West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul and Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals.
Sunday, January 16
Bridge into troubled waters
West Ham 0 Arsenal 3
Best result of the day is seeing both Dara O’Briain and Phill Jupitus in the showbiz salon that is Ken’s Cafe with a jetlagged Big Joe, back from the Ashes. You do wonder if Dara might have come to host a special edition of The Apprentice: You’re Fired for Avram. Matt's delighted when he's mistaken for Scotty Parker by the boy collecting plates — or is it Scotty Parker's dad?
The game is played in a strange atmosphere with the media full of stories that Grant will be sacked after the game and replaced by Martin O’Neill. Is the club trying to force him to resign so as to save on compensation? How the team can be expected to perform in such uncertainty doesn’t seem to bother the board. As Nigel coments, what has happened to the family club of Greenwood and Lyall that hardly ever sacked managers?
Parker is out and so is Freddie Piquionne, absent having dental treatment. Hmm. Isn’t visiting the dentist the sort of excuse you used at school to get out of games? Jacobsen’s never-ending Achilles Heel has kept him out too, Obinna is suspended, Behrami has disappeared and to make it worse Noble goes off early on. So Grant is without six of his regular choice players, plus Stanislas who apparently has a hernia. And controversially, Matt has left his lucky Dukla Prague away shirt at home.
We do have Wayne Bridge playing at left back, but with only one league appearance this season he looks rusty. He’s slow to close down Theo Walcott, Nasri jumps over the ball and Van Persie gets ahead of Tomkins to slide home.
Mystic Morris says, “Apart from making the goal Walcott hasn’t done much,” meaning he’s destined to torture Bridge for the rest of the game.
Van Persie hits the post, and Green springs from the ground to save from Walcott after a last-ditch Tomkins tackle.
We almost get back into it with a bad back pass sends Cole in to shoot against the rookie keeper’s legs. Boa Morte feeds Hines from the rebound but Zavon fires over the bar from a scoring position.
It’s game over when Van Persie, played onside by Bridge, cuts the ball back from the line for Walcott to step away fire home.
To make it worse we’re being outsung by bloody Arsenal, who follow up “Ground share with Tottenham!” with “You’re getting sacked in the morning!” And at half-time it’s “Sacked in an hour! You’re getting sacked in an hour!”
Sears fires in a great cross that Cole heads wastefully wide and then it’s a stroll for Arsenal. Freddie Searas has a mishit cross almost drift over the keeper in the second half but Nasri is an i-Pad to our midfield Amstrads and there’s an inevitability to Arsenal’s third. It’s been a Bridge into troubled water. Poor Wayne wades into Walcott and needlessly brings him down at the edge of our box. Van Persie dispatches.
Young Zavon Hines disappears on the left and looks out of his depth. Bridge goes off injured to complete his day. Matt suggests that Dara O’Briain might be using the game as material for Mock the Week. “Sacked in a minute!” sing the Gooner contingent as added time ends.
Avram throws his unlucky scarf into the crowd at the final whistle.
And the tubes are down again. On the walk to West Ham station there’s a tide of disillusion from the Irons' diaspora. “Too many leaks from those muppets... Barrera’s only five foot five and he can’t run... why did we sell Daprela... it was worse under Zola... I can laugh at it more now... I used to get angry...”
A rubbish kick-off time, rubbish performance from the owners, rubbish result and rubbish tube closure. If O’Neill’s coming let’s get him in and fast. If he's not then tell the media Grant is staying and end this uncertainty for good.