Spyin' Kop FA Cup Final Special: West Ham Utd

Posted by raptor on May 8, 2006, 06:13:41 PM

As we head to Cardiff, for the last FA Cup final to be played at the Millennium Stadium before it reverts back to Wembley there is a great feeling of anticipation as always in the build up to a major cup final. With the happy hammers standing in the way of Rafa Benitez and a 3rd trophy in his two seasons as manager, Merseyside has been buoyant with the prospect of turning a season of progress into one of trophydom. Iíll miss out some of the usual background on West Ham seeing as we played them recently but those interested can read some of the more regular Spyiní Kop answers, as well as some Hammers' history, from this season's two league match previews here and here


Football Association Challenge Cup Final
Liverpool v West Ham Utd
Venue: Anfield South, Cardiff
KO: 3pm
Referee: Alan Wiley



Form Guide


West Ham - WWLWLWLDLW
Liverpool Ė WWWWWWWWWW

FA Cup Success

West Ham Utd
Winners:1964, 1975, 1980
Runners up: 1923

Liverpool
Winners: 1965, 1974, 1986, 1989, 1992, 2001
Runners up: 1914, 1950, 1971, 1977, 1988, 1996

Odds

West Ham  7/2
Liverpool   8/13
Draw         5/2


With the Reds odds on favourites to win the FA Cup for a seventh time I caught up with Gordon Thrower from the excellent www.kneesupmotherbrown.com,  Mark Ford, friend and season ticket holder, Steve Owen & Kieran Spong who have both been known to occasionally write for some of the West Ham fanzines.

Spyin' Kop; Firstly, although it was widely expected, what do you make of the ticket allocations and pricing for the Final?

Gordon; The ticketing for the FA Cup has always been a bit of a joke - the FA treat it as their day out and would probably allocate ALL the tickets to county associations etc if they had the chance.  I realise that a lot of people put in a lot of, often unpaid, work at grass roots level but I suspect that many, if not most of the black market tickets arise from that source and I reckon the balance ought to be more in favour of the clubs. It'll never happen though.

Mark; Bo****ks, and Bo****ks, lets be honest! I think that the whole 15 - 20 thousand seats being given to other teams and various others is rubbish, it should be for the real fans, not just spectators. And as for the price, for 90 quid a ticket (100 after booking fees) I'd want to be sitting on the bench! Especially after we had 34000 for the play offs, the whole way it's all come about is a big disappointment, it's all a joke.

Steve;
No surprises, but no doubt itís the same every year, but as we donít get to many finals obviously itís become an issue to us. What is annoying is that there are proper fans that have been on a regular basis even when we were relegated for those 2 awful years in Div 1 that will miss out. Yet I'm sure there'll be plenty of free loaders and bandwagon jumpers that will all get sorted. A shame but its true, I'm a season ticket holder so I'm ok, but you have to spare a thought for those not so fortunate. As for the pricing, well if your teams in the Cup Final, you'll pay whatever, within reason, to see them. For £90 I'd expect to get a game myself or at least be sitting next to the Queen, but I was happy to go for the £65 ones.

Kieran;
Very poor, I cannot believe that tickets are given out 'Before' the tournament has any finalists! For example, a friend of mine's dad is an ex-professional Ref, who has no interest in the game anymore and he is given 2 tickets every year, no matter who reaches the final.  Now, if he gets 2 tickets and he hasn't refereed in other 5 years, it makes you wonder who else is given tickets!

SK; Obviously youíve had two recent visits to Cardiff. What was your abiding memory of the place outside of the match result?

Gordon; Arriving on a local train at 9.45am and looking up the main street from the bridge to see a sea of claret and blue. The Walkabout pub. Being crammed on to a standing room only train on the way home and listening to a somewhat refreshed Hammer telling some confused American tourists that Dagenham was a better tourist bet than Bath (like Detroit but only the one car factory). Pricing? It's sadly always going to be a pricy experience - I guess they know we'll find the money somehow and pitch it accordingly.

Mark;
Where do I start? Running around with a west ham flag? The sea of claret and blue? Racing a train full of Preston fans to see who'd get into the station first? There's too many. I had a great time. And the boozers are blinding, see you all there! You can get me that pint, Phil.

Steve; The atmosphere as soon as you get there, the packed bars, the buzz, the whole place. Itís a great venue, everyone milling around and mixing together, and itís always great to see so many Hammers all in one place.

Kieran; Cardiff is quality, it makes for a very good weekend.  The town is always ready and lively. I love the atmosphere around the Ground with both sets of supporters mingling and singing all day long in and out of the pubs around town! I also remember when you played Chelsea there last year and the picture of the fan with the huge banner 'Lovejoy sucks big fat _____' always sticks in my memory, I wonder if Lovejoy ever paid that fan a fiver from his own pocket!

SK; Weíve clearly had the better of you over the two league games this season although we were a touch fortunate in the recent fixture at Upton Park. How do you think can you turn those results around?


Gordon; Those that played for us in the recent match will have taken a lot of heart from the performance from which it's fair to say that we deserved at least a point. Get the first team out there and go for it I say - though I'm sure that the boss will have some more sophisticated tactics in mind!

Mark; I wouldn't say clearly had the better of us! I thought we gave you a good game at Upton Park, was a cracking reserve game! Just got to hope for the magic of the cup, and that we rise for the occasion. At least you've beat us twice this season, maybe it'll be third time lucky for us!
   
Steve; Youíre obviously are the stronger team and have far more experienced players but having just come up from the championship, in the first game I thought we went with a negative attitude and of not wanting to lose by too many, and it showed. Pards will say otherwise. I canít criticise anyone though after the season we've had.  You can count on one hand the amount of bad performances we've put in, but that was one of them. The game last week could have been a dull end of season affair but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was entertaining, great to watch and perhaps a draw may have been a fair result.  I thought Teddy was great and I was well impressed with Sissoko and Carragher, who was immense. In the final I can see us playing our normal open attacking game which has served us well so far. I canít see any special tactics being used, or any man marking of certain players. I just think we'll go for it and hope our defence stands strong.

Kieran; You had the better of us clearly at Anfield but at Upton Park I thought it was a much tighter affair, even though both sides weakened there line ups. I thought Bobby and Teddy played well for us and Reo Coker is always full of energy, Cisse was the only difference because the Full-backs could not cope with his pace.  The final will be different, because Fowler will not play but Crouch will and Gerrard and Alonso will also be back for you boys, which will only strengthen your side.

For us, we will be without Mullins now and Ashton is also looking doubtful, but I think Bobby will do a more than capable job, if he is the one that fills in, the other night he beat Carragher to every header in the first half and impressed me with his determination. We need to ensure Alonso and Gerrard arenít given time on the ball and also make sure we finish our chances, because with your team, we won't be given to many!


SK; Rafa Benitez was widely criticized by the media and some sections of our support following the playing of a second string side and subsequent loss to Burnley in last seasonís competition. What was your reaction to Alan Pardew playing weakened sides in Premiership fixtures prior to FA Cup games, especially considering you were still in with a shout of a Uefa cup spot through your league position?

Gordon; I guess we're in a slightly different position in that our squad isn't the biggest at present. I can understand AP's (or any manager's) desire to give players a break but there is some small part of me that thinks that Club should pick their strongest sides all the time. There again I'm a traditionalist who thinks players ought to wear 1-11 with right back at 2 and left back at 3.

Mark; Well, now that we are in the final I can say that he made a great decision, obviously if we hadn't Iíd probably be saying something different! Like Pards said, he knew that us fans would rather a cup final day out, and the chance of silverware, than a high league finish, and he's right, what fans wouldn't want that? And to be honest, we just don't have the squad size to make a charge on both. I think he made the right choice.

Steve; Not being funny but a so called "second string" for you is likely to be a bit stronger than a second string for us, and should still be good enough to overcome Burnley. Obviously wasn't. I think a lot of it was down to attitude and whether they actually wanted it on the day.  I watched it on TV, that game, and it was a rotten old pitch and you didnít look up for it, they got a lucky old goal and the rest is history. It happens every year to someone in the cup. Benitez is a top manager and I can't see him falling for that again. Mind you didnít Crystal Palace turn you over in the Carling Cup? I still rate him as a top manager though. Itís easy to say in hindsight, but we're in the final so I can say it was worth it. Personally I'd like to see the strongest team every week but the reality is with our squad not being that deep its something we have put up with, whether you like it or not .Having got through to Europe I can see it happening again next year too.

Kieran; To be honest, Iwasnít too pleased, but because we only have a small squad, itís understandable. I was worried, because if we lost any of them cup games (City or Boro) then we were out of everything!
But now were in the final, itís obvious he knew what he was doing and Iím well pleased with the management at West Ham.


SK; Speaking of Europe, you are of course now guaranteed a Uefa cup spot. How do you think youíll cope with the demands of European Competition next season? Anywhere youíd particularly like to visit?

Gordon; Europe? Well the fact that Bolton and Boro' got so far in the competition should give us hope that we can put together a decent run. Since they started messing around with the competitions the UEFA cup has been diluted and there seem to be a lot of average looking sides in there. As for where I'd fancy going I'd love a trip to Cork City - it's a decent night out and I've got family there that I owe a visit!

Mark; Like I said, our squad isn't huge, so we'll need to sign some squad players to make an impact, but I'm sure we'll give it a go. I must say, a nice trip to sunny Spain would be lovely! Knowing my luck though, we'll probably get some Russian team from the back end of nowhere that takes a 3 day trek to get to their ground! Editors Note; Vladikavkaz it is then ;). Or maybe TNS, you can give us some pointers!

Steve; No one's gonna turn down Europe but I can see it causing problems for us. It's a great achievement if you look at where we were last season. I think we'd just managed to toss away a 2-1 lead to Brighton and looked to be dropping out of the play off places. We'll need a lot of new and better quality players. But I'm sure Pards knows that and already has his feelers out for new faces. I'm not particularly keen on the Sunday games that itís gonna keep throwing up either, but that's a selfish opinion as I love my Saturday game, others may prefer Sundays.  Personally a trip to Spain or Cyprus in September would be nice. How great would it be if we could play Lazio and Paulo Di Canio or Prague and Tomas Repka?  Those two coming back to Upton Park would be nice occasions for them both.

Kieran;
I think it is great for the fans to travel in Europe and will be a great test for our young side. The manager will need to buy very well in pre-season, he not only needs a strong European leader, but will need to bolster up the squad as well.

SK; I had the somewhat dubious honour of a free ticket (cheers Mark) in the away end at your league game against Manchester City and have to say I wasnít hugely impressed in terms of the fact that a) you didnít sell out and b) the lack of vocal support, yet when the same two sides met in the cup (on a Monday evening no less) you took over 5,000 and created a fantastic atmosphere. What do you expect from your support in Cardiff? Any new or original songs we might hear or will we be subjected to the usual Ďsign oní Ďwife beating northernerí stuff?

Gordon;
The support at Cardiff will be fine don't you worry. You'll probably still get the sign-on songs still but then since most songs are based on some sort of stereotype that shouldn't be too surprising. Anyway just look on it as your penance for inflicting Cilla Black, Jimmy Tarbuck, Tom O'Connor, Stan Boardman and, worst of all, Ken Dodd on the world. Doesn't seem too bad in retrospect does it?

Mark;
I've already apologised for that Phil! Like I said, I don't know what happened that day, worst away atmosphere I've ever seen. But I'm sure we'll be in full voice for the final, we've had 2 seasons practice!  There will be definitely be the northern songs, it's the law! There's not so many new ones, but we've dug out the old classics lately, John Moncur and the like! At West Brom on Sunday we were singing about Ludo (our fantastic czech goalie if you don't know). Um, we've got a good one about Christian Dailly that I won't reveal here. Also doing the rounds is the banter about Pards' 'dance' at the semi when we scored. The West Ham fans get their arms in the air, shake their ar*es, and sing "Let's all do the Pardew", I think he's getting embarrassed now! We're also calling him John Travolta.

Steve; I thought the Man City game was a sell out, there were certainly no tickets available prior to the game.  It was a pretty drab game if I remember rightly. It was good to see Stuart Pearce get a rousing reception , but I think you're right there was not much after that to get the fans going. West Ham away always make a noise, and quarter final is a bit special, I was at that game on the Monday and the atmosphere was electric. Man City must have been making a noise too, but from where I was standing I could only hear us lot.

I expect you can look forward to some "sign on", it'd be rude not to. No doubt you'll be giving it some "Walk on" and that other one you sing "Liverpool", just like we'll be giving it "Bubbles". Maybe we could start a new song "Agger Do Do Do, He plays for You You You".

Cardiff is becoming a home from home for us, lets not forget we hadn't been to a final since 1981, but West Ham will hit Cardiff big time, don't you worry about that, and it will be a very special occasion. As I said its not often we get to the Cup Final, and the two play off finals we had were great days, despite losing the first one, that was, in a way, an even better day than the one we actually won. Probably because it was the first final, and a first day out for years and for the younger ones, their first ever major final. Its gonna be a special day and one to remember.

Kieran;
I never went to the League game at City and only saw limited highlights. But we have always had good support away, especially against the bigger teams. Even when we were getting thrashed at United last year, we were still louder than there 50,000 home support! With regards to the songs and 'sign on' that will always be a classic, but I suspect if were winning come the second half, then you will get a stint of 'Lets all do the Pardew'.  One thing's for sure, we wonít have to listen to the 'Luis Garcia, sangria song' but no doubt we will hear 'We won it 5 times' more than once!

SK; A personal bugbear for me is the Ďeasy easyí chant pioneered by soccer am accompanied by waving your arms in the air like a plonker. What is your opinion on this particular Ďphenomenoní?

Gordon; I can't stand the "Easy Easy chant. The ONLY occasion it's acceptable is if you're 5-0 up and then only when you're in the second of three minutes of injury time. Probably not even then.

Mark;
Firstly, what the hell is a bugbear? Never heard of that one. Let's just say the easy, easy novelty has worn off somewhat, it's a bit like the 'who are ya' chants, getting boring now. West Ham just liked the easy, easy one because Harewood always joined in!

Steve;
Don't take a lot of notice of it, it's pretty twatty but Soccer AM does make me laugh.

Kieran;
Love Soccer Am, but I agree, that easy chant should have been left with the Bushwhackers!!

SK; Where do you see our teamís biggest strengths and weaknesses? How do you think the weaknesses can be exploited?

Gordon; Not really seen enough of you to comment too deeply on individuals but there does seem to be a reliance on Gerrard to get you out of trouble from time to time and I was heartened by last night's MOTD that suggested Villa were a bit unfortunate. Riise always looks good going forward and we'll need to close him down. I'm sorry but Crouch is not an international for me. We'll need the passing game to be on the ball - there were occasions the other night when your system seemed to leave you square at the back - the goal we scored is an example - so we'll need to exploit that.

Mark;
Cripple Gerrard and hope the rest deflate would be a good bet! A more sporting view is that Liverpool sometimes start to look tired late in a game, probably due to their seriously long season. Hopefully, if they can be kept quiet for the first half, they'll get frustrated and worn out and West Ham can start to really stretch them come the second half.

Steve;
You're very strong defensively and you can raise your game against the big teams. I get the impression that you think you've done the hard work by turning Chelsea over, which is no mean feat, but Cardiff holds no fears for us now. We've moved on from that game against Palace and I feel our team spirit and work ethic, mixed with fitness and hunger could be important. Also our pace, Teddy aside, could be used to exploit maybe a Carragher or Hyppia who tend to be stronger in the air and as markers.

Kieran;
Obviously itís going to hard for West Ham to break down a very strong Liverpool team, but if they can shut out Gerrardís runs and close him down early then we have a chance of limiting your chances.  We need to put our chances away, when we get them and keep attacking like we have done all season. Both sides have there strengths, ours is the wide men and Reo Cokerís energy!

SK; No doubt the media will be somewhat wetting themselves at the prospect of a 40 year old outfield player, a striker no less, playing in the final. Is he really worth another season?

Gordon; Young Edward had a fine game the other night - play the ball up to him he'll hold it and lay it off nicely for you. As everyone knows he never had any pace anyway. Is he worth another year? Definitely - if only for the
improvement that the others get from playing alongside him.

Mark; Of course! Even if he isn't playing, the kids can learn so much of him just in training. When you start looking at the older boys, like Ted, Fowler, Shearer, class players who are coming to the end of their careers, they're just so useful because of their experience. Even players in their thirties can still learn from Ted!

Steve;
There's no room for sentiment in football, especially at the highest level. Ted is a class act on and off the pitch, the fact that he's 40 is obviously unique but he's there on merit and because he's still got it, not for the novelty value. He's worth another year simply for the way he's performed and what he gives the side. There will be a time, and itís going to be soon, when he can no longer cut it and he'll know that and so will the manager. All the while he's playing well and pulling his weight he deserves to be there.

Kieran;
Iím not sure they will be wetting themselves as you say, but Iím sure they will have a few articles surrounding Sheringham.  The fact is, he was and still is one of this countryís best strikers over the last 10 years.  He brings a lot to a club like West Ham and he is great for the youngsters on and off the pitch. I agree he probably doesnít look as good now as he was 5 years ago for United, but he isnít a starter and is always great to have on the bench.  Iím sure the press will be wetting themselves if he comes off the bench and scores the winner at CardiffÖ..ha-ha

SK; Mullins & Garcia, foolish or unfortunate?

Gordon;
Mullins was daft but then if I'm elbowed I'm fairly sure I'll react. Garcia's face clutching antics were disgraceful though and but for that both players might have away with a yellow. Garcia has always been known to be, shall we say, somewhat unsteady on his feet and what resulted was an honest pro missing maybe his only chance of a cup final because of some play acting.

Mark; I read the RAWK thread on this, and it's clear that everyoneís got a different view, some being seen through red glasses though! Garcia elbowed out, violent conduct, sending off offence, no matter how flimsy it was. Mullins raised his hand, sending off offence. Laws of the game have been followed, there's nothing to argue about for either player. Although, Iím sure that if Mullins hadn't got so wound up, and Garcia didn't do his impression of Shefki Kuqi celebrating a goal, they would have both got yellows. But what's done is done.

Steve;
A bit of both really. As professionals they both know the score, you donít raise your hands or you're asking for trouble. They both knew the cup final was round the corner but I suppose things are done in the heat of the moment. I don't really know if Garcia is a first choice for you, my guess would be he isn't and wouldn't have played for you anyway. Whereas Mullins has been a massive player for us this season and will be the bigger loss of the two. Maybe commonsense should have prevailed but since when has a referee ever shown commonsense?

Kieran; Very stupid, Mullins was a key member of our midfield and was guaranteed a start in the Final until then.  Garcia won't be missed as much as Mullins will.  But both players should not have over reacted like that, especially right in front of the ref and bench! As much as I think some of the rules are very harsh these days, they have always stuck by them and if you raise your arms then you must expect to be punished.

SK; Do you have any piece of Irons related trivia we might be interested in?

Gordon;
Trivia? An anagram of "West Ham United" is "The New Stadium" which is where we'd have been playing had the FA been able to build the thing in time. As for the old Wembley Stadium, many of the old signs in there had been painted by a young apprentice sign-writer by the name of Ron Greenwood. Yes THAT Ron Greenwood.

Mark; FA cup themed, we're the last non top flight club to win it. We had the youngest player to appear in a final until Millwall fielded a kid in the final a couple of years back, which many conspiracy theorists amongst West Ham fans believe was just to wind us up. We played Bolton in the first final to be held at Wembley. Would have been in the first one at the new Wembley as well, if the builders weren't smacked off their t**s.

Steve;
Nigel Reo-Coker, will be the youngest ever FA Cup Final captain, could Teddy become the oldest player to score in a Cup final? In 1975 Alan Taylor scored 2 goals in the quarter final (vs. Arsenal), 2 goals in the semi final (vs. Ipswich) and 2 goals in the final vs Fulham. In 1975 West Ham were the last side to win the cup with 11 Englishmen. In 1986 Alvin Martin managed to score a hat trick against Newcastle against 3 different goal-keepers, Thomas, Hedworth and a certain Peter Beardsley in an 8-1 win. In 1980 Paul Allen became the youngest ever player at 17 years to win the FA Cup. In 1968 Geoff Hurst managed to score 6 goals in a game against Sunderland, a hat trick in each half. Yawn in 2003, with 42 points, West Ham still managed to go down with the highest ever total for a relegated team!

Kieran; Billy Bonds was the last ĎBeardedí player to collect the FA Cup. West Ham have used the most English players in the Premiership this year.

SK; Will you be having a bet on the outcome? If so, do tell.

Gordon; I'm not a superstitious person but I can never have a bet for or
against West Ham

Mark; I've not been betting this season, whenever I bet on a team, the others one does them over! So maybe I'll stick a bit on Liverpool...

Steve; No, I donít bet on individual games, its hard enough predicting the fixed odds, let alone the score, first goal scorer, half time, full time etcÖ.

Kieran; Of course, I love a bet. I won't know what I will bet on until I see the odds that day, but Iím sure I will have a first scorer and a result double of some sort. I like an outsider for first scorer as well, maybe Steve Finnan for you guys or Jimmy Collins for us!

SK; Finally, care to predict the score?

Gordon;
In the same way I wonít bet on or against West Ham the same principle (much to everyone's annoyance when they are compiling website opinion pieces) applies to making predictions. Ok then 2-1 but I'm not saying who to!

Steve;
If we do manage to win we'll have to play really well and you'll have to have on off day and it'll be by the odd goal to West Ham, 1-0, with either Bobby or Marlon netting the winner.

Kieran; Yeah, obviously a very tight game with limited chances, but I think 2-1 West Ham with Reo Coker netting the winner, capping a great performance and then lifting that trophy up as the youngest skipper since Bobby Moore to lift a trophy for the Hammers!

Mark;  Nope, don't want to jinx it! Reckon it'll only be one goal in it, will be a close game. Good luck to both teams, see you all in Cardiff, and as the song goes:

When Nige,
Goes Up,
To lift the FA cup,
I'll be there!




Thanks again to all concerned for some great answers. Good luck for a safe and enjoyable (but not too enjoyable) trip to Cardiff!

© Huyton Phil 2006

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