LONDON ENGLAND - JANUARY 30: West Ham United manager Avram Grant reacts during the FA Cup sponsored by E.O.N 4th Round match between West Ham United and Nottingham Forest at the Boleyn Ground on January 30 2011 in London England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Whilst clubs are fannying about showing you their new kits for next season before this ones even ended, we decided to join the bandwagon. We haven't a new kit to show off, nor do we have an old kit to be fair, but we can show you how some things are going to work moving forward.
So, this is Fan Focus, as you know we usually do these before and after the match. Looking at the time/effort/readership graphs, we've decided to make a change. From now on, Fan Focus will only be before the game. "Oh no!" I hear you cry, however we're aiming to bring some Grade A people to the table for Fan Focus (not that others haven't) instead.
So to kick-off this phase, we bring you all the way from That London, via the incredible Football Weekly Podcast, The Blizzard, Retro MBM and The Guardian, it's the wonderful Jacob Steinberg checking in to give us his thoughts on West Ham this season, looking at our game and whole lot more, so come have a read...Thanks for joining us Jacob. I’m always interested to hear how supporting a team prominently affects journalists. Do you think it’s better to lay your colours out like you do, or to never really say and have people guess, accusing you of all sorts?
Jacob: I don't have a problem with it. Football's emotional, so people always get worked up and accuse you of bias, but most people are capable of a civil debate. Every football journalist I know supports a team. It seems strange to hide it, but maybe some don't want the hassle. Then again, my colleague, Daniel Taylor, is open about supporting Nottingham Forest, but still gets accused of supporting Manchester United ... and Manchester City. Sometimes you just can't win.
On to your Hammers thought, who succumbed to relegation last weekend. How did it manage to go so wrong when the likes of Scott Parker, Mark Noble and arguably Demba Ba & Thomas Hitzelsperger would walk into most Premier League teams outside the top 4?
Jacob: Avram Grant, mainly. He's been a disaster and should never have been given the job. He's not a football manager - at least not at Premier League level - and that's now been proven at three different clubs. They've been a shambles defensively and there's a lack of organisation and confidence. It's not his fault he was appointed though. The blame there lies with the owners, who subsequently undermined Grant and then failed to sack him when they should have in January. Martin O'Neill wasn't the only option. Roy Hodgson was too and look what happened at West Brom.
I saw rumours that Gold, Sullivan & Brady have said that any player over the age of 24 will be up for sale. If true, do you think that’s the right policy?
Jacob: There's no point talking yourself into a corner. They might find they need some experience in the squad next season. Anyway Scott Parker, although certain to leave, is over 24. Obviously they perhaps don't have him in mind, but there's an inherent lack of logic there. And it's not as if every player under 24 has been brilliant. Winston Reid and Pablo Barrera come to mind.
And now Avram Grant has gone too, anything more than a token gesture? Personally I was amazed he got the job in the first place.
Jacob: As I said above, it's four months too late, a decision that should usually be so difficult taken at the easiest moment, minutes after relegation. The horse, it's fair to say, has bolted.
Who do you think will come in to replace Grant, and what sort of character is needed to guide West Ham back at the first attempt?
Jacob: I'm not entirely sure. My feeling is that Chris Hughton will get the job, but it's worth pointing out that West Ham's squad is likely to be markedly worse than the Newcastle team he got promoted. They had the likes of Joey Barton, Andy Carroll and Jonas Gutierrez still and we'll have no one like that. Then again, his sacking was ludicrous. His team had beaten Aston Villa 6-0, Sunderland 5-1 (sorry) and won at Arsenal. He also made some cheap, decent and imaginative signings like Cheik Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa. But having worked for one set of clowns, will he want to work for Gollivan? That's the problem now. They've undermined two different managers in the space of a year and that sends out a terrible message. There's no chance of someone like Martin O'Neill coming in. Sam Allardyce is likely to want to wait for a Premier League job, especially as he's not short on media work. I've seen Neil Warnock and Paul Lambert linked, but why would they leave promoted sides? West Ham are a relatively big club, but they would inherit a mess - you only have to look at the team's end of season dinner. Gus Poyet is another name, but he's mates with Zola, who had major problems with the owners. A theme's developing here, isn't it?
Kevin Keen will be in charge when we come to visit. Do you think he will set the team up any differently, or will those that got you into this position be put back out to prove a point to the home fans?
Well after Monday's farcical end of season dinner, I'd suggest none of the players involved in the brawl should be involved. To be honest, apart from a few selected senior players (Green, Parker, Noble, Hitzlsperger, Collison and so on), Keen would be better off giving the kids a go - that will placate the fans as they'll have more patience with them. I'd rather not watch Carlton Cole any more. There's a positive of relegation; he'll finally bugger off.
Have you caught much of Sunderland this season, and what impressions have you got of us?
Jacob: I haven't watched you properly since you lost to Stoke in February when not much appeared to be wrong. You lost but two of the Stoke goals should have been disallowed. Up until you sold Darren Bent, you looked fine and I didn't think his departure would cause such a slump. Indeed at times during the first half of the season you looked more fluid without him. You have some good players so it's difficult to say what's gone wrong without having watched more of them, but it's definitely put a major dent in Steve Bruce's reputation. Sunderland always seem to switch off as the season goes on - although this time you have ended up without any strikers due to all the injuries. You should stick with Bruce for now, but he won't get away with this again.
Have any of our players caught your eye, and where do you envisage the key battles on the pitch being?
Jacob: Obviously Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck have impressed. Jordan Henderson is clearly talented but has faded. Elmohamady's been a good signing, and I like John Mensah's ... let's call it passion. Also, goal machine Phil Bardsley, your Jonathan Spector. The key for Sunderland will be disrupting Collison, Hitzlsperger and Parker in midfield. Assuming he's not too tired after Monday night, Demba Ba will be a handful too. Sunderland may get joy down the flanks - West Ham are poor there, mainly because there's not enough protection for the full-backs.
And to sign off, what’s your prediction for the game...
And with that we'd like to thank Jacob for his top notch work, and help in ushering in a new era of Fan Focus. Go follow him on Twitter, and read his work in The Guardian, The Blizzard and on Retro MBM. He's a top fella.
For more preview of the West Ham game, you can't go far wrong with the Roker Report Podcast. Award nominated, and once hitting the dizzying heights of No.10 in the iTunes Chart. Easily the best SAFC chatter you'll hear on the interweb, so come and get involved... http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-roker-report-podcast-www/id437085978