Tuesday, May 26

No regrets

BREAKING NEWS: I do not regret what I did. I believe that I behaved reasonably and legally in travelling to West Ham this season. Even though some journalists from campaigning papers might say that it was a terrible error of judgement to have gone to Stratford. I was simply testing my eyesight to see if I could still spot a suspect defence...

Tuesday, May 19

Ricardo Vaz Te... he scores when he wants!

It was eight years ago today that West Ham beat Blackpool 2-1 in the Play-Off Final at Wembley. Back when there was something called football. Robert Green made several early saves that kept us in it, Carlton scored at Wembley, Ince equalised, Kevin Nolan hit the bar and then Ricardo Vaz Te came up with a late winner... Happy days!

Wednesday, May 13

Chants would be a fine thing

My Hammers X1 as told to Russ Budden is now up on YouTube. Russ has been interviewing various West Ham-supporting luminaries on Zoom and asking them for a themed X1. My choice was a West Ham team based on players who have great chants to their name. As a clue, my goalkeeper comes from near Moscow... Click on the link to hear the complete interview...

Tuesday, May 12

We're on the march with Lyall's army...

Hard to believe that it was 40 years ago on Sunday that West Ham won the FA Cup — an actual trophy. Here's how I described it in my book Hammers in the Heart...

John Lyall hugs his men, Paul Allen collapses on to the turf, head in hands. Trevor Brooking jogs around the pitch like he’s mowing his lawn in Shenfield. Geoff Pike is wearing one of those eighties Hammers scarves, white with claret and blue stripes, and several players have donned claret and white caps.

And now Billy Bonds, this time clean-shaven, is making his way up the famous steps to the royal box, being patted and hugged by fans as he goes. He receives the gleaming old trophy from the Duchess of Kent and lifts it up to a huge roar. He’s followed by Frank Lampard, Ray Stewart, Geoff Pike, Alvin Martin and a blubbering Paul Allen. West Ham chairman Len Cearns casts a concerned paternal look at the boy, perhaps wondering if he should have told Paul’s mum that he wouldn’t be home until gone seven o’clock.

Then it’s the lap of honour, and the team photo with Alan Devonshire holding a claret and blue teddy bear. One last look at Wembley and then I leave to meet Steve Day and Steve Flory in a pre-arranged spot by a hot dog stall outside. We celebrate by heading for Trafalgar Square, where groups of Hammers fans are singing around the fountains. Then we really go wild by going to the new McDonald’s in Haymarket, followed by a tube ride to Upton Park and a homage to the Upton Park gates and then pints in the Boleyn pub. Every motorist on Green Street is sounding their horn; inside the pub someone has the idea — perhaps not approved by the Fire Brigade — of burning an Arsenal scarf in the centre of the lounge.

University finals be buggered. I got a ‘gentleman’s’ 2:2 anyway. That night, walking the two and a half miles back to my parents’ house in Great Warley, the only revision was the song going on in my head: “We’re on the march with Lyall’s army! We’ve all been to Wembley! And we really shook ’em up when we won the FA Cup! ’Cos West Ham is the greatest football team!

Wednesday, May 6

Early doors

Now PFA chairman Graham Taylor has suggested that games to end the season might have to be less than 90 minutes it could make life difficult for West Ham. The lads would have to remember to concede in the 79th minute and not the 89th minute for a start. And then find ways of not scoring in 80 minutes rather than 90 minutes. Could be a whole new ball game.

Monday, May 4

Neutral gear?

Football seems to be slowly edging towards some kind of restart. The idea of playing the remaining nine PL fixtures at a neutral might make some sort of sense as any home advantage will already be lost by playing behind closed doors. Though it might be best if our neutral venue isn't Millwall. A couple of good omens for neutral grounds are that West Ham beat Blackpool at Wembley in the Play-off Final and also won at Wembley when they beat Spurs in the League Cup.

There's also the question of how the players will react to playing without fans. Will it be football at all? And who will shout at Arthur Masuaku if my fellow season-ticket holder Matt isn't there? Matt's partner Lisa has compared this to being like the question about trees falling in an empty forest. If no-one is there to shout at Arthur, does he actually exist?

Some clubs are now arguing they will only play at neutral venues if there is no relegation and the Premier League is extended to 23 clubs. There's also the issue of how the players train safely — although to be fair our defence has been practising social distancing for years. There will be risks of course, but as Jonathan Wilson pointed out in the Guardian, every form of return to normality will have an element of risk and without games a number of clubs could go out of business without any TV revenue. There are no easy answers, but the return of football in the summer would surely help improve the morale of the nation and give us something to watch beyond Tiger King.

Saturday, May 2

Booked at the Newham Bookshop

The Newham Bookshop is now part of a Learning Resource for teachers and schoolchildren in the borough. There's lots of detail on writers and staff who love the shop plus some quotes from myself on what the bookshop means to me and this description of some old blogger:

Pete grew up in Brentwood in Essex. He studied English at University and liked to read sports books, biographies and fiction. Pete worked as a journalist before becoming a football writer. It was his love for West Ham Football Club that encouraged him to write stories. Pete his written about his childhood memories of travelling to West Ham football matches using the District line, going from Upminster to Upton Park station.

He was in his thirties when his books first got published. He felt that seeing his name on a book cover was worth more than the money. Pete never thought he would have a career from writing about West Ham and football. He was chuffed when a man told him that he read one of his books knowing that the man hadn’t read a book for 30 years.

Pete misses the old days when there wasn’t such a distance between the football players and the fans. In the old days, football players went to their local cafe after a match to have lunch and relax.

Pete often signed his books outside Newham Bookshop before the West Ham football matches kicked-off. He met people from many parts of the country. Since the West Ham football ground is no longer located at Upton Park, there is sadness and nostalgia. Pete dedicated a whole chapter in his book Goodbye to Boleyn to Newham Bookshop and another one on the pubs and cafes around the stadium at Upton Park. For him, Newham Bookshop made a huge difference to the community. The friendliness of the staff was at the heart of the bookshop’s success story.

Click on the link for more info.