Sunday, February 28

RIP Glenn Roeder

Very sad to hear of the death of former Hammers manager Glenn Roeder who was just 65-years-old. I interviewed Glenn for my book Irons in the Soul. He gave me a lot of time and it was clear he was utterly dedicated to his job. It's often forgotten that he finished seventh in his first season at West Ham in 2001-02, a feat only matched since by Slaven Bilic in 2014-15. It all went wrong in his second season after the Hammers didn't win at home until January, but it has to be said Roeder suffered from injuries to strikers Di Canio and Kouyate and was very unlucky to see West Ham relegated on 42 points. He collapsed with a brain tumour just before the end of that season, but thankfully recovered to have successful spells managing Newcastle and Norwich. But sadly his brain tumour eventually resulted in his premature demise. Glenn, who was a cultured defender with QPR and Newcastle, was a decent man and a fine coach. He will be missed.

Saturday, February 27

Unlucky to lose at City

Manchester City 2 West Ham 1

Another good performance at City and despite defeat a definite sign of progress. West Ham's organisation largely contains City for half an hour and stand-in keeper Randolph (Fabianski has had his arm trodden on in training, possibly by Julian Dicks, suggests Matt) doesn't have a shot to save. Ben Johnson looks a little overawed and loses the ball a few times, but it's a sound team performance. At the other end Antonio causes panic in the box jumping with Ederson and Lingard's shot is blocked by Stones. 

City take the lead as De Bruyne plays in a superb left foot diagonal cross and Diop has lost Dias for a second. Randolph gets a hand to it but can't keep the defender's header out. West Ham respond in heartening fashion. After good work from Coufal and Lingard on the right, Fornals misses Jesse's cross but Antonio swivels to strike the outside of the post. He's slightly scuffed it and on another day that would have been in the net.

Grizzled Czech Vladimir Coufal is having another great game. Fornals plays in the rampaging wing-back who crosses for Lingard to fire across goal and Antonio to poke home. A deserved equaliser just before the interval.

The Hammers again give a good account of the themselves in the second half, though Ranoplph pulls a thigh muscle taking a goal kick, which is worrying. City's second arrives as a corner is repulsed only for the ball to be recycled to Mahrez who takes on Johnson and pulls back for Stones to fire home. 

De Bruyne breaks past an exposed Diop to fire across the Hammers' box. But the Irons are threatening too. In the fourth minute of added time Lingard plays in a fine cross ands Diop gets his angles wrong and heads a great chance across goal rather than in. 

We've actually played better than in the match against Spurs. City might be tired after Europe but they can still bring on players like Foden and Jesus. They have the Son of God on the bench and we have the son of Alvin Martin. Against the Champions-elect, a team that has now won 20 in a row, this has to go down as a very decent performance.

Monday, February 22

Band on the run

Great twitter picture from Declan Rice of the West Ham 'band' celebrating the second goal against Spurs. It's a group of lads having a laugh, but at a deeper level, argues The Athletic, it symbolises the togetherness of the squad. Though as Declan says, he needs to do a bit of work on his drumming...

Sunday, February 21

It's happened again as Hammers go Top Four!

West Ham 2 Spurs 1 

An early trip to my laptop at high noon for this one. It's the perfect start to the game as Bowen slings in a cross, Antonio gets between the centre backs to prod the ball at Lloris, who saves only for Michail to gobble up the rebound. One-nil to the Cockney Boys.

Kane fires wide and then has a half chance parried by Fabianski and Moura miscues when well-placed as Mourinho's men come at the Irons. But the team spirit is epitomised by Soucek who goes down after a clash of heads only to bounce back up again with a bloody head would, rather like The Terminator (Arnie not Julian).  After treatment he returns with a plaster on his wound. 

Dawson has a header well-saved by Lloris and at the break it remains 1-0. The second half begins with another Hammers goal that owes everything to the energy of Lingard. After winning the ball and exchanging passes with Fornals he rifles home a fine finish into the corner. The ref disallows it for offside but VAR eventually and correctly rules him onside. Cue a mock band celebration from the lads.

But with Bale on Spurs mount heavy pressure as West Ham fail to keep the ball. Lucas Moura pulls one back with a header in off the post from a corner, having got above Cresswell, and it looks ominous. Rice has to make a fantastic block and then Bale smacks the loose ball against the bar. Hammers have several heroes, notably Rice, Coufal, Soucek, Dawson and Diop as they defend their lead.  

The second half seems to go on forever. In added time Cofual's clearance rebounds off Son and on to the post. It really is going to be our day. We've ridden our luck to go an incredible fourth and Mourinho is presumably getting sacked in the morning. Poor old Spurs, the small north London team who have raised their game at a big club but gone away pointless.

As Moyes says, this team can play a lot better but these players just don't want to be beaten. Come on You Irons!

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 7; Coufal 7, Dawson 8, Diop 7, Cresswell 6; Fornals 7 (Johnson 6), Rice 9, Lingard 8 (Noble n/a), Soucek 8; Bowen 7 (Benrahma 6), Antonio 8.

Friday, February 19

Squad players all doing their bit

The impressive thing about the new West Ham is that when needed all the squad players come in and do a job for the team. Moyes seems to have got rid of a lot of the egos. It would have been easy for Ryan Fredericks to have sulked since being replaced by Coufal, but he's come in and played really well at Aston Villa and then scored against Sheffield United as a late sub. That goal was made by Said Benrahma, another player who might have been annoyed at being left out of the starting line-up.

Similarly Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals don't seem to be complaining to their agents every time they don't start, while Crag Dawson has had to wait an age to get a game. Issa Diop is another big-name signing who has awaited his chance and returned to score against the Blades.

The man management certainly seems to have improved at West Ham, and perhaps with Moyes and four senior coaches in Kevin Nolan, Paul Nevin, Alan Irvine and Stuart Pearce there's time for every player not in the side to be spoken to and made to feel valued. For once the sum of a West Ham team seems to be greater than its parts.

Tuesday, February 16

Lingard stars as Hammers move up to fifth

West Ham 3 Sheffield United 0

Antonio has failed a fitness test so it's a West Ham side without any strikers. With Bowen nominally up front it works surprisingly well as Bowen, Lingard and Lanzini interchange and generally confuse Sheffield's big defenders who are left with no-one to mark. There's early controversy as a Rice free kick is saved by Ramsdale and Dawson is felled trying to get the rebound. A penalty is given and then taken away by VAR because Dawson was marginally offside.

Much of the first half is even in possession terms, though Lingard looks fit and speedy on the break, twice testing Ramsdale. The breakthrough comes just before half-time as Lingard pounces on a United error and breaks. He plays a give and go with Bowen before Basham lives up to his name and takes Jesse out in the box. Despite Lingard's plea to take it Rice sensibly points out that he is the designated penalty taker and scores with a cool shot into the bottom corner.

There's a scare at the start of the second half as Fabianski has to produce a brilliant save from McGoldrick's header, which has been deflected off Johnson. But the game is effectively put to bed after 55 minutes when Issa Diop gets his head on Cresswell's corner. A good moment for the returning big man.

Sheffield are not pretty in pink and West Ham threaten to get a third when Coufal seizes on a mistake and races through only to hesitate and give Ramsdale the chance to parry. Noble is brought on to shore up the midfield as the Blades remain largely toothless up front. 

The third arrives in the 96th minutes as two subs combine. Benrahma bamboozles the United defence with some nifty footwork. The defence stands off Fredericks and the late sub fires home unchallenged. One goal from four minutes' on the pitch. Three unlikely scorers round off a good night's work and credit to Ben Johnson too, who has played well as a left wing-back. Moyes is so happy he forgets to sub Jarrod Bowen, who remains on the field for 96 minutes.

Sheffield are surely doomed but this was a game we could easily have slipped up in. The Hammers are fifth and Antonio should be back for Spurs. And barring a Roeder-esque season we're unlikely to go down on 42 points! The next few games should decide if this season really turns into something special but this was another good moment for Moyes and his men. Irons!

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 7; Coufal 6, Diop 7, Dawson 6, Cresswell 6, Johnson 7 (Fredericks 7); Rice 7, Soucek 6, Lanzini 6 (Noble 6), Lingard 8 (Benrahma 6); Bowen 6.

Monday, February 15

Oggy out and Antonio back?

Losing Angelo Ogbonna for an unspecified period is undoubtedly a blow as he's been magnificent this season. But our new defensive leader appears to be Craig Dawson who had a great game after Oggy went off at Old Trafford. Judging by Moyes' substitutions Issa Diop will come in now he's recovered from a bump on the head. 

Diop's big problem has been concentration but he's undoubtedly good in the air when he's on his game and a threat at set-pieces. Got to feel a bit sorry for Fabian Balbuena though, who was playing really well and a big part of the side's revival until Dawson came in away to Southampton. According to The Athletic Stuart Pearce has done a lot of work with Oggy and the defence, so he deserves some credit for West Ham's new solidity.

Meanwhile it's looking hopeful that Michail Antonio will be fit for Sheffield United tonight. Moyes says Antonio's been training "on the grass", which sounds a bit unusual, but we'll try anything to preserve his hamstrings. Michail's certainly feeling quite chipper to judge by the almost Shakespearean romantic banter of his Valentine's Day tweet (best not repeated on a family blog). Let's hope he saves some of his energy for blunting the Blades tonight.

Meanwhile David Moyes is talking about having a go at qualifying for Europe now West Ham are only playing once a week. What could possibly go wrong?