Monday, March 05, 2007


Follow the van

Dragged myself up to Ibaraki for football tonight, played like a leper for the first half, downed a hot can of coffee from the vending machine at half time (in preference to the more traditional and infinitely more boring bottle of water) and went on a caffeine-fuelled goalfest in the second half which brought my team from several goals adrift to a respectable eleven-each draw.

Bear in mind that a slight scheduling error meant that the second half was only about 20 minutes long.

Got chatting to a newbie after the game. He claimed he'd played at a pretty high level in England and pulled out the names of a couple of teams he'd played for and against. All of them I recognised, but he had the grace to concede that whether or not someone made it into a decent team, as he had, was largely a matter of luck.

I felt inclined to agree, as I thought he was a pretty crap player.

But, if I'd ever had my break, I couldn't ask for a better team than West Ham- and here's why:

A culture of reckless high-stakes gambling is causing division within West Ham and rupturing morale to such an extent that the first-team squad, already riven by cliques, is 'spiralling out of control' - and the players, manager and directors already know that they can do nothing to stop the club being relegated. That is the damning view from inside the dressing room at the Premiership's most troubled club.

Players are haemorrhaging vast amounts of money to each other at the card table, as much as £50,000 in one sitting. They have won and lost these staggering sums on the team coach to matches. 'How can they be in a good frame of mind for a match after that?' says one first-team player, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The player said: 'I've never seen anything like it in my career. It's one big mess here, the atmosphere is terrible, people don't talk to each other. Players are losing 30, 40 and 50 thousand pounds sometimes. By the time we arrive one player owes another and it's terrible for the team and morale. They are always playing cards.'

One senior player, an established international, is said to have won £38,000 from two of his team-mates in one afternoon recently. The losers had to pay up and manager Alan Curbishley is no longer speaking to the player who won the money. Two members of the squad have undertaken counselling and treatment for gambling addiction, and a third player is also believed to be seeking professional help.

The disillusioned player also identified a catalogue of other problems. These include spats between rival cliques within the dressing room over territory and wages; divisive tension between Curbishley and his players; doubts over the decision-making of new chairman Eggert Magnusson; and the widespread admission, privately, that the club will be relegated. He also said that one recent signing was amazed when he was asked to a meeting to discuss club affairs with senior management in a lap-dancing club, though the club strongly deny that any such meeting took place.

West Ham squad 'out of control'
The Grauniad


I was particularlt impressed with the head of the WestHam Supporters club who likened the state of WestHam to "watching a loved one or family member get gang raped"

Good lad!

Hope Japan is good,

Happy valentines day.

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