FAN'S VIEW: Expect Hammers to revert to type against Crystal Palace (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Billy Blagg is pining for the traditional Easter program but says West Ham's visit from Crystal Palace will be as close as he'll get
It would be something of a misnomer to suggest that West Ham have suddenly become an attacking powerhouse – they still lack a quality finisher and someone who can take advantage of Andy Carroll’s aerial supremacy for that to happen – but there have been signs in the last two league matches that Sam Allardyce has been trying to play a more expansive game.
Ironic then that against Liverpool and Arsenal, the Hammers have made some defensive mistakes and been involved in referring debates that have taken the sheen of off what has otherwise seen some encouraging performances.
Modern football though is as much about mental attitudes as tactical insight and the appalling clearance by Stewart Downing that allowed Arsenal back into the game just before half-time at the Emirates, was a good example that proved that - particularly against the better sides - a team can never afford to make a mistake or show any weakness.
The shame of it was that the Hammers looked much better with Mo Diame in the middle of the park, allowing Matt Jarvis to have one of his better games.
Indeed, but for a bit of old style decision-making that decided Jarvis to stay on his feet when tackled waist high by Bacary Sagna in the penalty area – somewhere Ron Greenwood was doubtless applauding – the Hammers could have had a nervous Arsenal team on the ropes by half-time.
Fans will doubtless be hoping for the formation – if not the form – to continue at home to Crystal Palace to allow the Hammers to get the point or three needed to confirm Premier League football next season, but Big Sam’s post-match comments suggests we might be in for another war of attrition against Tony Pulis’ vastly-improved side.
At Easter weekend though, it’s sometimes hard for some older supporters not to get all starry-eyed when thinking of how crucial the period used to be in deciding important issues in the league.
Although the Premiership program extends itself fully over the weekend for TV purposes, it once used to run over the four days of the holiday period in actual games for the club, a team often playing on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday.
Modern understanding of health and fitness wouldn’t allow for it now, of course, but it’s amusing nonetheless to consider modern footballers putting aside a pie and a pint, lacing up the heavy boots and trotting out for three games in four days.
On evenings when I’ve little else to do, I like to imagine the FA having a season of old-style football where players don’t roll over six times when tackled, stay on their feet when scythed in half by an opponent smelling of Craven ready-rubbed and Watney’s Pale Ale and given only a finger-wagging admonishment by a referee in a top-hat needing to get back to Barnsley post-match for his Sunday shift down the mine.
As it is though, Allardyce v Pulis is a close as we’re likely to get. Tin hat on everyone!
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