Word to the Wise

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar August 1, 2015 10:09

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Word to the Wise

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By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 29th 2015)

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Birkirkara gave the Hammers a real scare in the second round of qualifiers for the Europa League. Having been restricted to a solitary goal in the Boleyn Stadium the Maltese took an early lead in the second leg. It ended with West Ham reaching the third round of qualification after a massive scare. The Maltese had earned respect.

“Yeah it was close, but I think you’ve got to give credit to them”, West Ham’s Welsh international defender James Collins said. “Everybody was expecting us to go and beat them 3-0 at home, but it’s not like that”.

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The minnows have been playing catch up and done so without fanfare. Birkirkara exemplified that. Not so long ago Burkina Faso shocked Africa done so without fanfare reaching the final of the 2013 edition of the African Cup of Nations.

“Obviously playing in international football’s the same”, Colins said. “They expect teams to go places and win 4, 5 nil, but that’s not the case any more. Obviously we would have liked to have scored a few more against them at home, but that didn’t happen. I mean we went out there expecting a tough game and that’s what we got. They were together in the way they played”.

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Niggles

“Like I said they got under our skin,” said Collins about Birkirkara’s on-field methods. “Everyone could see that you know. It worked. They obviously spoke about doing it before the game and from minute one they tried everything they could and like I said it worked. They gave us a tough game, but thankfully we got through in the end”.

Collins claimed that that their tactics were clear. “They were doing all they could to get underneath our skin which obviously they did”, he said. “It didn’t help the situation, but that’s going to happen. They’re coming to play us; it’s their cup final and we have got to be wise to that and deal with that and let football do the talking”.

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However, Collins enjoyed a part of the game that has all but disappeared during his career. “It’s quite enjoyable, you know”, he said. “You don’t seem to see that any more. Week in week out in the Premier League that doesn’t happen, you know. It’s a good eye-opener for the young lads that who the gaffer’s put in the squad to go to these places”.

He regrets the loss of a forgotten dark art of football. “It’s great to see that side of the game”, Collins said. “I had that a lot when I was growing up, which I believe made me a stronger player, so for some of the younger lads who are going to get a chance, it’s a great experience”.

Concerns

Meanwhile, Bilić has further concerns. “I tell you when I was at Beşiktaş we had to play”, he said. “I don’t know, the Turkish season last year starts end of August and we had to play end of July I think against Feyenoord two games, then against Arsenal for the Champion’s League qualification, same year”. It was a long season, but worse for the English clubs and Beşiktaş.

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“It was good especially in first half of the season”, Bilić said. “After that as I said, it’s not ideal. Look at many teams. Look at Spurs last year. Look at Everton last year. Look at Liverpool. Their best period in that last year was since they got knocked out against Basel I think, home until they played us, Beşiktaş, right from December to February, whatever, they were flying there and they played only Premiership before and after it was a very good year”.

Wary

Collins called for his team-mates to wise up. The Hammers entered the Europa League – their first foray into Europe in almost a decade – through Fair Play. However, the Clarets and Blues have already seen two players Diafra Sakho and James Tomkins sent off against minnows FC Lusitans of Andorra and Maltese Cup winners Birkirkara.

“You can only use the examples of the last game”, Collins explains. “Some of the stuff that was going on on the pitch was unbelievable. Like I said that’s what they are going to try and do. They’ve got to try anything to get an upper hand on us”.

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Collins wanted his team-mates to be vigilant. “As I said James Tomkins got sent off last game and Sakho the game before and that can’t happen”, he said. “We’ve got to be like I said before – we’ve  got to be more streetwise. That’s what teams are going to come and try and do. You know we need to be a bit more professional and like I said, let our football do the talking”.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar August 1, 2015 10:09
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