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Eye On The Enemy – Sunderland (h)

By on October 21, 2016 in Interviews, Match Preview


After the win at Palace, we’ve got a home game against Sunderland. Bottom of the table, winless, Sunderland. If we win this game, surely we can put our poor start behind us and move on with our season. Plus, we won’t have to face off against Sam Allardyce, which is a relief…!

I spoke to the gents at @RokerReport – – prior to the game to get their thoughts coming into it. As always a big thanks to them for getting involved.


You haven’t won this season. It seems a silly question, but, how on earth is the season being viewed so far by the fans? 

We’re all pretty depressed, to be honest. We finally stayed up by playing well and not fluking our way to survival and then we lose the manager who masterminded it all, a manager who is perfect for our club and we have to start from scratch. It doesn’t help that, as well as the results being terrible, there doesn’t seem to be a clear plan and identity on the pitch. Moyes still has the backing of most supporters but I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who genuinely believes we’ll have a decent season where as in May, we were as positive as we’d been in years.

Although we haven’t been quite that bad, what have you made of our start to the season?

I was quite surprised to see you struggling given your squad and I thought the sense of occasion surrounding the new stadium would give you some early momentum. I suppose those things can go either way though and for you, it’s been a bit similar to when Arsenal had troubles bedding into the Emirates.

You won last week though, of course, and you could easily make it two on the bounce on Saturday which will make you wonder why you ever worried!

One player we’re all quite familiar with, Defoe, has been in decent scoring form. How well is he being utilised by David Moyes?

Not particularly well, I would say. He’ll always sniff out a chance or two but we aren’t giving him enough service. We played Stoke last week, a team who had a worse defensive record than us as we went into the game and he only had 16 touches and a couple of half chances. We’re massively overly reliant on him and we can’t even get the ball to him!

It doesn’t help that Fabio Borini is injured as he’d get closer to him and drag defenders away, which opens up extra space and he’s just a general, awkward, nuisance for defenders. A switch to 3-5-2 would benefit Defoe as it would give him another attacker to play alongside and we don’t really have any wingers anyway so may as well let the full backs provide the width.

On that note, how has David Moyes been received by the fans? Is the paper talk of a returning Big Sam warranted or unfair on him?

Initially, very positively. It was a logical appointment and a lot felt like it was an upgrade. As the season has gone on though, more and more supporters are becoming disillusioned. That’s not necessarily the fault of Moyes either, to be fair. It’s just that we’ve seen this too many times now and, after finally looking like we had a decent team a few months ago, it’s just gone. Moyes hasn’t helped galvanise the fans by constantly being dour and negative every time he speaks to the press. Allardyce would say we were shite now and again but with an arrogance that suggested “but I’m great and I’ll get them out of it.” When Moyes speaks it’s like “well yes we’re crap but what do you expect me to do about it?”

The main argument people make for keeping Moyes because we’ve sacked a few managers recently but that doesn’t really wash. For one, we didn’t even sack the last bloke, he left us! Not that getting rid would make much of a difference now anyway, it looks like the damage is done and we’ll just have to hope Moyes can rebuild. I’m sick of hearing “well look at what he did at Everton” too because, in footballing terms, that was a lifetime ago. He’s had two horrific experiences since then and looks broken as a result of it.

I hope to be proven wrong by him but I’m usually pretty positive when it comes to Sunderland and I’ve never felt this negative for a long time. If Allardyce had stayed there’s no way we’d be struggling like we are now but that ship has sailed, I’d be highly surprised if he returned.

Although it’s still early days in the season, how long before the fear of another season battling relegation loom large?

It’s already here! I’m just hoping we can make a decent go of it now, really. You look at a team like Middlesbrough, who are awful, but they still look better than us right now. Getting beat off them in the second game of the season made a lot of supporters come to the awful realisation it was going to be another one of “them” seasons.

Before Sam left, you were being linked with Diafra Sakho. Do you feel even despite his leaving, that you should have tried to get a proven PL striker into the club? 

Oh god, yes. Having to bring in Victor Anichebe on a free tells you everything about our situation. I’d have loved to have brought in Ulloa from Leicester, when they signed Slimani, but a rumoured late move never materialised. What’s even more baffling is that we let Jeremain Lens go out on a season long loan just after Fabio Borini got ruled out until Christmas so we’re really light when it comes to attackers, especially experienced ones.

On the whole, what did you make of your Summer transfer window?

Pretty awful. All supporters were desperate to see Yann M’Vila sign permanently but that didn’t happen and I doubt he’ll want to come in January given we could be staring down the barrel by then. In his position, we now have Paddy McNair, who hasn’t made an impact and Didier Ndong has who looked promising but, given he’s our record signing, we need to see more than potential. There’s only so much he can do in our current midfield as Lee Cattermole & Jan Kirchhoff have spent the majority of the campaign out injured.

In defence, we’ve lost Younes Kaboul and not replaced him adequately with Papy Djilobodji struggling and Jason Denayer not providing the experience Kaboul had. In fairness to Denayer, he hasn’t had much chance to play in his natural position so the jury is still out on him. Two right backs were brought in, Donald Love & Javier Manquillo, and neither of them are as good as last seasons loanee, DeAndre Yedlin.

As for the more attacking areas, I’ve already mentioned Anichebe but there’s also Steven Pienaar on a free and Adnan Januzaj on loan. Pienaar has looked tidy if unspectacular but what can you expect from someone his age. Januzaj has showed glimpses but, before his injury, hasn’t really made much of a contribution.

This should have been the summer where we just kept the squad together that finished last season, added some depth/competitiveness and looked to push on. We barely have any of that team playing now though, in such a short space of time. It’s unbelievable. Only Sunderland could drain so much enthusiasm away from you so quickly.

What did you make of our Summer transfer window? 

I thought Ayew was a good signing so his injury early on must have been a blow, especially given the transfer fee. Getting Lanzini on a permanent after his loan seemed sensible from an outsider perspective given his talent and potential. Zaza was an interesting one too and, even though he’s struggled early on, I’m pretty intrigued to see how he does in the Premier League.

In terms of outgoings, I was surprised to see you sell Tomkins as I’ve always rated him. £10 million was probably too good to turn down though!

What do you feel the ambition this season for Sunderland is this season?

At the moment, just to stay up! I really can’t envisage anything beyond that at the moment.

What do you feel the ambition this season for West Ham is this season?

Maybe to avoid the Europa League given your aversions to it the past couple of seasons! Like us, it’s been a while since you’s have had some silverware to lift so if you manage to put any relegation fears to bed you could probably focus your attentions on one of the cups.

A lot has been made regarding the negativity surrounding the Olympic Stadium so far this season. What’s your view as an opposing fan? 

If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t have a major view either way. I did feel a little for Orient, I suppose, since the stadium is in their back yard but we could be here all day talking about the ins and outs of that.

I don’t think I’d like it very much if I was a West Ham fan, with the way the board seeming intent on creating a “turn supporters into customers” type of atmosphere and that doesn’t seem to be going down too well. You’d hope that they’d realise their mistake with things like that and respect the tradition of the club while trying to move things forward. Only time will tell.

There’s probably going to be an obvious answer here, but, if you could pick one West Ham player to have in your XI who would you pick and why? 

The obvious answer would be someone like Payet but, at the moment, it’s at the back where we need to sort things out. For that reason, I’m going to say Winston Reid. A good, dependable, defender who knows this league inside out now and is still a good age. Something we’re badly lacking right now with Kone bang out of form.

Finally, what’s your prediction for the game? 

The head says we’ll lose and even the heart is only coming up with a draw at best. I swear I’m usually more positive than this!

We haven’t kept a clean sheet all season and given your attacking threat, I don’t see that changing on Saturday. If we can give Defoe enough to feed off then we should be good for one ourselves so I’ll try and remain positive and say 1-1.

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