The Fiver | A wildly unpredictable basket case outfit from Lahndan’s east end | Football


Cup an ear in the direction of east London, listen carefully and you can almost hear the mental cogs turning. Taken aback by the frothing rage prompted by the sale of youth team graduate Grady Diangana to West Brom, the West Ham hierarchy realise their need to embark on an exercise in appeasement by adding an expensive new acquisition to a squad that could also find itself a Declan Rice light. In a perfect world, they’d sign an overpriced, occasionally mercurial but flaky, unreliable and injury prone big-name foreigner, but having already cornered that particular market they discover there aren’t any left.

Who to sign, then? Well, having told Big Paper during the summer that he wants “to get away from a West Ham team that is soft” in favour of making them “harder and tougher”, it’s no surprise that David Moyes has instructed his bosses, the [snip! – Fiver lawyers] Brothers to try to secure the scrawl of teak-tough Burnley central defender James Tarkowski. The 27-year-old is pushing for a move from Turf Moor to increase his chances of earning himself an England recall by playing for a more fashionable claret-and-blue club and may take his chances with a wildly unpredictable basket case outfit from Lahndan’s east end.

While the central defender’s thoughts on jellied eels, cockney rhyming slang and pearly kings and queens are undocumented, a move to West Ham would seem rather at odds for a 27-year-old who said last week: “I am coming into my prime years and wanting to progress, I want to go for the top level.”

A man who played every minute of every Premier League game for Burnley last season, helping to keep 15 clean sheets in the process, Tarkowski was overlooked by Gareth Southgate when he picked his England squad for recent games in Iceland and Denmark. His omission surprised some, not least because Harry Maguire was sidelined with Mykonos-knack.

“I do feel a little bit like I’ve been forgotten about,” he said around the time West Ham submitted their opening bid of £25m to the Burnley bean-counters, only to be greeted by the pithy response of “James who?”. With Leicester also reported to be interested in securing his scrawl, West Ham todayincreased their bid to £30m.

Earlier this week, Sean Dyche said he would not be sold “on the cheap” and hinted the Turf Moor outfit might hold out for a whopping £50m. Having only just paid off the debt owed to Eintracht Frankfurt for their current record signing Sébastien Haller, West Ham will be hoping that if Tarkowski comes, he will provide a better return on their investment than the brooding, goal-shy striker. The Frenchman started last season at the club saying “when they spend an amount like that you know they really want to use you” and ended it with a series of unproductive cameos off the bench.


“The Alps, all of the famous ones – the Vuelta [a España], the Giro [d’Italia] – even some of the mad ones. They have a race in America called Dirty Kanza, which is proper grotty – gravel bike, dirty, camping in bushes. It will be absolutely class; I can’t wait” – Ben Foster, a 37-year-old footballer, has been talking to Ben Fisher and, apparently, watching too much Eurosport.

Ben Foster: grotty. Photograph: Neil Hall/NMC/EPA


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‘What I need is to completely lose perspective, and find myself bellowing “these squad deficiencies are the END OF THE WORLD!’ Illustration: Matt Johnstone

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