Thankfully I’m having lunch with my brother-in-law’s family as we lose this. Match of the Day highlights suggest we were mullered even if they did only score two. Lennon is far too fast for Ilunga and then sub Spector and we get our usual hamstring pulls in Herita and Parker. Huddlestone hits the post and we can only muster a shot from Kovac and then turning an attack into a goal for Jermain.
And we all knew Defoe would score, shooting at Green before firing an unstoppable shot into the net. I'd like to report that he loves West Ham so much he doesn't celebrate, but he does, of course. At least we’ve got the defeat out of the way now. And just the transfer window to dread.
Matt who watched the game on Sky, comments:
“After the Spurs debacle I have to say we need a complete overhaul of the medical and physio staff, as suffering 4 hamstring injuries in the first 20 minutes, in the last 3 games would not be tolerated by a pub team. We brought in these much hyped people who were supposed to reduce the number of injuries and they have failed utterly. Pardew's staff had a much better record.Perhaps we could poach the Birmingham staff, as they never seem to get injuries.
Other than that, Jiminez is woeful, and Spector nowhere near good enough, and Green gives away far too many goals by parrying shots straight back into the penalty area. And why do our players never shoot? Their second goal came from a corner where we tried to walk it in as ever and failed, but when they broke you knew Defoe would just be looking to get a shot in. We now really are down to the bare bones for Arsenal, and could be heavily beaten, but it is the Wolves game that matters now.
Zola needs to show he is a real manager, rather than just go on about how hard his players tried, and refusing to take any responsibility or any decisions. Just needed to get that off my chest...”
We’re in Hertfordshire with Her Indoors’ mother, and the only train running is the Stansted Express. At Tottenham Hale the tube resembles a scene from Day of the Triffids. It’s a shambling Sunday service and only one shop open at a post-apocalyptic Liverpool Street.
But at least there’s a Christmas Carol in Ken’s Café, plus Matt, Lisa, Big Joe and Littler Jo and lots of chips. Although Nigel’s in Richmond Park with his mum and Fraser’s at Wolverhampton races. Little Billy from the Café is going to the debtors' derby as a surprise Christmas present, poor sod.
Before kick-off there’s a little cheer for Hammers legend Hayden “he never lets you down” Mullins. Franco is in the side despite the Independent claiming he had suffered a “freak training ground injury”.
It’s an ugly relegation battle in the first half. There’s the obligatory early injury. Noble goes off and is replaced by Jimenez, leaving us looking lightweight in midfield.
We look nervous at the back and Green drops a cross. Jimenez is fluffing passes and raises the ire of the vicar’s son next to me: “Show some heart Jimenez! He’s like the cowardly lion!” he exclaims, wondering if West Ham will ever find the yellow brick road or be purchased by the Wizard of Oz.
Pompey are playing with just one man up and are also pretty dirty — the odious Michael Brown and Dindane are both booked for scything fouls.
“Small team from Millwall!” sing the Pompey fans. “Is that all you bring away?” chant the Irons.
Diamanti plays in some fine crosses from deep and eventually we win a penalty. Franco is blocked and the ball breaks to Jimenez who is hacked down by one Hayden Mullins. Allesandro has the arrogance you need to be a Premier League player, and never looks like missing from the spot.
Collison should have made it two before the break when he steers the ball wide of an empty net after the as always excellent Parker squares the ball across goal.
Early in the second half Diamanti has a deflected shot brilliantly saved by Begovic. But then we sit back and Portsmouth attack much more once Kanu comes on. Piquionne has a shot saved by Green and then almost profits from a dodgy back pass to Green.
“We’ve got three players who are defensive liabilities in Franco, Jimenez and Diamanti,” bemoans Matt. We can’t see why the half-paced Franco is allowed to stay on. He’s clearly not fit and Nouble would at least run around more. At least Zola brings on Behrami for Diamanti to add some defensive work rate.
It’s end to end though and we have a much better final 20 minutes. Parker and Kovac are both working hard and winning tackles. Collison shimmies and has a low shot saved by the keeper. Sub Behrami sees the ball squirm just wide of the post. Jimenez bizarrely fails to shoot when the opportunity is there and then has a free kick tipped over. But at one goal we can never be sure.
Then on 89 minutes Jimenez swings in a great free kick and Kovac rises like a great blonde Father Christmas to beat Mullins to the ball and thump a superb header into the back of the net, before leaping into the arms of fans in the Bobby Moore Stand as if he'd always dreamed of scoring for the Hammers as a boy in Prague.
“We never doubted him!” says Matt.
“Where was Nigel when Kovac scored his first home goal before becoming a West Ham legend?” I ask. "And when we finally kept a clean sheet?" Before the game you'd have got better odds on Tiger Woods keeping his sheet untarnished.
It’s been a strange game for Jiminez, who has looked lightweight and diffident but made both goals. Nouble at last gets to come on in the first minute of added time.
An ugly game but a great win for the Irons, and we’re now four points off the bottom and out of the relegation zone. We had to get three points today because we never win at Spurs.
Merry Christmas Bob Scratchit, Tiny Tim (or is it Kevin Keen?), seven-year-old Freddie Sears and Gianfranco Zola! And perhaps the enlightened Ebenezer Scrooge is now thinking of making an offer for West Ham.
“What hope is there?” ask Jo, Nigel and Gavin as we sit in Ken’s café. Lose and we’re bottom at Christmas.
The News of the World says that players are commenting on Zola’s “hangdog demeanour”. And a formers "Hammers ace" has described Diamanti and Franco as "five-a-side players, the sort that get you relegated". While elsewhere in the NOTW someone called Paul Ince writes, “I fear for my Hammers”. Nigel has a premonition of life in the Championship reading out the future score: “Preston 3 West Ham 1.”
All the hope we can muster is that we have nothing to lose and at least John Terry is on the front page of the NOTW in a sting about dodgy club tours, following up their story on his dad’s iffy dealings.
In the East Stand Fraser’s wearing his lucky flat cap. “We go 16th if we win,” he says perkily. “You’ve calculated where we are if we win?” asks an incredulous Nigel. Joe Cole gets a mixed reception, Lampard the usual boos.
We start off looking up for it. Upson is back bringing some much-needed composure to our defence and the work rate of Noble is making a difference in midfield. Green makes a good save from Lampard’s shot. We survive a penalty appeal when the ball hits Gabbidon’s hand and Parker chests it off the line from Ivanovic’s header. But we are denying them width and Collison has a shot parried only for Franco to be ruled offside.
Gabbiddon goes off injured after 21 minutes —after mystic Morris has said we never thought he’d be back — and on comes James Tomkins. He fits into the back four with some aplomb.
“John Terry, you’re mum’s a thief!” chants the Bobby Moore Stand with seasonal ill will. And then something unprintable about Simon Cowell and a certain player's wife.
It’s fairly even for 45 minutes. In added time Franco plays a nice little ball through to Collison, who is bought down by Ashley Cole. Penalty! Allesandro Diamanti shows he clearly has the big-game mentality by coolly slotting it home.
We’re worried they’ll be angry second half and Ancelotti makes two substitutions. Drogba goes close with a stunning Van Basten-like volley from near the corner flag.
Then Upson tackles Sturridge and from the East Stand we can clearly see he makes contact with the ball. It’s a great tackle but the linesman is jumping up and down like Chris Hollins on the Strictly Come Dancing judges’ table, and it’s a sodding penalty.
“We’ve been f**king robbed… fu**king robbed!” exclaims the political analyst beside me, clearly unaware we’re sitting close to a vicar’s son.
Lampard steps up to score. But no, ref Mike Dean wants it re taken for encroachment! Does he now realise he made an error? This is the chance for Rob Green to make up for that calamity at Bolton. But Lampard scores again. Only the ref wants it retaken a third time. This is getting farcical. Big Fat Frank shows what a god penalty taker he is by scoring again.
But even a point is a good result against top of the league Chelsea. We could wilt, but the lads certainly seem to be playing for Zola today. Diamanti has a shot palmed away by Cech, and from the melee Noble chips up and over. The Italian then produces a fantastic bit of Di Canio-esque skill in the box only to be robbed by a last ditch Terry intervention.
Franco is assaulted by Carvalho from our corner, but the ref says play on. Scott Parker is everywhere and going on rampaging runs. Faubert is playing well going forward and Illunga is looking better too. Even Kovac has a much better final 20 minutes. If we play like this we’ll stay up, no problem.
I’m still imagining a 97th minute winner for Chelsea though, but thankfully there’s only three minutes of stoppage time. We win two corners but still manage to concede a free kick right at the end, only for Chelsea to waste it. A point! Stick your blue flag up your arse!
This just might give us renewed hope. And Father Christmas, if you come down my chimney, any chance of putting in a bid from your Lapland consortium?
Saved by the bell. Icelandic bank Straumur has had its debts frozen until September so there's no chance of the company going into administration and West Ham being sold off on the cheap. In theory we can now wait for a bid closer to the bank's estimation, rather than grab Sullivan's £50 million. Bad news for Sullivan and Gold, although you wonder if we'll be worth selling if we go down.
However, we spotted a couple of prospective new owners on tele last night. JJ and James, the winners of BBC's The Restaurant could bring in Raymond Blanc at centre back and enliven the whole club with picnic food and designer cocktails. JJ might be an Aston villa fan, but he clearly likes claret and blue as a design theme. All with a smooth front of house charm while serving 34,000 covers. They're good at thinking on their feet and talk a good game even if they're rubbish at making souffle. Could they turn our tired old light and bitter into an exotic cocktail? Over to you CB Holdings...
Oh dear, it's getting like the Pardew/Curbishley era when we were losing 4-0 at Charlton and you didn't even want to hear the results of games. Leaving my daughter Lola's school concert (one instrumental version of Walking in a Cottee Wonderland but no Bubbles) there's a text waiting and I daren't look. Later I discover it's from Nigel reading "We're dead."
Looking at the goals on Sky Sports News, the first is a one-two where Faubert isn't aware enough to close down Lee. Further proof he's not a natural defender. Our equaliser is well worked, Franco in to Collison and a fine top of the net finish from Diamanti. That was the big plus of the night and Diamanti might go on a scoring run now. And look at the passion on his face when he scored. That's something the rest of the side, apart from Parker, seem to lack.
But late on Green fumbles a simple catch into the path of Klasnic and it's all over. At least that should keep Chelsea away. On 87 minutes Cahill easily outjumps our defence to head home the sort of goal relegation sides concede. To top it all Dyer goes off after 21 minutes. Sadly for Kieron, you can't ever see him being the player he was, and we can't place our hopes on someone with his injury record.
We're second from bottom and looking doomed unless a buyer arrives. Although this being West Ham we'll probably go and beat Chelsea now.
Interesting email debate going on between Mike and Don...
MIKE: The boys played their best considering the sold off players and the injured, but just soooo unlucky again.
Still think Zola/Nani have cocked up on purchases. So many PL players would have joined us after last season’s success, but millions spent on foreign players that just aren't up to the league. Really sad to see Green/Upson/Parker/Noble/Cole/Collison etc fighting so hard this season with no reward. Shouldn't hold it against them if they leave
More great Hammers going off to strengthen other squads... DON: I didn’t see it like that. I thought we only started playing when we were down to ten men (what a ridiculous red card by the way) and before that allowed Birmingham the freedom of the park. And we’ve now conceded the same goal how many times? Zola is a little lost, I think, why leave it until 10 mins to go to bring on Nouble? Why didn’t Collison start? Parker had a poor game, as did Kovac and Faubert (pick a right back and stick to him, I say), Gabbidon was not much better – and yet with a bit of luck we might have squeaked a draw. But that shouldn’t obscure the poverty of the performance.
It’s going to be a long, hard season. Again.
MIKE: Zola's selection and subbing has always been a tad eccentric, eg Hines and Green should have come off sooner last week, but Diamante is Di Michele mark II albeit with a bit more youth and as for Jimenez.. Its just madness.. So many PL boys available Don. We got Bellamy cheaper than Diamante..Mike
I agree about Jimenez - he’s a disaster, but Diamanti (with an ‘i’) is a completely different player to Di Michele. He’s yet to click properly but we’ve have seen glimpses of what could be. And he’s the only one prepared to shoot on a regular basis…I think if you go back over the summer, these legions of PL players you say were available, simply weren’t. And we bought Bellamy from a club that didn’t want him, it was a freak piece of luck, a bit like Di Canio. DON: The point for me, Mike, is that you can’t blame the new players for what’s going wrong, the old players just aren’t doing it apart from Carlton. If anything, Franco’s done OK for us, Da Costa looks pretty good, Diamanti has scored and created goals. Kovacs is hopeless, so three of the five have done OK. Collison, Noble, Parker, Illunga have just not recaptured the form of last season, Behrami’s not ready and, sad to say, we really miss Lucas. Which reminds me, Upson is a rubbish captain.
All that said, I still think we’ve got plenty but it really shouldn’t be this hard to get them to play like they can. So frustrating.
MIKE: Da Costa is a great player, so why on the bench for the last 3 games ? And it is the manager’s job to get the best out his squad. Wenger managed it yesterday at Anfield. Diamanti played some awful shots at Birmingham, and had a perfect assist that he ignored and tried to curl one in. Grumble, grumble I know, but Zola doesn't seem to be making any effort to recruit at home. Ignored Davenport, Bowyer, Nobbie etc all who were on the books and cheap to run. . Really hope we get a result at Bolton. PETE: Diamanti can be very selfish but has shown genuine moments of class such as the shot against the post against Wigan, his cameos against Arsenal and Everton and his chip at Birmingham. I still think that with the confidence of a couple of goals he could be a fine player for us - as long as Zola can get him playing for the team and decide where to play him.
Problem is our youngsters can't cope in playing in a losing side - Collison and Stanislas look lost at the moment. Da Costa looked good against Villa so I think is worth another chance.
The biggest indictment of Nani is signing Savio from his old club for a fee of £6 million rising to £9million. When Bellers left it would have made much more sense to sign an established journeyman striker like James Beattie who would get ten goals a season if Zola didn't nut him... and pick up a proper right back too...
"Lightweight Hammers staring at the precipice" reads today's Guardian... And Chelsea in for Green and Liverpool for Parker are latest rumours... Let's hope the Bolton fans turn on Megson if by any chance we score early on tonight... MIKE:We all have our gripes and opinions, and we know the boys can play well as witnessed against Arsenal, Villa, Burnley and all the draws/ close losses this season. It will be the end though if the tough lads like Parker/Green/Cole/Upson go though. Don't think Sullivan and co will be very sympathetic execs. Fingers double-crossed for Bolton. Think we will get a win
Matt texts from the Magritte Museum in Brussels and wonders “if we will see the surreal thing from WHU this afternoon”. He then fails to identify the Paul Simon song that mentions Magritte (it’s Rene and Georgette Magritte with their Dog After The War) so it’s 1-0 to me in the trivia stakes. Which is as good as it gets.
We’re in Bath for our wedding anniversary so mercifully we spend the afternoon in the thermal spa feeling the healing qualities of the natural spring water as the game is played. At least the Romans didn’t have to worry about football.
Although any regenerative effects from the spa are ended at five o’clock when Matt texts “We made a Magritte mess of that”. Lee Bowyer has scored the winner of course, which you could have predicted before kick-off.
On Match of the Day (don't say I don't know how to show Her Indoors a good time) we’re struggling early on with Ridgewell missing a great chance and Green making a fine save. Hines is out long-term now too, Faubert comes in at right-back, while Collison is dropped to the bench. Diamanti flashes one shot wide but we go in level at the break.
Bowyer breaks the deadlock after Stanislas is dispossessed and in an act of class (not a word previously associated with Lee) he declines to celebrate against his boyhood team. It’s Bowyer’s sixth goal of the season and getting rid of him for nothing and buying Kovac is looking a bad piece of business by Zola.
We show some spirit in the second half. Diamanti goes close with a great chip. You keep thinking that one day he’ll score a fantastic goal and become a force in the premiership. Sub Kieron Dyer races down the let and pings a shot against the post. Noble is read carded, rather unluckily for a second booking. Faubert is dispossessed and almost lets in City for a second. And that’s it, we’re now second from bottom and it’s a relegation fight until the end of the season.
Not signing a right-back when Neill went is looking like an act of folly and we’re looking for a porn baron to save us. If we lose at Bolton on Tuesday it looks critical.
So David Sullivan and David Gold have bid £40 million for the club or they can do a deal on a 50 per cent stake in West Ham plus guaranteed player investment. CB Holdings may well turn it down, but we can't be too picky about our suitors. The pair didn't do a bad job at Birmingham, rebuilding the stadium and staying mainly in the Premier League, and they presumably come with Karren Brady who might at least sort out the finances a little and get West Ham mentioned on The Apprentice.
The pair might go up to say £50 million, but you sense their valuation is about right, with West Ham having £40 million debts and owing £30 million in transfer fees and Tevezgate money.
And as the publisher of the Sunday Sport famed for headlines like "World War Two Bomber Found on the Moon" Sullivan should at least be prepared for the surreal goings on at Planet West Ham.
Her Indoors wants me to go on the Climate Change march, but instead it’s the Irons versus the Mancs. In my defence West Ham never threaten to make Europe so we never have to take continental flights and we do have a Green in goal.
The best part of the game is a free SboBet scarf on the seat. We are without Upson, Cole, Noble and Behrami, while ominously United have Berbatov and Owen on the bench.
The first half is fairly even. United have a makeshift defence of Fletcher at right back and Neville and Brown as centre backs and look out of sorts.
Early on Giggs misplaces a pass to Hines who crosses for Collison to just miss connecting in front of goal. Hines worries them occasionally with his speed and Franco looks clever on the ball, but it’s Giggs who is running the game.
Indeed the United fans sing, “Giggs will tear you apart again”. Although if we’re using Joy Division chants then perhaps “He’s lost control again”, might be more appropriate for us. Or “Don’t walk away in silence.”
Without Cole we never test United’s weak back four even after Neville and Brown limp off. Michael Carrick comes on to play centre half and we make him look like Franz Beckenbauer.
The 45 minutes is up and we all have to do is defend properly to go in at 0-0.Only we don’t. We fail to clear three times and Scholes volleys home from the edge of the box.
“How bad was that? Three times we could have cleared it. What sort of a f***ing clearance was that from Collison? And that header from Spector was terrible… United won’t play as badly in the second half, that’s for sure…” complains the Vicar’s son beside me.
We show some bite at the start of the second half with Stanislas checking for some reason when it looks as if he could have reached Franco’s through ball. But you know United will improve and a great counter attack involving Giggs, Rooney and Anderson ends with Gibson firing home a cracker from the edge of box.
Hines goes off injured. “It’s a real sign of a relegation team when you pick up injuries from nowhere,” mutters Nigel sagely.
Substitute Diamanti has a fine free kick tipped away by Kuszczak, having earlier shot wildly over from another dead ball.
Then we collapse in similar fashion to the last 30 minutes against Burnley. Valencia taps home unmarked from a left wing cross and then Rooney steals in to score a minute later from Evra’s cross.
And Robert Green has been sick (as a parrot) in goal. He is feeling nauseous, like most of us, and has to be substituted by Kurucz. My daughter later asks, “What if the ball had landed in the sick?” Now there’s a potential moment for “What Happened Next?”
Spector has been roasted again (no, not in that sense). Collison is mistiming everything and doesn’t look fit, Ilunga looks nothing like the star of last season and Stanislas has a poor game too.
Luckily United take it easy late on. Stanislas misses the target when he should score late on and it sums up our afternoon. Nigel, who is seeing Status Quo next week and is worried we are going down, down, deeper and down, starts to wonder if Zola’s job is safe.
“So much for my lucky scarf!” quips Fraser as we leave. Nigel has received a text from a gloating Manc. “Tosser! He doesn’t even live in Manchester!”
Crucial away games at Birmingham and Bolton are coming. And like the climate change deniers we have no defence. Our back four is not sustainable and can not control its emissions. Can anyone save planet West Ham?
I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all my heart. Through my secret liasions with 11 men in the E13 area I have not been true to my values and the behaviour my family deserves.
I am not without fault and I am far short of perfect. Sometimes I even believe that West Ham can keep a clean sheet. I am dealing with my behaviour and personal failings behind closed doors with my family and my PR team. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.
I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father my family deserves. For all those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.
So Carlton Cole is out with ligament trouble until January at least. A blow although at least it's not the rest of the season as the Sun claimed. We'll miss his hold-up play badly, but thankfully Franco is starting to look a decent striker and with Hines he will hopefully trouble defences.
Beyond that though we're down to the untried Nouble, although I'd like to see Diamanti told to stay in the last third of the pitch and do some damage. We're also said to be after 32-year-old Italian international Toni, although knowing us that might be a translation error and we're actually after Joe's mate Big Tone, a regular in Ken's Cafe...