It is always a pleasure for us at Royal Blue Mersey to speak this week with LBC 97.3 Radio presenter and West Ham United fanatic Iain Dale, who also runs the blog West Ham Till I Die. We asked him for his opinions on a wide variety of subjects ahead of their visit to Everton on Sunday.
RBM - A possible tenth place finish in their first season back in the Premier League, far from the relegation dogfight. Has this been a successful season for the Hammers?
ID - Anything which avoided relegation would have been successful to be honest, so our aim was 17th. In the end it has been far better than any of us could have imagined. Indeed, if our away form had been better we’d have been rather higher. Our home form has been superb, unlike last season when we found it difficult to win at home and easy to win away!
RBM - Having been skeptical of 'Big Sam' in the beginning, you had mentioned that you felt much better about him the last time we spoke. How do you feel about him after two seasons?
ID - I am a convert. He has brought some much needed discipline to the team and enabled us to play in very different styles when we need to. Yes, we like pretty football, but we can also rough it up and play more directly when we need to. I can’t think there are many Hammers fans who don’t want him to sign a new contract.
RBM - Where are the weaknesses in the West Ham side? What should Allardyce be working on in the offseason? Are there any players that he has been linked with bringing in?
ID - Our weakness has been scoring goals. Andy Carroll has done brilliantly but has only played 20 games, scoring 8 goals. Not a bad return, but none of the other strikers have scored more than 4. Kevin Nolan has scored 7 but they mostly came in the first half of the season. Defensively we have been superb, but I think we need to add a top class full back, centre back and striker to our lineup. We have some brilliant midfielders and wingers so I think we’re OK there. We play 4-5-1 but I’d love to see us play 4-4-2 with a Defoe-like striker playing off Carroll. That is, if we keep Carroll.
RDM - Winston Reid was recently (and rightfully) named West Ham's Player of the Year. You had said he had come on by leaps and bounds. Tell us more about him. Who else caught your eye this year?
ID - He is Mr reliable, and he chips in with a few goals too. His timing has been brilliant all season and his partnership with James Collins has come on leaps and bounds. Everyone thought it would be James Tomkins who really pushed on this season, but he has been totally eclipsed by Reid and Collins. Winston has signed until 2015 which is a real boost.
RBM - Ref Anthony Taylor had quite the shambolic game the last time West Ham played Everton, hopefully Sunday will be better. What is your score prediction? What are you expecting for a formation, and who do you think will have outstanding games?
ID - Everton are our bogey team and very few of us expect three points. However, it will be interesting to see how the Everton players react after the Moyes announcement. We will play 4-5-1 and I would expect an unchanged lineup. However, I hope to see Ravel Morrison feature at some point. He’s back from his loan spell with Birmingham and if he can control himself, he could well be a star of the future. If Mo Diame is on form, and Carroll has his usual excellent game, maybe we can scrape something!