Ahead of City’s first-ever trip to Stratford, I’ve been chatting with Sam Delaney – author, broadcaster, host of podcast Top Flight Time Machine and West Ham diehard …
So, an okay start to the season, Sam? Seems fair to ignore the Man City tonking as that’s something that will happen to three-quarters of the league, but a point away at Brighton and the win at Watford must have lifted the spirits, not to mention avoid the Carabao banana skin at Newport?
Traditionally, we lose all our games in August and let panic set in nice and early. By picking up four points in the first three games we have exceeded all expectations and delayed panic stations until the autumn.
How have the new signings settled in so far? Do they look as if they could improve you? We’re particularly interested in Haller as we had a little dabble at signing him in the January window of 2016. We even got him to our training ground apparently before he gave us the two-fingers.
The two big signings were Haller and Fornals. Haller showed glimpses of his talent against City, missed the Brighton game with injury then scored a brace against Watford before claiming he had played terribly.
That kind of Gallic arrogance suggests there’s a great deal more to come from our new centre forward. You could argue the season is riding on him: a consistent striker was the missing piece of the jigsaw last season, with Pellegrini’s cavalier style creating plenty of chances.
Fornals was recruited from Spain to join the likes of Lanzini, Anderson and Yarmolenko among the attacking support staff but he has not quite settled in yet.
He clearly has quality but he has seemed off the pace and a bit confused by the relentless insanity of Premier League football. He’ll improve with every game, I’m sure.
What are the expectations for this season? Are you locked in the battle for seventh?
Yes, seventh is the target. We see ourselves as being in competition with Everton, Leicester and Wolves for that slightly rubbish prize. If we keep the key players fit I think we have a very good chance of doing it. In fact, I think we will probably win the league to be absolutely honest.
This will be our first trip to the ‘Olympic’ Stadium – for a football match at least – so what should we expect? Obviously, there were the well-publicised teething problems, but things have settled down now presumably? Does it feel like home yet?
Yes, it feels like home. Don’t believe what everyone says, there is a great atmosphere because we have great fans.
There are 60,000 packed in there every game.
No, it’s not Upton Park, it is completely different. But the critics are mostly grumpy old men who can’t accept change or bitter rivals who can’t stomach that we got a first-class stadium at everyone else’s expense. Hahahaha.
What have you made of our Poundshop rise to the Premier League? Am pretty sure we’re a faint blip on the West Ham radar but you au fait with the new Norwich City way?
I saw bits of Norwich last season and loved the sheer audacity of the football. It was like watching Real Madrid in the Galacticos era only I hadn’t heard of any of the players.
So far, they have been extremely impressive, with Pukki, of course, being the standout figure. I also like it that your manager speaks like Werner Herzog.
I’ll be honest, I had to google it, but we’ll take it.
So, can we…?
From what I’ve seen I so far I’d expect Norwich to comfortably survive and finish in mid-table or even higher. They clearly play with confidence and a screw-you attitude. I think they will be the surprise package this season
And, finally, a score prediction?
I think the game is going to be a cracker. Both teams are very attacking. Our defence is rubbish, I’ve got feeling yours might be too. 3-2 to the Hammers.
Hard to contest that… cheers for your time, Sam.