Saturday, April 25

Adrian saves point at Loftus Road

QPR 0 West Ham 0

No sign of nouveau Hammers fan David Cameron at Euston, but Big Joe, Fraser and Matt do turn up to collect our massively overpriced £55 tickets. Perhaps Dave is already at White City ready to take on the Rangers fans…

Inside Loftus Road we enjoy a cup of molten tea in the four-person-wide concourse and learn that Reece Burke is making his league debut, in for the injured Reid. While Kevin Nolan appears to be playing as a (very) false number nine.

WHU gain a corner early on but typically it turns into a Rangers attack, as Noble loses the ball and Sandro drives into the area to fire a shot against Adrian’s legs. West Ham force another corner and young Burke has a header hacked away by a defender. Burke does well all afternoon, winning his headers and looking generally composed on his debut.

The Irons look fairly composed for the first half hour with Valencia shooting wide after outpacing the ponderous Dunne. As always, Adrian looks committed and races from his goal to remonstrate with Joey Barton, sparking a chorus of “Barton, Barton, you’re a ****!” from the West Ham fans. Don’t think Joey will be tweeting that philosophical gem.

Suddenly we’re in trouble on 22 minutes when Zamora plays the ball on to Jams Collins’ raised hand and it’s a penalty. But Austin strikes the ball down the middle and Adrian makes an easy save to huge cheers from our end. “That’s why you’re going down!” chants the away end.

The second half begins with Rob Green responding to generous applause from the West Ham fans with a crossed arms Hammers sign. The game is very poor though and resembles Championship fare, with the Rangers fans curiously quiet in a must-win game. So dire is the game that a mournful chorus of “Oh Christian Dailly you are the love of my life!” breaks out.

Cole comes on for Jarvis and has a Jurassic battle with Richard Dunne. Valencia is brought down on the edge of the box. Cresswell produces another quality free kick that is heading for the top corner until Rob Green produces a superb save to tip it over the bar. At the other end Zamora uses his experience to outmuscle Burke and then slice a shot wide.

West Ham break and Nolan plays a good ball through to Downing. But Rob Green wants the ball more and rushes from his area to hack clear. Rangers force a corner and Dunne has the ball in the net, but only after Adrian has been jumped into by Caulker so the goal doesn’t stand. West Ham win another free kick on the edge of the box and this time the chip over the wall eludes Nolan.

Zamora is subbed by Rangers as we chant, “We love Bobby more than you!”

Then comes what should be the match-winning moment. Valencia outpaces Dunne on the left, races into the box and plays a low ball across the box into the path of Kouyate, who blasts over an empty goal.

Moments like that make us all believe we’re going to lose it in the last minute again. Adrian parries Henry’s force shot as QPR sense their chance. They almost do win it as Phillips fires in a tremendous shot from the corner of the box, but Adrian produces a world-class save.

At least we’ve shown a bit more commitment in this game and although the quality has been poor it’s an away point, though it should have been three. The Rangers fans don’t even seem that annoyed a result that will probably send them down.

We retreat back to Euston Square and in the best result of day find the Exmouth Arms, which has more craft beers than you can shake a pint glass at. Matt ponders which team has the oldest ground in the league that had hosted football continuously, Big Joe prepares for his train trip to rural Shropshire and Frasr looks at the big picture. And then there’s a text message from Dave Cameron saying it was a good away point for West Hampstead against Queens Park Raisins.

TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 8; Jenkinson 6, Burke 6, Collins 6, Cresswell 6; Jarvis 5 (Cole 5), Nolan 5, Noble 5, Kouyaye 5, Downing 5; Valencia 6.

David Cameron: Are you Part-time Percy in disguise?

David Cameron has just confused his claret and blue sides, claiming that he supports West Ham and not Aston Villa at a campaign event. He now blames it on Natalie Bennett-style "brain fade" and says that of course he supports Aston Villa. Obviously it's very easy for a chap to confuse West Hampstead and Aston Villains or whatever their names are… especially as George says they don't even play with a proper-shaped oval ball.

Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals now in paperback

Something to take your mind off our recent form. A print version of my 2012 e-book Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals is now available. It includes chapters on the 1923 'White Horse' Final (where we definitely have a case for a replay as spectators were all over the pitch, which was also covered in hoof prints); Bobby Moore's side beating Preston 3-2 in the 1964 FA Cup FInal and winning the Cup Winners Cup' in 1965 on a glorious night at Wembley; Bonzo picking up the FA Cup in 1975 after Alan Taylor's double; Trevor Brooking's header bringing Cup glory in 1980; taking Liverpool to a replay in the 1981 League Cup Final after Ray Stewart's nerveless last-minute penalty at Wembley; the Play-Off Final wins of 2005 and 2012 and the Greatest FA Cup Final of Modern Times in 2006 when we drew 3-3 with Liverpool (I forget who won on penalties). It's also been praised by David 'Psycho' Cross who tweeted, having read the 1980 chapter: "Great recollection and detail. Clearly a huge Hammers fan." Click on the link to peruse.

Friday, April 24

Big Sam lays into the players

Sam Allardyce has used his Evening Standard column to criticise the players. He's noticed what we all spotted, that the work rate and desire against Stoke and Man City just wasn't good enough. 

Big Sam writes: "The bottom line is the players just haven’t delivered what they should have done in recent weeks. I have to accept my responsibilities but they have to do the same. It’s massively disappointing for me and if the players don’t share that disappointment then professionally, that is very poor. I have defended our performances against Leicester, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham but I haven’t been able to do that in our most recent two matches against Stoke and — in the first half at least — Manchester City last weekend." 

Nine of the side that lost to Man City last week played in the 2-1 victory over City at Upton Park so we know that they can produce. The players owe us a decent performance at QPR tomorrow and if they don't do it, Allardyce, for all his innate caution, should bring in a few kids who will have something to prove. Yes, they might make mistakes, but no-one is going to criticise them too much if they're trying their best and want to play for the shirt. 

Wednesday, April 22

Cheap seats!

Good news that West Ham are reducing season ticket prices for the first season in the Olympic Stadium, with the cheapest seats going for £289 and children's season tickets a very reasonable £99. It's not quite the completely altruistic gesture it might seem, in that it also makes solid business sense as the club is unlikely to fill an extra 20,000 seats at current prices. But even so, with most clubs charging obscene prices when with the massive new TV deal they could afford to let everyone watch for free, this has to be progress. Though it will be interesting to hear if the prices for existing season ticket holders are also going down.

Meanwhile the Guardian has a worrying report claiming that the Olympic Stadium deal might contradict European Union state aid laws, as Boris Johnson and the London Legacy Development Corporation did not obtain 'prior approval' from the European Commission. If the deal was challenged it seems it would be the LLDC and Boris who would be first in the firing line, though in a worst case scenario the Guardian claims the club could be asked to contribute to the £138.9m drain on the public purse. Still, West Ham and the LLDC insist the deal complies with all regulations and you'd hope that the combined business brains of Karren Brady, David Sullivan and David Gold have got this one watertight. Though after Tevezgate, like most West Ham fans, I'm always worried when M'Learned Friends get involved in football…

Monday, April 20

A stroll in the sun for City

Manchester City 2 West Ham 0

Any team on a bad run of two wins in eight will always end it against West Ham. So no surprise about the result at the Etihad.

Luckily I’m on a train to Waterbeach while the game is live on TV, so have to rely on the MOTD highlights. A free kick just wide from Kolarov indicates the early pressure from City. City’s breakthrough is a classic own goal from James Collins. Jesus Navas (hang on, isn’t Jesus Andy Carroll?) wins a header against Cresswell and fires in a cross towards James Collins. The defender has to get something on it, but from 18 yards out slices the ball up in the air and in off the bar like a Ginger Pele, only at the wrong end. 

It’s not quite as good as Iain Dowie’s own goal at Stockport, but it’s up there with the all-time greats. It’s a freak goal of course, and typical of the luck of a team that’s been struggling since Christmas. 

West Ham then have a chance as Valencia does well to dispossess Demichelis and plays in Cole. But Hart has come off his line quickly and blocks Carlton’s effort on the edge of the box.

City then get a second from a West Ham free kick. Cresswell’s punt into the box is cleared and Downing picks up the ball on the right, trying to play a square ball to Song. Toure nips in to win the ball and City break at speed with Navas and Aguero exchanging passes for a classy second.

My main fear at half-time is that it will be a thrashing. At least we keep it down to 2-0 and it becomes almost too easy for City. Silva has to go off after a nasty clash with Kouyate's elbow, though it looks unintentional and more a result of their contrast in heights. West Ham, with Nolan on for Cole and Jarvis replacing Song, create three late chances. Nolan finds Jarvis on the left and he produces a good cut back only for Downing to take too long with his shot. Valencia then produces a great dribble from the left, beating two City defenders and flashing the ball across goal, with Nolan just failing to prod it in. Finally a suicidal backpass from Jesus Navas presents Nolan with a one-on-one, but again Hart is out quickly to block what should have been a goal. So a little hope in our late rally.

But Big Sam is worryingly deflated after the game and Jason Roberts makes some good points on Match of the Day about the uncertainly of the managerial situation causing some players to drop their performance levels by ten per cent. If so then that’s a disgrace, but as a former pro Roberts presumably knows how footballers react. The media won’t let this situation go away and surely it’s time for the chairmen to either say Sam is going or give him a new contract.

Meanwhile it’s now two wins, six draws and eight defeats in the 16 league games since Christmas. That run has included Chelsea and Arsenal home and away and difficult games against Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Southampton and Spurs. But even so, it’s extremely worrying. The next two matches are against strugglers QPR and Burnley, and if we don’t play with 100 per cent commitment we’ll lose.

Friday, April 17

Monk fishing

The Daily Star printed a story claiming that West Ham are considering Gary Monk as manager. He's clearly a promising young manager, a Londoner and doing a great job at Swansea. But would he really be the answer? He's had one and a half seasons managing Swansea, where he was previously captain and knew the club. He also took over a good side that had won the League Cup and been largely built by Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup. At a new club he might find things more difficult and would we want him to have his first bad patch the season before the Olympic Stadium move? Yes, he'd come cheaper than Big Sam, but we don't want to recruit solely on that basis.

It's worth considering the replacements we might have had had Big Sam gone last year; Malky Mackey, who would have been caught up in a racist/sexist/homophobic/anti-Semitic text scandal and Gus Poyet, who after a great end of season at Sunderland failed to inspire this time and ended up getting sacked. Despite the post-Christmas slump this has been a promising season with better football and some good signings. Allardyce virtually guarantees we stay up next season; any new manager would have to offer an improvement on that.