Jose is similar. Then there’s Arsène, who won’t adjust. There’s Brendan, who looks like he won’t adjust. There’s Manuel Pellegrini, who looks like he won’t adjust, even in the Champions League.
“Their philosophy is different to ours. Ours is more about who are we playing against. Their philosophy is more, ‘We always play this way’, and they won’t change, they carry doing on the same thing. That’s why you can beat them.”
Sam Allardyce, October 2014
Sam Allardyce is no stranger to talking up his own abilities; in a fairer world where ‘good football men’ are rewarded for their determination, passion and persistence he would be the man sending Cristiano Ronaldo out every week to break record after record in the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
Instead he’s leading the Andy Carroll renaissance and has propelled West Ham United to third place in the league amidst their best ever start to a Premier League season. Continue reading
TFN’s Piers Barber takes a look at the wacky world of football sponsorships…
Thanks to Liverpool’s multi-million pound deal with Dunkin’ Donuts, staff at Anfield can now look forward to regularly indulging in the company’s finest baked goods, as well as the brand’s rather pitiful attempts at brewing coffee and tea.
Yet Liverpool is far from the first side to involve themselves in a wonderfully weird and out of context sponsorship deal. Here are some of the typical ways that the strange world of global capitalism has involved itself in the Beautiful Game… Continue reading