Ahead of Monday’s big derby against West Ham United, I exchanged a few questions and answers with Charlie Walsh of Brace The Hammer, who are some of our newest SB Nation brethren.
WAGNH: Terrible start to the season for West Ham, but things seem to be improving. Is there a sense of a better future or is the worst yet to come?
BTH: Most fans would tentatively agree with the former. We seem to have put the first half of the season behind us now and are playing more like the West Ham of last year. It isn't all sunshine and roses, we struggle from time to time and injuries are keeping us from finding our strongest XI, but we're certainly getting there.
WAGNH: Slaven Bilic with beard or without beard?
BTH: Oh dude, with beard. No hesitation. He's like Samson, his beard gives him his strength. If he ever grows it to the length he did at Beşiktaş, we'll probably win the league.
WAGNH: Why did Dimitri Payet get so upset so quickly, seemingly out of nowhere?
BTH: When moving to the London Stadium, fans were sold a dream of bigger and better things to come. We were told that with a stadium this size comes nothing but progress and fun times. Evidently, that hasn't happened. The club has either stalled or actively regressed in almost every aspect. I have no doubt in my mind that our owners sold Payet that same dream.
At 29 he is at the very top of his game and as the 17th best player in the world last year, as per the Ballon d'Or, last summer was his chance to get the biggest move of his career. Instead he stayed and watched as everything crumbled around him. West Ham's fanbase wouldn't have begrudged him leaving in January if he went about it in the right way. Unfortunately he chose to deal with it the way he did and he'll forever be remember as "a snake" because of it.
WAGNH: Is the Olympic Stadium really that bad?
BTH: To discuss all the problems would take a novella so I'll save you the pain. In short, kinda yeah. Some things have been blown way out of proportion, the crowd troubles for example, but it just isn't a football stadium. They're trying to solve the issues fans have but the fact it isn't owned by West Ham means it'll never be fully fixed. It'll never truly be home. It may be superior to Upton Park in many ways but when it comes to the experience of actually going to a football match, it doesn't even come close.
WAGNH: Expectations for the rest of the season, the summer, and beyond?
BTH: The dream is 8th. The aim has to be 9th. We'll probably end up 10th. Past that, the next step as a club is to become the best teams outside the Top 6. Everton look like they have that sewn up for the foreseeable future, Southampton are challengers to that crown and Stoke are somehow perennially 9th but these are the teams we need to be competing with. Our biggest issue is our owners unwillingness to spend, whether we can keep pace with those sides relies heavily on them opening their wallets.
WAGNH: Prediction for Monday's game?
BTH: I suspect we'll start with a side almost identical to that that started against Watford with the exception of Antonio who is suspended.
Randolph | Cresswell, Reid, Fonte, Kouyate | Obiang, Noble | Snodgrass, Lanzini, Feghouli | Carroll
I'm not sure I can honestly say I see a West Ham win but then again, I wouldn't have before we beat you in the cup either. If we can come away with a hard fought point I'd be very very happy: 2-2.