Precious China for Gabbidon
IT WAS a sight as rare as hens teeth, and West Ham fans had to travel five thousand miles to Beijing to see it in the flesh - yes, Danny Gabbidon scored a goal for the Hammers! – writes DAVE EVANS. Of course, it doesn t really count, and West Ham s perfo
IT WAS a sight as rare as hens' teeth, and West Ham fans had to travel five thousand miles to Beijing to see it in the flesh - yes, Danny Gabbidon scored a goal for the Hammers! - writes DAVE EVANS.
Of course, it doesn't really count, and West Ham's performance against a reserve and trialist team from Beijing Guoan was hardly convincing.
But for Gabbidon, playing 90 minutes made it a very precious China trip for the Welsh international.
"I didn't really see it coming," said the centre half, who will be celebrating his 30th birthday when West Ham take on Napoli at Upton Park this coming Saturday.
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"Mark Noble had whipped in a corner just before and I kind of ran in a bit too early, so I thought with the second one that comes in, I am going to hang back a bit.
"It worked perfectly. I lost my defender and it was great to see it going in."
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For the injury-plagued Gabbidon, it was his first 90 minutes since December 2007.
He played 45 minutes against Grays Athletic on July 12, then another half on the tour of Austria, but this was his biggest test so far and playing alongside James Tomkins in defence, he came through with flying colours, as well as that headed goal.
"I was a bit shocked because I'm not usually a goalscorer," said the Welshman, who has barely mustered a shot during his 75 appearances in claret and blue.
"It was probably the first time I've been up for a corner since I have been at West Ham. It was nice to score though and it was good for my confidence, especially as I also played a full 90 minutes."
Gabbidon was the biggest plus point from the trip to Beijing, but what was the overriding feeling about a trip that saw them lose 1-0 to Tottenham, and then beat Beijing Guoan 2-0?
Certainly, it showed just how lacking West Ham are in the forward roles.
Zavon Hines came on in both games and took his goal nicely in the closing moments of the Guoan clash, but he is surely not the player that Gianfranco Zola is relying on to come off the bench and do the business for the Hammers.
The 4-3-3 formation looked like a negative 4-5-1 for most of the time and showed, as it did last season, that West Ham have not got the personnel to carry out this gameplan with the effectiveness needed in the Premier League.
Too often, the gallant, but outnumbered Carlton Cole was isolated up front. Kieron Dyer was the only player able to get beyond him, but even a fully-fit Dyer is unlikely to get you the quantity of goals that a second striker might.
Luis Jimenez hit one good free kick against the Chinese, which forced a fine save from the goalkeeper, but in open play, he did not take people on, and instead seemed happy to play the simple ball.
Scott Parker again looked negative, though that may have been more to do with his lack of fitness, but when you are playing only one up front, surely you need to move the ball faster and use the pace in the team, and Parker seems to stifle that plan.
If Gabbidon can stay fit, then West Ham do not seem to have too many problems in central defence.
Tomkins was superb against the Chinese, hardly putting a foot wrong, while James Collins made only one small error to let in Jermain Defoe against Spurs, and Matthew Upson is always one to be relied on.
Savio made few contributions in two substitute appearances, while Jack Collison and Mark Noble still look to be lacking a little in match fitness.
All in all, it was a worthwhile trip to the far east which should prepare the team for the Napoli clash, though there is still a lot of work for the players to do, and a lot of work for Zola to do in bringing in the striking options the squad so desperately need.
For Gabbidon though, he is just glad to be fit and ready for the start of the season.
"It is good to be back home this week," he said. "It was hectic in Austria and China and there wasn't a lot of time to do anything but train and play, but you won't hear us complaining."
West Ham's players did manage to squeeze in a visit to the Great Wall of China while they were in Beijing, but unless they can improve their squad before the transfer deadline on August 31, they may face a much bigger obstacle over the coming months!