Opposition Focus: West Ham United


Image: Oli Scarff - Pool/Getty Images

Matt Wiggins spoke to David Blackmore, editor of West Ham fanzine Blowing Bubbles to get a Hammers perspective ahead of tomorrow’s game at the Cottage…

Fulham vs West Ham, what comes to mind when you think of this fixture from years gone by?

Being cold, very cold! It never seems to matter how many layers I wear, the chill from the Thames always gets me. Having said that, it is one of my favourite away games. We usually take a good crowd and it’s usually always a good game. I always feel like there are goals to be had in our games. I’ve had many a happy night at Craven Cottage but equally witnessed some performances that have left me miserable for days!

Last time, you came out on top with a 1-0 win from a last minute Tomas Soucek goal. What’s your reflection on the reverse fixture?

I actually thought you made a good account of yourselves. We were going through a period of winning ugly and this was another example of this. We huffed and puffed but there was a good determination with your defending and going forward you caused us a few problems in the second half. A draw would have been a fair result but I won’t lie, I was jumping for joy in my living room when Fabianski collected Lookman’s penalty.

At the time of writing, West Ham sit 5th in the league and just two points off 4th. Is a European tour on the cards next year?

I don’t think so. I can’t see us continuing to collect points at the same rate as we have been. Even if we did manage to maintain our current form, I’m not sure we’d take the competition seriously with such a thin squad. I know we should be aspiring to play in Europe but Premier League survival is absolutely vital for us. We would need a few good seasons and be consistently qualifying for Europe to allow us to invest in a bigger squad that would enable us to be able to compete on both fronts.

This month, you’ve completed the permanent signing of Said Benrahma and loaned in Jesse Lingard from Manchester United. Are you happy with West Ham’s window or do you feel you could do with more additions?

I really feel with the sale of Seb Haller, we’ve left ourselves really short up top. Antonio is always one sprint away from pulling his hamstring and being out for six weeks and we’ve now not got any back-up of note. Our failure to sign a replacement may hinder our chances of finishing in the top half. It was good, however, to see Benrahma complete his move. He’s impressed in spells so far and I think if he continues to get game time, he’ll continue to adjust to life in the Premier League. He’s had to show more what he can do without the ball in quite a few games recently and has played his part in our impressive defending since the turn of the year, but I would like to see a better final ball from him in the attacking third. As for Lingard, I must admit I was scratching my head a bit with this loan deal. I’ll wait until I’ve seen him play a few games for us before passing judgement.

Who’s one West Ham player that Fulham need to watch out for on Saturday?

Michail Antonio is the obvious choice but I actually think Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen are the ones that need watching. Soucek has been in good scoring form of late and just always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Bowen has been quiet over the past few games but I feel like he’s due an outstanding game again soon. His workrate and defensive duties have really helped the team but he’s not quite been replicating his early season attacking runs.

Who’s one Fulham player you feel can threaten West Ham at Craven Cottage?

Despite his awful penalty miss, Ademola Lookman, he appears pretty skilful and a good player to watch. He always seems to have a few tricks and creativity up his sleeve but hopefully he doesn’t pull them out against us.

What are your top 4 and bottom 3 predictions?

It’s hard to look beyond Liverpool and Man City for the title. City are on a good run and Liverpool – despite their injuries – are starting to pick up form. I could see them both starting to pull away at the top whilst everyone else continues to be inconsistent. I really have my doubts about Man United but have they created a big enough gap to ensure they will secure fourth place as a minimum? Leicester – assuming they sort out their inconsistency – could challenge for the top four. Tottenham and Chelsea need to start putting together a run quickly to get themselves back into contention. Unfortunately, I can’t see the bottom three changing but I think it will be tight. I can see Fulham and WBA closing the gap with Brighton but I just feel Brighton, Burnley and Newcastle will have enough about them to see them cross the line.

Finally, how do you see the game panning out and what do you think the score will be?

I think it’ll be a score draw. We have been a bit vulnerable at the back of late. Nothing as bad as it has been in recent years but I can see us going a goal behind – as we did against Palace recently – before going ahead and maybe being pulled back late on. I’m going to say 2-2.

Thanks to David Blackmore, editor of West Ham fanzine Blowing Bubbles for answering our questions.