Monday, January 26

West Brom away in the Cup

Shame to get another away draw, but it could be worse as WBA will surely be concentrating on survival. And if Adrian plays like Phil Parkes did at WBA in 1980 it might be an omen… Three away draws in a row so if we are going to get to Wembley we'll have to do it the hard way.

Sunday, January 25

Diafra Sakho… He scores when he wants!

Bristol City 0 West Ham 1 (FA Cup)

Able to watch this one at home as my front room becomes an imaginary pub. The first half is as might have been predicted. City really come at West Ham and to make it worse they have a Time Lord up front in Matt Smith. When not waving psychic paper at our defence Smith has a header cleared off the line by first Mark Noble and then another header brilliantly headed off the line by Andy Carroll. Overlapping left back Joe Bryan also shoots across our goal. West Ham come into it a bit more for the last 15 minutes but the only half chance is when Jenkinson gets in a cross but Andy Carroll, under pressure from Flint, prods straight at the keeper. Tomkins is the pick of our defenders and Bristol are lucky to escape bookings for a couple of agricultural challenges on Reid and Jenkinson.

We show a bit more energy in the second half, though Smith heads over when he should have done better. Downing gets across the box to fire over. Sakho and Amalfitano replace Valencia and Song. The subs improve things. Amalfitano has a curling shot easily gathered byFielding. Sakho goes very close after a brilliant lob over Ayling's head and then a dipping shot on to the top of the bar. It looks like we might have to settle for a replay until the 81st minute when Andy Carroll bulldozes his way down the right and does really well to lob in a cross. Sakho has a lot to do at the far post but heads in off the underside of the bar before running to our 1,100 fans.

There's one late Smith herder wide, but we see out time as our fans sing "Diafra Sakho…He scores when he wants!" and "Que sera sera…" Plus "Is there a fire drill?" as there City fans sneak off early.  Not a great performance, but a professional one. We could easily have been embarrassed on a cold January afternoon at a three-sided stadium in the West Country. All that hard work against Everton hasn't been wasted; what matters is that we're in the draw for the next round.

Friday, January 23

Ass twitching with WHU

Luis Van Gaal says the Man United bench was left "twitching our ass" after switching to 4-4-2 against West Ham. There can't be many times West Ham have left anyone twitching their ass in recent years, so it's presumably a sign of progress. Though we did normally make Tony Adams look like an ass or possibly even a donkey.

Thursday, January 22

Fletcher coming?

Today's Evening Standard suggests Man United's Darren Fletcher is coming on loan for the rest of the season. He was certainly a player that Sir Alex Ferguson trusted, but I'm always reticent about signing players from Man United as they invariably disappoint on the way down from Old Trafford. Look at Rio Ferdinand at QPR and Tom Cleverley at Aston Villa, though Teddy Sheringham is the exception to this rule. To be more positive, Fletcher is 30 and having overcome serious illness should have a few years left and might be useful as cover for Song and Kouyate.

Meanwhile the Mirror claims that Winston Reid wants to leave if Arsenal bid for him in the window and that Arsenal have quoted a whopping £12 million for Carl Jenkinson. Might there yet be a straight exchange of the pair? Though Arsenal are also said to be interested in signing defender Gabriel Paulista from Villareal, which might scupper any Winston deal.

Tuesday, January 20

Farewell Vaz

Ricardo Vaz Te has had his contract terminated by mutual consent, but like all Hammers fans I'd like to thank him for providing the best moment of recent years with his winning goal against Blackpool in the 2012 play-off final. Returning to Marylebone station that night the platform was echoing to choruses of "Ricardo Vaz Te, he scores when he wants!" He scored 12 goals for us in the second half of that season and was a big factor in our promotion. Vaz never quite looked like a Premier League player though and wasn't helped by two bad shoulder injuries, but moments I'll remember include his first PL goal at QPR and scoring the second in the 3-0 win at Tottenham last season. Good luck in the rest of your career, Ricardo.

Monday, January 19

London 3 Hull 0

Big Andy salutes the East Stand…
West Ham 3 Hull City 0

Inside Ken’s CafĂ© Michael the Whovian is clad in black to mark the departure of his hero Ricardo Vaz Te. He's so traumatised he almost doesn't finish his big breakfast. The 1.30pm kick-off means there’s a big rush to eat before kick-off and I find myself comprehensively out-tactic-ed by Matt, who though ordering chips and beans only, rather than my egg, chips and beans, finds himself bumped 20 places up Carol’s ticket system.

Outside the East Stand we're asked by stewards if we have any deodorants in our bags; whereas once it would have been Stanley knives. Fraser joins us in the stadium and Nigel arrives five minutes late, still in shock at missing a mere 21 goals on Tuesday night. West Ham look sluggish in the first half, with Song and Noble looking way off the pace, though Valencia impresses with his work rate. Is it fatigue from the 120 minutes on Tuesday night? Our passing is way off beam.

THIS COULD BE HEAVEN OR THIS COULD BE HULL 
Hull could score three times. The dangerous Aluko crosses for Elmohamady to shoot wide from a very presentable chance. Aluko spins away from Collins and Tomkins only to hesitate and be prevented from scoring by a great Collins tackle. Then Aluko gets though again, but bizarrely elects to pass rather than shoot. West Ham can only offer a dangerous cross from Andy Carroll, a Tomkins header over the bar from a corner and a looping Valencia header that is tipped on to the bar.

At half-time Matt asks what’s Enner Valencia done this season that no other West Ham player has done? The answer is score in all three of West Ham’s kits. The boy’s on fire in the trivia stakes. Nigel asks how do you identify the sex of an ant? Answer: “If it floats in water it’s a bouy-ant.” When I announce that I’m going to suck a Fishermen’s Friend, he suggests trying a cough lozenge instead. A comedy contract from Big Joe surely awaits.

DER DER DER DER DER! ANDY CARROLL! 
West Ham return to the pitch, presumably having had a rollicking from Big Sam. Winston Reid is on for Collins and we look much better with Downing at the tip of the diamond rather than out wide, though we’re helped by Hull losing Chester and Bruce to injury. Nolan shows good technique to fire a volley narrowly over the bar from Downing’s cross.

We take the lead on 49 minutes as Valencia unleashes a dipping shot from the edge of the box. McGregor can only parry it into the danger area, Curtis Davies is slow to react and Andy Carroll is alert enough to prod home his fifth goal of the season before running into the arms of the faithful in the Bobby Moore Stand.

Then the West Ham scoreboard stops working so we have no idea how long is actually left. Or is it some sort of tribute to mark the success of the film The Theory of Everything, suggesting that all time is relative when Hull are in danger of being swallowed by a black hole? We go close again as Valencia wastefully shoots into the side netting after a terrible Dawson pass. 

GOOD MORGAN 
Hull's defence is finding Enner's speed difficult to contain. On 69 minutes it’s settled as Song finds Valencia who controls quickly and has the vision to find substitute Amalfitano. Morgan dinks a lovely finish over the keeper. Two minutes later we score again as Song plays a through ball from the half way line and Downing pierces a statuesque defence to finish confidently.

Adrian has to make one good save but the rest of the game is Fancy Dan stuff as West Ham pass it around at last with even the odd “ole!” After another good ball from Downing, Nolan hits the bar from an acute angle and Andy Carroll almost prods home another chance home. Even Joey O’Brien gets a run-out. Another boost for the Irons is that Matt has stayed positive throughout the game, even encouraging Kevin Nolan.

Three-nil will do us and a much better second half. Thirty six points. We’re almost safe! And a big contrast to the game against Hull last season. Our run of six games without a victory (if you discount penalties) has ended and now comes the chance to cement a place in the top eight.


PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Jenkinson 6, Tomkins 5 (O’Brien 5), Collins 6 (Reid 6), Cresswell 6; Song 6, Noble 5 (Amalfitano 7), Nolan 6, Downing 7; Valencia 8, Carroll 7.

Saturday, January 17

Where's our sponsor gone?

Not often you see a picture of Adrian doing a knee-slide on the financial pages of the Guardian. West Ham's shirt sponsor Alpari has gone bust as a result of the currency markets turmoil after the Swiss central bank abandoned pegging the franc against the euro. So we need a new shirt and stand sponsor. Not the first time this has happened. Back in 2008 after the credit crunch our shirt-sponsor XL went bust, resulting in West Ham playing at West Brom with bizarre white patches over our sponsors' logos, possibly made from Gianfranco Zola's mum's old curtains. Shame we couldn't have kept XL as it might have looked good on Benni McCarthy. Any suggestions for a new sponsor?