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.
Tuesday, October 25
Brighton 0 West Ham 1
My text about being out my brain on a 5.15 train to Brighton, results in a barrage of Who references from Matt, watching the game in O'Neill's as the Lucky Pub is closed.
“Who Are You? Just hope we Won’t Get Fooled Again. Looks like Freddie may be a Substitute for another Guy (Demel).”
My response is: “Will it be Happy Jack Collison? Will Sam play a Squeeze Box formation with Baldock proving to be a Pinball Wizard?”
Of course we are talking about My Generation, and younger fans may not be conversant with the Who, but though Matt Can’t Explain, we agree The Kids Are Alright.
Bubbles echoes nicely around the acoustics of Brighton station as I negotiate a huge queue and squeeze on to the tiny local trains to Falmer.
The sparkling American Express Community Stadium is a fine new ground and will eventually be extended to hold more than the current 20,000. As Fat Boy Slim might reflect, You've Come A Long Way, Baby, from Brighton's days of homelesssness and stay at the Withdean.
At the stairs to the Media Lounge I meet my Brighton-based pal Paul, a former Essex Man now here by the sea and sand in mod-land. Many thanks to Brighton webmaster Will Jago for finding Hammers in the Heart some tickets.
We’re sat right behind the gaffers and throughout the game watch Big Sam continually remonstrating with his bench and the fourth official like a curmudgeonly uncle in a play by Alan Bennett. Meanwhile Gus Poyet gyrates like a man being subjected to electric shock treatment, full of Di Canio-esque imploring to the heavens every time Brighton go close.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
With seven Irons’ players injured, Allardyce opts for a five-man midfield. Brighton subject us to much early pressure as the rain pours down, but on 16 minutes Nolan dispossesses the dawdling Bridcutt and fires into the top corner of Harper’s net, running away to point at his name and do his curious clucking chicken celebration.
What’s clear is the Hammers are working tremendously hard. Winston Reid, possibly the only New Zealander not to play rugby, makes some excellent Richie McCaw-style blocks, while Amdy Faye is imposing alongside him. Diop gets his foot in and Noble looks a better player for having been dropped. Collison, Nolan and Faubert also put in decent shifts in the five-man midfield.
The crucial moment comes in first half stoppage time when Makail-Smith latches on to a Harper punt and forces Almunia to produce a great stretching save.
The half-time grub in the Media Lounge is excellent, no prawn sandwiches but real coffee, chicken curry and cupcakes.
Brighton play some good football, with Craig Noone prominent, and put us under relentless pressure in the second half. A good chance for the Seagulls is air-kicked, both side have penalty appeals, and Carew fashions a half-chance.
Allardyce responds by sending on Piquionne for Carew and 13-year-old Freddie Sears for Diop. Freddie, wearing shorts that cover his knees, runs around like he’s consumed too much Brighton Rock and makes a couple of decent forays.
The home fans make a lot of noise, while the West Ham contingent amuse themselves with the old joke about Brighton, with unreconstructed chants of, “You’re too ugly to be gay!” and “We can see you holding hands!"
O’Brien has a good game on his return to the side and it’s a gritty, workmanlike performance on a greasy pitch in the second half. Almunia makes a smart low stop and somehow and Faubert slices wide when well-placed. We hold on for eight minutes of added time, despite messing up a short-corner trying to time waste and turning it into a Brighton attack.
The side have certainly played for each other and we end up with a great three points and restored to second place.
We see Fat Boy Slim, aka Norman Cook, in the Media Lounge afterwards. He’s been on the pitch announcing two gigs at the American Express Community Stadium on June 1st and 2nd.
We resist the temptation to show him the league table and ask him to check it out now, funk soul brother.
Falmer station echoes to East End folk songs such as Twist and Shout and “He’s only got the match ball!” as a Hammers' fan holds aloft the very ball that Nolan scored with.
An ugly away win, but we never used to get any of those. With two home games coming up we have a great chance to go top.