West Ham fail test of attitude

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sufficiently upset to have been tearful at the final whistle, a West Ham supporter called Radio Five Live's Six-o-Six programme on Saturday to complain about lack of effort, after her team had lost 1-0. "Some of our players didn't try," she said, "they were crap."

The dominant feature of British football is endeavour. If, as in the majority of cases, a team's imagination is limited, it is usually reliable in resolve. This is especially true of the FA Cup, a competition noted for heroics. Tradition dictates the losers go down fighting.

To be fair, West Ham did, but only after being prevailed upon at half-time by their manager, Harry Redknapp, who was at a loss to explain a visible dip in application. "It is the first time this season that I have been really disappointed in them," he said.

If Queen's Park Rangers adapted better to what any clerk of the course would have designated as heavy going, technically there was little between the teams, so is there a magic elixir that separates winners from losers? Can you buy it in the phamarcy? Doyou pour it on cornflakes? "We improved considerably in the second half," Redknapp said, "but it shouldn't have been necessary to get on to them about attitude."

By contrast, Ray Wilkins was more than pleased with the talent at his disposal; a team depleted most conspicuously by the absence of Les Ferdinand. Fresh to the trade and still available for selection, the QPR manager continues to find the experience frustrating. "Sometimes, I'm itching to get out there," he said. "I see things going wrong, but when I shout to the players, I'm not always sure they're listening. Management takes a bit of getting used to."

Don't misunderstand; Wilk-ins knows what he is doing. "In my days here as a player, I always felt that we had a bit of an inferiority complex," he said. "I want to change that. We're capable of playing good football, but we have to compete." Although it did not apply in every position - Alvin Martin and Julian Dicks were notable exceptions - this was precisely West Ham's problem. For 45 minutes, their commitment, disappointingly, was questionable.

Also, there is the issue of initiative. Considering the benefits of the tuition they enjoy, Redknapp was entitled to suppose that his players would have reacted accordingly to advice about how to play in the prevailing conditions. He should not have feltthe need to impress the need for a more direct method. That it was pretty near impossible to make progress by any other means seemed obvious.

By the time this was repeated as a principle, West Ham were behind to a goal in the 20th minute by Andrew Impey, who came through smartly on to a cross-field pass intelligently provided by Ian Holloway. Improving after the interval, West Ham established a measure of superiority, but without ever threatening to equalise. The promise of four free-kicks in quick succession came to nothing.

In setting up a stern defence, Rangers had four players booked, but this did not trouble Wilkins unduly. "In a battle, you don't always make the right decisions," he said. "It's when we are punished for dissent that I get upset."

Left to face the struggle for survival in the Premiership, Redknapp set out a case for Martin, ludicrously sent off last week against Sheffield Wednesday. "If there is any justice, Alvin will only be suspended for one game," he said.

Goal: Impey (20) 1-0.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Roberts; Bardsley, McDonald, Maddix, Yates; Impey, Barker, Holloway, Dichio; Gallen, Sinclair. Substitutes not used: Ready, Allen, Dykstra (gk).

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Martin, Potts, Dicks; Bishop (Hutchinson, 69), Moncur, Allen, Hughes; Cottee, Boere. Substitutes not used: Reiper, Sealey (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow on the Hill).

Comments