West Ham have seen off two managers this week; the decision of Liverpool's US owners to sack Brendan Rodgers was surely taken after their 3-0 loss at home to the Irons, while a tearful Dick Advocaat left Sunderland after they failed to hold on to a two-goal lead against the Hammers. All this and Jose Mourinho set to visit in a couple of weeks' time…
Listening to the Radio London commentary it seemed like WHU could have been five down at half time as a rejuvenated Sunderland team seemed to be trying to persuade Dick Advocaat to stay. Fletcher scored from a free kick routine and then Lens doubled the tally, with a superb chip over Adrian, scored for the Mackems. Adrian made a great save from O'Shea and Borini missed a couple of good chances. Right on half time Carl Jenkinson stroked the ball home after good work by Moses on the left wing and suddenly winless Sunderland got nervous for the second half.
When Lens was red-carded the home side became even more desperate and the equaliser arrived when Lanzini's shot was parried by Pantilimion and Dimitri Payet scored his fourth of the season. The last half an hour saw a lot of West Ham corners and sub Jelavic scoop over from a yard out, but generally it seemed we lacked a quality final ball. Still, after being battered in the first half, I'm grateful for a point. Seventeen goals this season so far — it's certainly not been dull.
Good news that Adrian has signed a two-year contract — his current deal runs out at the end of the season. Getting him on a free transfer was a very good piece of business for WHU and he's certainly better than the likes of say Mignolet at Liverpool and many other PL goalkeepers. What's more Adrian is a character who seems to enjoy having a laugh with the crowd and is also a little crazy (witness his confrontation with Balotelli last season) which is always good in a goalkeeper. And even better, Adrián San Miguel del Castillo appears to be named after a beer…
Andy Carroll's had a hospital scan on his ankle that was stamped on just after he came on against Norwich, but thankfully there's no lasting damage. Meanwhile Slaven Bilic has said that if Big Andy gets fit he can force his way into the England squad for Euro 2016. You do wonder whether Carroll will suit Bilic's style in the long-term. On the one hand, as a former defender, Bilic must appreciate the physical mayhem Carroll can cause in the box. On the other hand, a mobile striker like Sakho better suits his five-man midfield and counter-attacking, quick-passsing style away from home. Some fans want to discard Carroll as he symbolises the Allardyce era; though this rather disregards the fact that he's pretty skilful for a big man — remember that dribble and goal away to Swansea and his volley at home to West Brom? Carroll is certainly a useful player to have on the bench when we are chasing games and want to go direct. Though is super sub enough for a £15million striker? To play two strikers we'll have to drop a midfielder, maybe leaving a midfield of Payet, Noble, Kouyate and Moses or Song. We're also going to have to rotate Sakho, Carroll, Valencia and Jelavic in the striker roles. That should suit us this season, but ultimately one of them is presumably going to want to leave for first-team football.
Various papers including the Daily Mail have picked up on a new poll by dating site Match.com, which reveals that West Ham fans are only the 12th most desirable supporters in the Premier League. Match.com questioned 1000 fans on which rival supporters they'd date. Obviously Chelsea and Man United were deemed the ugliest and most undesirable, while Bournemouth came top as the fans most rivals wouldn't mind scoring with. It's still a travesty West Ham should come 12th though. If Match.com wants to visit the East Stand and see a group of most desirable men — including Fraser in his Dexys beret, Matt with his lucky Dukla Prague away shirt, Michael in a selection of bargain WHU puffer jackets from the club shop, Nigel with his denim jacket that once saw AC/DC, and myself with a 20-year-old Slaven Bilic tribute Dagenham Motors shirt, they'd surely concede that we are an eminently dateable bunch.
One pleasing aspect of West Ham's season so far is that we have had 11 different scorers in 14 games. Even if you just count the seven league games there are still eight players who have made the net bulge, with Sakho, Payet and Kouyate all having scored three and other goals coming from Zarate, Noble, Lanzini, Moses and the departed Maiga. Lee and Valencia have also scored in the Europa League. So we're not too reliant on one striker as the midfield are contributing goals. Tomkins is the only defender to have scored so far, netting twice in the Europa League. At some stage you'd expect the likes of Carroll, Jelavic, Antonio, Obiang, Ogbonna, Reid, Collins, Cresswell and Jenkinson to break their ducks too, so at the end of the season we may have a very healthy list of scorers.
Inside Ken’s Café our team of Matt, Lisa, Michael and Nigel
is discussing initiation ceremonies at drinking societies. “I joined the
BullingDon Hutchison Society,” quips Matt. We’re joined by Matt’s brother Adam,
who’s over from Melbourne.His mates in
Basingstoke are putting on a special geezerpunk gig for him, as you do, so surely the
Irons will also do their bit for a man who’s travelled 12,000 miles. Though
maybe not, as Nigel starts saying that we’ll be top if we win and Man City lose
and therefore jinxes us, according to Matt. Meanwhile Michael the Whovian is
carrying a mysterious West Ham bag, which contains the costume he plans to wear
to the evening’s performance of The Rocky Horror Show. The stewards’ search
outside the East Stand should be interesting.
HE SCORES WHEN HE WANTS
“We’re Norwich City, we’ll sing on our own!” chant the away
fans inside the stadium, only to be met with a chant of “You’re shagging your
sister!’ from the Bobby Moore Stand.
West Ham look fairly lively for the opening nine minutes,
until Mark Noble on the left tries to find James Tomkins with a crossfield pass.
Brady nicks the ball and scores. Bugger. Norwich gain in confidence and look
like adding a second as Jerome fires into the side netting, while the home side
appear tired after playing extra-time at Leicester.
“Losing at home to a newly promoted side, it feels like
we’re doing the timewarp again,” I suggest to Michael.
“Our defence is certainly rocky and it’s a bit of a horror
show,” he concurs.
Even Payet is misplacing passes, but suddenly we equalise
after 33 minutes. Sakho finds Payet out on the right and the Reunion magician
races down the flank to send in a low cross that is met by Sakho’s well-timed
run and results in a tap-in for Diafra (not Biafra as the programed called
Lanzini has a free kick just wide, but it’s 1-1 at the
interval. The second half sees more Norwich chances as Adrian flies to his top
corner like Superman to tip over Howson’s effort.
NORWICH GIVEN THE BIRD
There’s a bizarre stoppage as an injured pigeon lands on the
pitch. Making the catch of the day, the Canaries’ Howson picks it up and
removes it to the touchline to big cheers. Though one fan suggests it’s going straight
into one of Delia Smith’s pies.
Victor Moses sends in a great cross from the right and Sakho
gets a firm header at goal, but too close to Ruddy, who makes a fine stop.Kouyate blasts the loose ball out for a
throw-in. Moses is then replaced by Obiang.
A misplaced pass allows Sakho to run at the City defence and
surrounded by four men he does really well to pick out Payet, who cuts inside a
defender and is denied by a good Ruddy save. It’s end to end and Howson pulls
the ball back for Jerome who looks certain to score, only for Adrian to save
with his face, which stuns the keeper, who eventually recovers.
Andy Carroll comes on and within a minute goes down after
stretching for the ball. The whole stadium is united in trepidation, fearing
yet another injury, but thankfully he gets up and plays on.
It’s Norwich who look likely to win as Brady’s free kick is
tipped round the post by Adrian. The corner is cleared but the ball returns to
sub Redmond who cuts inside Mark Noble too easily and fires into the corner.
With seven minutes to go it looks like we’ve now lost to two newly-promoted
teams at home.
RUDDY HELL: KOUYATE'S SCORED!
We revert to lumping the ball towards big Andy up front and
on 90 minutes he also takes the ball past the keeper only to be foiled by a
good catch by Ruddy. It’s always other teams that score against us in added
time, never us. We’re in the third minute of added time when Reid is fouled on
the right. Payet plays in a hopeful free kick. Ruddy is so concerned by the
presence of Carroll that he punches the ball weakly, it rebounds of Big Andy
and falls to Kouyate who fires home, running into the arms of the fans in the
corner as he celebrates. Phew. Feels like a win now. Credit to Carroll for
being a big lump and scaring the Norwich defence.
As If The Kids Are
United and Teenage Kicks reverberate
from the PA we retreat to the Central. It was important we got something out of
the game today, and looking at my glass half-full of Old Speckled Hen, we’re
unbeaten in four league matches and still third. It was a tired looking
performance, but there’s no denying the spirit to get something out of a game
where we looked likely to lose. And hopefully that pigeon will be fine.