Thursday, March 5

Who put the pen on the contract page? Winston Winston Reid!

Much better news today is that Winston Reid has signed a six-year contract with WHU for an estimated £65k a week wages. All it took was the threat of torture from Big Sam. Some good business by the club in recent weeks, signing Tomkins, Noble and Reid on long-term deals. And proof Winston sees us as a better option than those small north London clubs Spurs and Arsenal.

Stick your blue flag up your…

West Ham 0 Chelsea 1

It’s surprisingly easy to get served in Ken’s Cafe an hour before kick-off, with Matt and Lisa opting for isotonic cheesy chips and Michael the Whovian Playwright, who doesn’t normally eat in the evenings, opting for just the one big breakfast. Matt is still smarting from the cancellation of Billericay FC’s league fixture on Monday night. Fraser is away attending a Creative writing class on police procedure, presumably checking on how to arrest West Ham’s post-Christmas decline.

Meanwhile news comes through that the slightly injured Song is on the bench and Kevin Nolan is back in the side. We must be doing badly, as there’s talk of how we need Kev’s leadership.

Costa scoops over early on, but then West Ham have a good spell and come right back into the game, with Noble excelling in midfield. Reid has to go off early though, with a tweaked calf muscle, and is replaced by the Ginger Pele. West Ham win a corner and Courtois has to rush from his line to block Kouyate’s shot.

Terry is outpaced by Valencia and earns a booking for a cynical pullback reminiscent of an elderly nightclub bouncer. Kouyate then prods the ball across the Chelsea box and Sakho goes for the ball with his wrong foot as the chance disappears. Zouma has to go off for treatment after a clash with Kouyate and the Chelsea fans are regaled by a chant of “You won’t let him on the train!”

Just as we’re in the middle of a really good spell, Chelsea break and the classy Hazard finds Ramires on the right. Collins steps up to play offside but no decision is given and the unmarked Hazard heads home on 22 minutes. It’s rather like Kevin Nolan’s disallowed ‘goal’ at Man United. There’s not much in it, but the replays suggest the Chelsea man is just offside.

Shortly after the goal the late Mystic Morris arrives, protesting about the District line. It’s nearly two for Chelsea when Costa is through on goal but Jenkinson gets back to make a fantastic tackle. If he’d timed it wrong it would have been a penalty and a red card. We’re still creating chances though. At the other end Jenkinson gets in a superb cross and Sakho heads it down, only to be thwarted by a decent save from Courtois. Diafra really should have scored.

West Ham reallygo at Chelsea in the second half, even though Matt’s positivism only lasts 22 second before his first expletive. Kouyate makes the first of several surging runs from midfield and finds Sakho, who turns to slice wide.

“Don’t put this in your blog, but Nolan is in danger of being the man of the match,” suggests Nigel. Bizarrely, he’s right. The West Ham captain has been much more involved than usual, playing sensible balls, getting in tackles and organising the midfield against the likely Champions.

Downing is having a storming second half on the left and after his run and cross Sakho prods towards goal, Courtois parries and Nolan just fails to score in a big goalmouth scramble. Chelsea break quickly and Ramires shoots against Adrian’s post and the ball rebounds into the keeper’s arms. A good game for the neutral, if there are any, as “Stick your blue flag up your arse!” rings round Upton Park.

Adrian then has to make a fine save from Ramires’ header. Downing finds Sakho with a good through ball on the left and the West Ham striker, experiencing an off night, shoots against the keeper. Valencia’s shot is spilled by Courtois and Cahill has to make a saving tackle to prevent Sakho scoring.

Kouyate makes a fantastic run from the half way line, plays the ball to Sakho and is body checked on the edge of the box by John Terry.  Referee Andre Marriner, who has performed like a man in fear of the wrath of Mourinho all night, is fooled by Terry falling to the ground clutching his head and elects not to give the Chelsea captain a second yellow. The Bobby Moore Stand is reduced to the withering criticism of, “We want Mark Clattenberg!” surely the most unlikely chant ever to be heard at a Premier League ground.

Chelsea almost get a second as Cresswell clears off the line and West Ham have a penalty claim for handball ignored and Sakho heads a Downing cross over. Chelsea seem to block everything and celebrate at the end like it was this gritty performance that has won them the league. We’ve pushed them to the limit, but it’s another good performance without points.

We retreat to the Central where the TVs are off, but there is the entertainment of seeing backpackers ushered to their rooms (“But I thought it was the Central hotel? Where is Oxford Street?”) There’s even some bottles of Old Speckled Hen as we discuss if Costa is the ugliest player in the league (Michael thinks he is). 

This was much better than the Palace game and we’ve played well against all the top sides at Upton Park. Surely our luck is going to turn soon?

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Jenkinson 7, Reid 5 (Collins 6), Tomkins 6, Cresswell 7; Nolan 7, Noble 7, Kouyate 8 (Nene 5), Downing 7; Sakho 5, Valencia 6.

Wednesday, March 4

Sullivan versus Allardyce Part 97

There was an extensive feature on the perceived tension between David Sullivan and Sam Allardyce in Saturday's Guardian. Not a lot of new information, just the quote from Sullivan claiming that he signed Sakho and another generic quote from Sullivan that, "they're not geniuses, managers." Though the comparison between Modibo Maiga and Sakho, both similar-priced players from the French League, is interesting. 

Perhaps there is a power struggle. But what the papers don't seem to consider is that both parties might actually be happy to wait until the end of the season to make a decision. With eight of the last nine games against the bottom ten a strong finish should still be attainable and BS is not short of self-belief. The board didn't judge Allardyce on half a season last time, when he could have gone after the 6-0 defeat at Man City, so it seems consistent to judge the season as a whole this time too. Click on the link to read the piece.

Four-game ban for Jedinak

Mile Jedinak has received a four-game suspension for his elbow on Diafra Sakho on Saturday, and rightly so. It was hard to see the incident in real time but looking at it on Match of the Day it was a nasty and dangerous elbow to Sakho's face. Had Jedinak been sent off it wouldn't have made much difference to the game as it was in the dying minutes, but even so it would have been satisfying to see a red card and Palace go down to nine men. Let's hope Diafra's confidence isn't affected by getting an unnecessary clumping.

Tuesday, March 3

Hammer horror

Sam Allardyce appears to be a fan of maverick FBI man Jack Bauer in 24. At today's press conference he said of the Winston Reid situation: "He has an exceptionally good offer on the table but he won’t make a decision either way. We cannot get a decision out of him, unless we torture him. Cocktail sticks under the nails or ring up Jack Bauer, I’m sure he could get the answer out of him." 

If this all sounds like something inspired by George Orwell's 1984 it probably is. As my fellow season ticket holder Nigel noticed, at one point last season our back line contained Winston, O'Brien and Rat, who all feature in Orwell's dystopia. Big Sam is watching you, Winston.

Monday, March 2

Dylan Tombides in the Observer

Good piece about Dylan Tombides by Daniel Taylor in the Observer. It really got over how brave Dylan was just to train, let alone play while undergoing chemotherapy for testicular cancer. It was something of a medical miracle that he managed to make his West Ham debut as a sub in a League Cup tie against Wigan and fly to Oman for the under-22 championships. The full-page feature should generate support much welcome for the Dylan Tombides Foundation. Click on the link to read.

Saturday, February 28

Set piece woe as Hammers fail to storm Palace

Brian Williams at the Newham Bookshop
West Ham United 1 Crystal Palace 3

There’s a big gathering round the World Cup winners statue on Barking Road as Stephanie Moore welcomes Jonjo Heurrman who has riden 800 miles in aid of the Bobby Moore Fund. Meanwhile Brian Williams signs my copy of Nearly Reach The Sky at the Newham Bookshop, and it's nice to know he remembers my 1980s Midweek article’s quote of “Don’t worry Cottee, Snow White and other six will be coming soon!” from the Chicken Run.

Inside Ken’s Cafe sit Matt and Michael, who has just seen 90-year-old William Russell (Ian Chesterton) from Doctor Who at a Whovian event in Barking. Mike’s wearing a suit and is off to his old school reunion after the match. Pretty much his perfect day if there wasn’t a West Ham match in between. DC arrives dispensing Rosie Lea with his wee man Fin. It’s Fin’s second match, his first having been the home defeat to Southampton. Let’s hope it’s not another catastrophic 3-1 home defeat then.

West Ham have a decent start with Cresswell shooting over. But then the play becomes curiously lethargic, as the side that played so well at Spurs doesn’t look as up for it as Palace. Murray gets in on goal and has an effort well-saved by Adrian. West Ham are unlucky when Noble hits the bar with a great free kick, but apart that we don’t have an effort on target in the first half. Kouyate and Song, so dominant against Spurs, just don’t get to grips with the midfield and Downing looks diffident all game.

In the 38th minute there’s a minute’s applause for Dylan Tomibides and his new charity. So much applause appears to bamboozle the West Ham defence as Murray is allowed a one-on-one versus Adrian, which the keeper again does well to save. We’ve been warned. But on 41 minutes Palace win a free kick and Murray’s header goes in as Jenkinson slices his attempted clearance into the net.

The anticipated rollicking hasn’t worked after the break. In minute 51 Dann rises up above Reid to head home a simple corner. Minute 63 sees Murray glance home Puncheon's free kick. This is the first time an Allardyce side in the Premier League has ever conceded three goals from set pieces. Michael suggests that William Russell might be better at defending set pieces than our back four.

Finally we start too play a bit at 3-0 down. Nene has come on for Song and the Brazilian curls a fine effort against the outside of a post. Valencia scores with an effort from the edge of the box that Speroni might have done better with. Murray is sent off for a second yellow after fouling Reid.

“Oh no, we’ll really struggle against ten men,” I suggest.

We have chances. Valencia produces a beautiful shot that Speroni does well to tip over. Nene over-elaborates at times but looks to have skill, gets on the ball and makes a difference. Sakho has a penalty claim. Jenkinson hesitates when he should shoot first time and Downing prods wide. But it’s all too late and there's a worrying lack of spirit until the final quarter of the game. 

We can’t even pull it back for Leonard Nimoy, who would have found supporting West Ham most illogical, as Scott Dann and co prove an impenetrable final frontier as we grope for the undiscovered country of their net. It’s not been the voyage home we wanted today.

“Super Alan Pardew!” echoes from the away end and we’re tempted to join them.

“Be just like us to lose to Palace and then beat Chelsea,” I muse hopefully.

“Well, you got one part of it right,” suggests Fraser.

At least Allardyce says the right things afterwards, stating that he is “shocked” and we failed to get the basics right. One win in ten. We can’t let our season fizzle out like this. A big, big performance is needed against Chelsea.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Jenkinson 5, Reid 5, Tomkins 5, Cresswell 5; Song 5 (Nene 6), Kouyate 5, Noble 6, Downing 5; Sakho 5, Valencia 6.