Monday, December 29

Slap Happy

West Ham 2 Stoke City 1

The queue in Ken’s Café is stretching way out into Green Street. Clearly after a Christmas of excess West Ham fans are detoxing with some healthy eating. There’s a full crew present, Big Joe, Big Tone, Big Phill, Tiny Tim, Michelle, Little Jo, Mike, Matt, Nigel (finally back from his dinner party), Carolyn and Lisa, who delays our exit by ordering special chips lightly drizzled with cheese served by a Christmas Carol.

Davenport is dropped, rather unfairly, for Collins, while Neill and Noble are injured and Bellamy suspended. And worryingly Zola has once again proved himself a Boa selector.

Was the Portsmouth Boxing Day win an aberration? It seems so when the unmarked Faye heads in from a corner after four minutes. “Why Why Delilah?” sing the noisy Potters fans followed by “You’ve only got one song!” and “Where’s your money gone?” They make throw-in gestures whenever Delap fires one of his missiles, but generally Collins and Upson cope with them.

At least we create a procession of chances. Collison breaks down the left wing and crosses for Cole to stab wide when he should probably have scored.

Griffin nearly heads into his own net from Behrami's centre, Upson heads wide and Boa Morte who is having a fine game for once, plays a great ball in to Ilunga who crosses into the box only for the ball to be scrambled away. Di Michele produces a great piece of Di-Canio-esque ball-juggling to cross for Cole to head wastefully way over the bar. And that’s after Zola has worked with him all week on his finishing. Before that his headers must have been going over the stand.

At half-time we wonder if Freddie should come on. “He’ll run around a lot because of all the chocolates he’s eaten around the Christmas tree,” suggests Lisa.

Finally we score. Carlton Cole is blocked by Andy Griffin but turns away from the prone Potter and fire a fine shot into the corner. “Always believe in Carlton Cole!” declares Matt. Then as Stoke prepare to kick off there’s a hilarious altercation. Fuller slaps Griffin and is red-carded. More a case of ‘Why Why Why Ricardo?’

“That must make Dyer and Bowyer feel quite nostalgic,” I suggest.

“Down with the Tottenham! You’re going down with the Tottenham!” chant the Bobby Moore Stand.

Cole has now scored in two successive games and it’s an important moment for him, since he’s never scored five league goals in a season before. He’s kept going despite missing two first-half chances.

Predictably enough we struggle against a side trying to beat itself. Boa Morte has a shot cleared off the line and Cole fires in a couple of confident looking shots against a team of slappers. But every cross seems to come from Faubert who fires then in the general direction of the Channel.

But then on 88 minutes Cole turns and shoots in the box, the ball deflects of substitute Diego Tristan and into the net. Even we survive four minutes of injury time against ten men. Six points over Christmas! Although obviously they we may yet need to get to 40 points before selling the entire side on January 30.

We’re tenth. The fans are so ecstatic that the Black Lion in Plaistow is too full to enter. So we travel home on the tube wondering if we can still catch Aston Villa.

Judas Judas what's the score?

Portsmouth 1 West Ham 4

And it came to pass that the Men of Iron waged war against the Arsenal Donkey in the Mouth of Ports. And a great multitude had gathered upon the park at Fratton to witness the works of the Men of Iron.

And the mother of St Matthew prayed for the Men of Iron. The Lord heard her prayer and gave strength to King Zola when the Crowing Cockerel offered thirty pieces of silver for Bellers.

But the first blow was struck by the Donkey’s man Beladj and the multitude asked ‘Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken us?’

The Lord heard their words and respondeth: ‘O ye of little faith, he that is last will later be first. Believe in the work of Zola and thy hopes will live eternally.’

And the word of the Lord was true. Jack the son of Colin smote the ball into the net of Men of Ports and verily there was much rejoicing.

But the sons of the claret and blue were still to be tested when the sinner in black decreed a penalty to the Mouth of Ports. And it came to pass that Judas was to strike the ball towards the holy goal. But the Lord filled the heart of Judas with fear of Robert the keeper of the net. And Judas struck the ball wide and the multitude maketh much amusement of the sinner’s shame.

And then the Lord said, ‘Verily I will restore sight to Carlton in front of the net’. And it came to pass that Jack the Son of Colin smote the ball against the post of the Men of Mouth of Ports. And Carlton struck the ball into an empty net and the multitude were astonished and declared ‘Lord almighty, it is a miracle’.

And the Lord infused Bellers with a spirit of fire and he smote the Men of Ports twice more and the Donkey was downcast.

The multitude were amazed and beckoned to their partners to join the hokey cokey. And the Lord looked upon his work and saw that it was good.

And when the wise men of the blog cometh home he calleth together his friends and neighbours saying unto them rejoice with me and have a right old cockney knees-up. It is meet that we should make merry and be glad.

Monday, December 22

Villains in Robbery at Upton Park

West Ham 0 Aston Villa 1

The 5.30 kick-off leaves time for a visit to both the Newham Bookshop and Ken’s Café, where both Phill Jupitus and Hattie Haydridge from Red Dwarf are sitting in the green room, supping tea among the brown sauce bottles. At the counter the missus phones just as Carol is demanding to know my order and for a moment there’s a terrible dilemma as to who should take precedence.

Meanwhile Matt and Lisa announce, “Nigel is at a dinner party in Isleworth, although it’s not the sort of thing he’d like to see ridiculed in a blog”. And this after missing the Spurs game to be in a spa hotel.

The first half is a cracking match. Bellamy has rediscovered his pace and races clear early on to force a good save from Friedel. Davenport heads over from a corner. “That’s why you’re going down!” sing the Brummie contingent.

Agbonlahor then skins Neill to set up Sidwell for a chance he scuffs under pressure from Upson. Then Scott Parker makes a terrible back pass and Young bends the ball round Green and Davenport on the line to hit the post. Then Barry claims Neill gas held him back in the box.

But against one of the current big four we come back strongly. Bellamy makes a fine break and almost finds Cole in the areas, only for Carlton to fall over. Neill plays Bellers in down the line and he accelerates to pit in a low cross which Davies hits towards his own goal only for Friedel to make another fine save.

Behrami tests Friedel with a fizzing 30-yard shot (who doesn’t he do it more often?) and then Green makes a splendid double stop from Milner and Barry just before half-time. Matt texts Nigel to ask how the prawn cocktails are going down at Abigail’s Party. He texts back, claiming to be in a pub that is being smashed up by the Kew Garden Hammers.

In the East Stand we’re happy with the performance and discuss our options. Why isn’t Freddie Sears on the bench, we wonder?

“He’s a bit over-excited before Christmas,” suggests Fraser. “Yes, he was very disappointed with the Wolverhampton Lapland. He’s not in the right metal condition for the game,” adds Matt.

As for finances, we have that sussed. “Just give all the money to Etherington, only don’t let him place the best himself. As he’s not very good at winning.”

As for Carlton Cole’s new five-year contract: “It feels like a life sentence,” suggests Lisa. “With no chance of parole,” I add.

The second half sees 25 minutes of sustained WHU pressure. Neill, by now having a fine match, crosses for Cole to head a glorious chance over. Even Match of the Day calls it “a very bad miss”.

Matt is losing patience with our build up as Bowyer, able to shoot, tries to play in someone else. “Too f***ing intricate! Just f***ing shoot!” he bellows.

Then Bellamy wriggles down the left and plays the ball in to Cole who this time does well to poke the ball towards Friedel, who this time saves with his legs. We have several corners followed by headers wide of their goal. Nigel Reo Coker comes on to choruses of “F*** off Reo-Coker!” from the Bobby Moore Stand. It looks like we’re never going to score. But even a point would be good against Villa.

Only then Collison plays the ball behind sub Bowyer on the edge of Villa’s box and they break swiftly. Milner, on the edge of our area crosses, it deflects off Lucas Neill’s knee and lopes freakishly into our top corner of our net. Sod it. It’s probably been our best performance of the season.

There’s still time for a free kick to fall to Davenport in the box, only he fires the bal too high at Friedel, who makes another good save, A Michael Owen would have kept it low in the corner.

Despite four minutes of added time we slump to another undeserved home defeat. Unlike Nigel, now no doubt on the brandy and discussing rugger in Isleworth, we didn’t get our just desserts.

Wednesday, December 17

Any old Irons?

"Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson has moved a step closer to selling West Ham after receiving several provisional offers. The owner has signed non-disclosure agreements with 'five to 10 parties'." BBC Sport

Those five mystery investors in full:

Mr F W Woolworth (everything must go)

Mr B Madoff (favours pyramid formation)

Mr M Goldberg (Palace of Varieties)

Mr M Leeson (would restore Hammers' Barings)

Mr P Ince (P45 consortium)

Monday, December 15

Stick your blue flag…

Chelsea 1 West Ham 1

Returning from our wedding anniversary trip to Winchester, it seems helpful to offer to take the bags home while Nicola picks up the kids. I just happen to be back by 4pm and there’s Chelsea v West Ham live on Sky in the Auld Triangle.

Interesting midfield selection from Zola. Faubert has been dropped after the Spurs debacle, Behrami is on the left and Collison and Noble return alongside Parker. I sit alone in the lounge bar with a pint of Guinness and a packet of Tayto crisps, anticipating a drubbing.

Davenport is in for the injured Collins. “We score four whenever ‘head on a stick’ plays,” I text to Matt and Nigel, remembering his role in the drubbing of Blackburn.

Zola receives the expected ovation from the Chelski fans. Lampard and Cole combine for Joey to go close, but Chelsea aren’t creating chances. After 25 minutes it’s looking optimistic and remember even Newcastle drew at the Bridge. Parker is winning every tackle and Collison looks energetic and neat. Behrami is everywhere on the left and Noble has improved our midfield workrate.

No-one’s made a save yet. Then on 33 minutes Noble chases a throw-in, charges the ball down and goes past Terry, who is claiming for hands even though Nobes used his shoulder. Noble plays the ball back to Bellamy who controls it on his chest and fires a great half-volley into the corner. Goal! I leap up with my arms in the air before realising I’m on my own. Still, it’s just what we and Bellers’ need.

Drogba comes on in the second half, which is ominous. Sure enough Lampard and Drogba play a neat interchange and play in the spinning Anelka, who pokes the ball through Green’s legs. 1-1 after 53 minutes.

We immediately attack and after Bellamy’s cross from the goal line, Carlton Cole takes an air shot when surely he should have made it 2-1. We’re giving this a real go. That’s better. Carlton turns on the edge of the box and sends a shot fizzing wide.

Chelsea come back. Ilunga makes a great tackle to deny Joe Cole. Lampard has a tame shot saved. Green makes a sharp save to beat away Drogba’s volley.
Kalou volleys over. Upson and Davenport are immense at the back and Parker is still chasing everything.

Kerry and Mark from Islington’s Green Living Centre arrive unexpectedly in the pub. Basildon has just been announced to be the least green place in Britain according to a survey in the Observer, and I confirm their view about Essex men. “Yes, local collective food, communal gardening co-ops, erm, no not there! God we’re never going to hold out!”

My pal Nick, listening on the radio, sends me a text: “West Ham will not be able to defend like this for another half-hour — BBC”. Cheers, mate.
Green then makes a mistake; he palms Lampard's corner towards his own goal, but the tireless Parker is on the goal-line to head it up on to the bar and away. The ball is instantly returned, but this time Green makes a fantastic flying stop from Alex’s header. You can hear ‘Bubbles’ on the tele.

There’s still time for a Lampard penalty claim. Neill sticks a leg out and withdraws it, with Big Fat Frank going over. Thankfully ref Mike Riley ignores him.

There’s bloody five minutes of Ferguson time. But then in the 92nd minute Behrami breaks confidently, plays the ball into Carlton Cole who’s clean through to win the game only, aaargh, he’s shot tamely at Cech. “Not up to it,” texts Nigel and you have to agree. Cole works tremendously hard, but he’s a Championship striker, at this level he gets three or four a season which isn’t good enough. We need Ashton back.

The whistle blows. “Phew” texts Nigel. It’s a great point and we could have won. What’s encouraging after the Spurs game is that Zola has won the tactics game. We’ve played a deep back four, denying Anelka any running space, and kept a bank of four across the midfield. The whole side has played well. Maybe our season turns here.

Wednesday, December 10

Two-nil in our cup final…

West Ham 0 Tottenham 2

Two cars are overturned in separate accidents, one possibly fatal, near the Bow flyover on the way to Upton Park. DC is driving, picking up Alastair and myself. He’s left it late and now we’re marooned in tailbacks.

We arrive at 7.55 and jog from Plashett Road to the stadium. Alastair is moving quicker than Dean Ashton, but DC stops for some chips, and then moves on to Ken’s Café where his mate hasn’t turned up to collect a spare ticket. The night hasn’t started well.

I’m in my seat with only one and a half minutes gone, but Tottenham have already missed a good chance by then. Harry has received a mixed reception. Part-timer Nigel is missing, inexplicably spending his birthday with his his wife in a spa hotel in Dorset rather than E13. Oh, and we have a new sponsor, a betting company called Just the thing for Matty Etherington.

"They get most of the players wages already," suggests Fraser.

We play some pretty passing football in the first half but never look anywhere near scoring. A Bellamy shot well wide is our best effort. Spurs go closest when Lennon crosses and Pavlyuchenko fires against a post.

“Faubert would have put that it in,” quips Matt.

In the second half we start to drop off even more. Modric looks dangerous in the hole and Lennon’s pace is troubling Ilunga. The crowd do their best with a rousing “Claret and blue army”. But Spurs threaten even more and lok a good passing side under Redknapp. Then King rises above two defenders to nod Lennon’s cross down into the ground and up over Green. Bloody Tottenham. “One-nil in your cup final!” chant the away fans.

You can’t see us scoring. Zola brings on Noble and Di Michele. Carlton Cole is having one of those games where his headers go everywhere but to a man.

“It’s like watching Dowie and his threepenny bit head again,” I groan.

We have a good penalty shout for handball, but it’s ignored. We need a little bit of route one, anything to test the dodgy Gomez. We look like a side that’s totally shot. Football purity is one thing, but Curbishley could gather points.

Matt ups the swearing quotient in a desperate bid for an equaliser. “Di Michele is having a mare. He’s wearing the wrong ****ing boots! What's the point in bringing on Tristan for eight minutes? He's got no idea!"”

Then in the 88th minute Gomez of all people makes a superb double save from Neill and Di Michele. Spurs go straight down the other end and score through a long distance effort from O’Hara. Game over.We've scored three goals in nine games.

On the way home in DC’s car, with Alastair and Jo, DC is tirading from his driver’s seat: “Where is the creative player who can change the game for us? You name a top ten side and they have one. We don’t.” He’ll be phoning up Talk Sport next.

We start to talk about our injured players. Ashton, Dyer, Gabbidon, et al. “It’s like the old print industry. There’ll be players on our books that everyone will have forgotten about, signing on as Mickey Mouse,” says Jo. I imagine someone opening a cupboard and finding Danny Gabbidon or Luis Boa Morte still there in 30 years time. Their sons will probably be guaranteed a job on our treatment table too.

It’s been a bad evening, ending with more jams in Dalston. And West Ham too appear to be gridlocked.

Saturday, December 6

Happiness of Herita in West Ham

Herita Illunga has not said that West ham is a second rate club, he said "second tier" but his French was mistranslated, so we still love him.
As his splendid blog (, apparently written by his missus, put it:

"Is it possible to doubt of Herita happiness in West Ham…"

"The interview of Herita for (French website) aroused strong passions !!!!! Herita received a lot of reactions from fans. Two of them took the article in the wrong way."

"It seems that there is a little confusion between what is written and what should be understood. If you go through the article you will understand that Herita is really happy to be in West Ham and that he WISH TO SIGN HERE as a permanent. As he also said in the interview West Ham is a big club with real history, fans and values. And that is what he repeats constantly since he arrived in this fantastic club."

Friday, December 5

Kop that

Liverpool 0 West Ham 0

“I’ll be watching on Setanta thinking of you as we go 0-4 down at half-time,” I tell Big Joe who’s travelling to Anfield in the hope of seeing us get our first win there since 1963, back in the days when the Beatles were a support act.

Matt, Nigel and Fraser are watching the gamer in our lucky Covent Garden pub. I’m booked to play for my pub quiz team, so plan to watch the first half at home and then, secure in the knowledge we’re losing, head off to the pub.

It’s the normal one-way traffic at Anfield. Hypia goes close with a couple of headers but Liverpool look strangely pedestrian, unable to get to the byline and cross the ball into the danger areas. Neill looks steady and Upson and Collins are continuing their fine form of late. Then, just before half time, incredibly, Craig Bellamy races unopposed down the left and fizzes a 30-yard shot on to the inside of the post. Sod it. This being West Ham we might win and I won’t be watching.

I head for the Faltering Fullback, not named after a West Ham defender, as far as I know. At least the game is on in one bar, but we’re at a table in the TV-less middle bar. So in between identifying song lyrics and the first World Cup Final to be decided on penalties as well as who plays at Blundell Park, I’m rushing into the other bar every time here’s a big "Oooh!". Green has just made a fantastic save from Benayoun.

Then, stunningly, Carlton Cole puts a header from a corner just wide. Quite a few Hammers fans are in the bar upping the noise quotient. The ref gives two dodgy offsides against Carlton when he’s through. We surely can’t win this, can we? Then there’s the biggest groan of the evening as Boa Morte is played in and fires widely wide... He’s only been on the pitch for two minutes.

We come fourth in the quiz, just outside the money, so our dreams of going professional will have to wait. And then comes the text from Big Joe: “If only the dead snake could shoot straight.” Three clean sheets in a row, where once our defence looked as dodgy as Roy Keane’s beard. We’ve held the new league leaders. In fact we gave them one hell of a 0-0 beating. Time for another pint of London Pride. Top four here we come.

Friday, November 28

No arbitration for the claret and blue…

So the High Court has ruled that we can't appeal to the Court of Arbitation for Sport in Lausanne over the Griffiths Tribunal ruling. This is surely disastrous for all sport as it means that clubs can retrospectively sue each other and judges can make decisions about something that's impossible to calculate, that a particular player is worth three points to a club. It looks like we might settle for £25 million out of court, plus a boxed set of Xl shirts, a season ticket to Ken's Cafe and some iffy Xmas merchandise from East Ham High Street.

Meanwhile Sheffield United are in trouble over Chris Morgan's terrible elbow on Barnsley's striker Iain Hume. Might I suggest an appropriate penalty might be a fine of, ooh, £25 million and relegation to League One?

Remembrance of things Pards

So Alan Pardew has been sacked by Charlton. They might ridicule him at the Valley, but apart from Harry Redknapp, he remains our most successful manager since John Lyall. Three appearances at Cardiff, promotion and a top half finish wasn't bad for a club that had been relegated and sold half the England team.

Poor old Pards was very poorly treated by the new Icelandic owners and also the Brown regime, which suddenly thrust two third-party owned players on him. He still maintains he could have turned the season around if he hadn't been sacked before the transfer window. What might have been had Pards stayed, Gerrard ballooned the ball over the bar, Reo-Coker stopped sulking, and Harewood recovered his form, we'll never know. Perhaps Hayden Mullins would have gone on to captain the Hammers to Champions League glory…

Monday, November 24

Behrami army

Sunderland 0 West Ham 1

An away crew of Nigel, the Gav, Matt, Lisa and myself congregate in our lucky away pub in Covent Garden. We’ve seen West Ham win at Highbury and Ipswich away in the play-offs in this very boozer. And no we can’t tell you its name; if we do we have to kill you in case it loses it's magic.

Collison and Sears are dropped, and Bowyer appears to be on the left. We watch the game in the surreal circumstances of three TVs and no sound, as the lunchtime drinkers scarper at the prospect of the Stadium of Shite. Though not as surreal as when we watched West Ham win at Blackburn at the Lord Nelson in the Tevez year, accompanied by Stealers Wheel singing “clowns to the left of me jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you”. Now that was a lucky pub.

Sunderland have all the early pressure, Cisse plants a header just over our bar. Mystic Matt says we just need a deflected goal. Then in the 19th minute Neill overlaps on the right and is bought down.

“Lucas Neill was too quick for him,” I say, prompting Nigel to answer “It’s not often we say that.”

Faubert’s free kick is headed out to Behrami whose shot takes a deflection off Kenwyne Jones into the back of the net. Wahey! The lucky pub is working. Behrami’s first goal for the Hammers.

Sunderland surge forward and have two penalty claims we conclude, judging by the silent slow motion replays. Collins has his arms round Jones’ neck but luckily the ref doesn’t see it. The second claim looks like a simple bit of shoulder barging between Collins and Cisse. The ginger giant and Matty Upson are looking up for it at the back though, throwing themselves at everything in the air. Green makes a good tipover from Sunderland’s Collins and then Andy Reid curls a lose ball on to our bar.

But then we should make it two. Anton Ferdinand (remember him?) miscontrols the ball allowing Bellamy to race through for a one on one. Instead of shooting he allows himself to be pushed way out wide by Fulop bit manages to cross and present Behrami with a tap in from one yard that he thumps against the bar.

“Hornchurch third team could have put that in!” booms Gavin.

We all agree that we’ll lose now and that miss will be seen as the turning point. But at least we go in one up at the break.

The second half begins with more Sunderland pressure. We aren’t holding the ball in midfield, Faubert and Bowyer appear anonymous, Cole miscontrols the ball too often and Bellers looks affected but his miss. We’re relying on Collins and Upson, but thankfully Sunderland look way off form.

We plead with Matt to start swearing again. “I think Scott Parker’s the greatest player I’ve ever seen,” says Nigel, making an admirable attempt to wind him up.

It works. Perhaps inspired by Lisa’s half-time knowledge of the Gary Crosby incident, it’s the terrible prospect of hope in his heart that gets Matt raging.

“We don’t ****ing deserve to win this… what’s Bellamy done all game… There’s Zola sitting there doing ****-all… what is the ***ing point of Boa Morte… that was ****ing rubbish Di Michele!”

A wave of Anglo-Saxon kinetic energy appears to inspire our lads and we hold out, even though with five minutes to go I start thinking about the Everton game. We’ve played better and lost, but somehow we’re holding on. Then there’s four sodding minutes of added-on time and we hold it up in the corner and blimey, we’ve won! We go above Tottenham! Maybe we’ve dragged Arsenal into the relegation struggle too…

We celebrate with more Bishops Finger and a trivia round of naming our favorite and least favourite three Premier League teams. Nigel and Gavin head off to see Uriah Heep on pretty much their perfect Sunday. While Roy Keane, Anton and George McCartney feel very ’umble indeed.

Thursday, November 20

West Ham to win World Cup (again)

A West Ham player, Matt Upson, has scored for England for the first time in 300 years. Forget the recent pessimism. Inspired by Upson, Parker and Green England are surely destined to now win the 2010 World Cup and usher in a new golden era. Craig Bellamy scored for Wales too, and Collison and Collins also played in the 1-0 defeat of Denmark. We are a team of international stars. Although we were before too. Did anyone notice that four of last night's England team were relegated with WHU? James, Johnson, Carrick and Defoe.

Tuesday, November 18

Something better change?

West Ham 0 Portsmouth 0

Nigel’s been to see the Stranglers, he informs us in the nice’n’sleazy Ken’s Cafe.

“We certainly need to straighten out the midfield,” says Matt.

“You could say after no wins for six games that something better change,” suggests Nigel.

“There are no more heroes anymore,” I moan.

“They wrote a song about our misunderstood former chairman didn’t they?” says Matt, “Golden Brown”.

My seven-year-old daughter Nell demolishes egg, chips sausage and beans and ketchup and salt, enjoying the substances forbidden once you pass the border patrols of Islington. We’re waiting for my pal Fleur down from Yorkshire and her son George, somewhere on a train from Slough. They are delayed by a late train and the impression that it takes half an hour to tube it from Paddington to Upton Park.

In side Upton Park the good news is that Cole and Behrami are back and Upson has recovered from his dead leg. David James receives a sporting ovation from the Bobby Moore Stand.

As against Everton, our football is good. We make lots of intricate patterns, Parker is busy, Sears is causing trouble out wide and Collison is again a revelation in midfield. We’re playing with spirit, but again we lack a cutting edge.

“Daddy, why do West Ham always lose?” asks Nell, causing Matt, Nigel and Fraser to chuckle. I wonder if I have the moral right to inflict further claret and blue traumas upon an innocent child…

At half-time it’s not looking too bad. “Our football’s been really good apart from creating chances,” I suggest.

“That’s like saying someone’s really attractive apart from the huge birth mark across their face,” counters Nigel.

News reaches us that Fleur and George have picked up the tickets I left at Ken’s at 4pm only to find the stadium shut. But security have helped them find seats in the Bobby Moore Stand where they’re greeted with cries of “You ain’t missed much!”

In the second half we have a good chance is when a defender skies the ball into the air and Carlton Cole takes an air-kick. For all his industry he’s no Deano.

Defoe is their biggest threat. He slips past Collins and Rob Green makes a fantastic save. Then Green tips over another Defoe lob and saves a third effort with his legs in front of Fabio Capello. Nell asks why we boo Defoe and not Carlos Tevez. Ah, the intricacies of football allegiances…

The hardworking Behrami is brought down on the edge of the box. Craig Bellamy’s free kick thumps back off the bar and Collison does well to volley the ball back but it goes straight to James. The crowd are behind the lads now, we struggle for that elusive win, make pretty patterns but as ever, we make Distin, Kaboul and James look like man mountains.

We plead with Matt to start swearing again because we haven't won since he stated behaving like a vicar's son. But he claims he can only get angry when we're winning and look like throwing it away.

Defoe is through again but Greeny saves with his legs this time. The final whistle goes, and Nigel points out that we’ve kept a clean sheet for the first time in 25 games. That should be the headline item on the national news.

Zola talks about his grand project and creating a new mentality after the game, but the harsh fact is we haven’t won in seven games and Curbs’ sides regularly picked up points.

Nigel forgoes hanging around to head home to relive his Stranglers gig. I reflect that there’s the germ of something in our football. Sears and Collison look like our next stars to flog to Chelsea, it’s all there apart from the finishing. One day, perhaps, we’ll give someone a tonking.

Although as Hugh Cornwall might sing: “But the money’s no good… just get a grip on yourself.”

Friday, November 14

Couldn't get arrested…

Yesterday's Sun had a picture of James Collins being handcuffed at 3am outside Funky Buddha nightclub in Mayfair. He had been mistakenly identified a one of the culprits in a brawl a the club, when he was in fact enjoying a night out with his wife at the nearby Nobu restaurant.

Collins was soon released in an incident that must have Frank McAvennie turning in his mock-Tudor mansion. A footballer not in a nightclub? A footballer with his wife rather than a model who's been on Celebrity Big Brother? What sort of example is this to set to Freddie Sears?

Collins would also like a dodgy grey cardigan to be taken into consideration.

Tuesday, November 11

What might have been…

Just to make things worse than they already look, here's the world-beating updated ex-West Ham X1:

James; Johnson A Ferdinand R Ferdinand McCartney; Lampard Carrick Mascherano Cole; Tevez Defoe.
Subs: Bywater; Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Konchesky, Zamora, Bullard, Kanoute.

Not a bad line-up, eh?

Monday, November 10


Last week I claimed that Mystic Morris was being controversial suggesting we're going down. He replies:

Controversial to say we're going down?

It'd be more controversial to predict:
(1) We're going to get a European place
(2) We're going to keep a clean sheet
(3) Luis BM is going to score in the near future
(4) We'll bring our injury list down to single figures
(5) We'll finish above Spurs

Please accept my unreserved apologies MM. I have now suspended myself for three months and deeply regret the answerphone messages claiming that your grandaughter, if you had one, might be a West Ham fan.

Sunday, November 9

No defence

West Ham 1 Everton 3

Fraser's back from the Orient Express and now in the more classy environs of Ken’s Cafe. He’s failed to see Venice play (“it was flooded off, there was a waterlogged pitch") and tells me that despite paying all that dosh to go from Venice to Budapest, the train doesn’t even have Sky TV, just a piano player and two restaurants. The train also stopped in Vienna, but it meant nothing to him.

I've escorted fellow north London resident one-armed Jo on the District Line, attempting to shield her broken arm from bashings. She's probably still closer to a return than Dyer and Gabbidon.

In the ground it seems that Barack Obama must be visiting, as the pitch is full of soldiers. But it’s Remembrance Sunday. The minute's silence is perfectly observed. It's almost as if we're at the Emirates.

The team selection looks a little strange. Mullins is dropped despite scoring and so is Collison, the man of the match against Boro. In comes Bowyer and Luis Boa Morte is preferred to Etherington. Clearly Zola sees something in him, although what is unclear. All season Nigel’s maintained that the 12-year-old kid sitting in front of us is in fact Freddie Sears; but no, the real Freddie is playing today, It must be his older brother sitting by us.

We start off brightly against the Blue Scousers. Sears is lively up front, all quick feet and darting runs disturbing expereienced defenders like Yobo and Jagielka. But after 17 minutes Matthew Upson goes down and is subbed by Collison. “The one player we can’t afford to lose,” mutters Nigel.

But with Neill at centre back and Faubert at right-back we continue to dominate. Bellamy volleys just over and then the Welsh irritant beats a despairing defender with a great dummy and crosses for Sears to shoot and Howard to tip the ball onto the bar. Then Boa Morte does well to pick out Sears in the six yard box, but he slices wide when he looks certain to score.

We meet Gavin in the stand at half-time, who has bought a ticket for Hornchurch v Peterborough in the FA Cup. The man selling the ticket wanted to know why he hadn’t been for 20 odd years, apparently unaware of distractions down the District Line. Then Nigel and Gavin do a deal for a Uriah Heep ticket, all without visible embarrassment. Matt thinks they should at least look “very ’umble”.

“Don’t worry, they’ll have tickets on the door,” Nigel reassures us.

“Yes, about 3000,” I suggest.

We’re happy with the way we’re playing and all agree that under Zola the football has improved, if not the results.

The second half continues with Hammers playing a fluent passing game with Parker prominent and Collison looking like a young Michael Carrick. Boa Morte is having a bit of a mare though, shooting wildly over and slicing once cross into touch before being subbed by Etherington.

We have a good appeal for a penalty turned down when there’s a clear handball in the box. The crowd get going in the Bobby Moore Stand and they’re clearly inspired by home grown players playing such good football. Then Matty brings an instant dividend. Sears finds Etherington who plays in Parker in the box, Scotty backheels to Collison who expertly curls the ball over Howard for his first Hammers goal in the 63rd minute.

Only inevitably we start to sit on our lead. We reflect that Curbishley would bring on Mullins on and sit on the lead, while Zola will go for a second.

“It would be ironic if we finally kept a clean sheet without Upson.” Suggests Nigel.

“Now you’ve done it…” I counter.

Everton bring on Vaughan up front along with Anichebe and Saha but Zola doesn’t respond as we’re pressed back.You know any side managed by David Moyes is going to keep going right to the end.

Then in the 82nd minute Saha drifts wide on the right, with Parker ambling towards him like a man on a Sunday afternoon stroll. He crosses and Lescott outpaces Collins to head in, unmarked. Now we’re only going to get a sodding point. “Who are yer!” chant the Everton fans.

Only a minute later, Ilunga lets Anichebe cross and Saha shoots from the edge of the area, it deflects off Collins and into the far corner past a despairing dive from Green. We've been mugged. Saha’s had two chances and scored both. Two minutes later Faubert carelessly gives the ball away and Saha fires in an unstoppable shot from 25 yards. Three goals in five minutes. How did this happen? The centre fails to hold, things fall apart. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the Upton Park faithful.

Even Nigel runs for the Silverlink. The departing Hammers fans have the dazed looks of Congolese villagers fleeing rebel forces. Should we be encouraged by dominating the game for 70 minutes? Or more worried by no clean sheets for 24 games, a Premiership record, and a defence with a glass chin? Dominating a game and losing is relegation form.

It’s the most depressing defeat of the season. Is this a time for a novice in charge? At least Curbishley could get results. The crowd drift towards East Ham station with collective murmurs of dissent.

“Typical West Ham… I never wanted to be f••king Chelsea anyway… all that kissing the Chelsea badge… Zola was out-thought… no use playing all the f••king pretty football, who got the f••king three points… that French muppet… when did we last have a player who could take a free-kick? It was Solano…”

Hmm. Maybe we’d better cancel that invitation to Obama.

Friday, November 7

Too good to go down?

My pal Mystic Morris says we’re getting relegated. Yes, he’s mentioned the R word already. Could it be that bad? Certainly if Spurs and Newcastle continue to get wins we could be in trouble.

Hull will surely stay up now they’ve got 20 points and Stoke may well survive on long throws and home victories. So if two promoted sides stay up who does that leave to struggle? Bolton and WBA maybe? And who else? Surely we’ll get more points than Fulham or Blackburn?

Portsmouth might struggle without Harry, and Wigan if they sell Heskey or Zaki in the transfer window. Middlesbrough are erratic, although Sunderland will surely stay up thanks to Ferdinand and McCartney. It’s looking tight, we’re brassic and we may have to cope with a fire sale too.

Still expect no hostages to fortune from me. Mystic Morris would never forgive a survival prediction. We’re doomed, absolutely doomed.

That Obama speech in full

West Ham have invited Barack Obama to attend a game at Upton Park when he's next in the UK. He attended a game in 2003 and so we're claiming him as a Hammer. Here's that acceptance speech in full...

"Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wards full of injured players, a side in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century and West Ham only two points above the relegation zone.

"Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Hammers waking up in the deserts of mid-table and the mountains of mediocrity to risk their careers for us. There are Icelandic businessmen who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the payments to Lucas Neill, or pay their club doctor's bills, or save enough to pay off Sheffield United. There is new energy to harness and a new side to be created; a new academy to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. But Hammers fans - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there."

Tuesday, November 4

White House United

The most powerful man in the world may soon be a West Ham fan.

Back in January the Sun outed Barack Obama as a Hammers fan. It claimed that Obama "has been following the Hammers ever since a visit to Britain five years ago.”

The story was accompanied by a doctored picture of Obama wearing a West Ham shirt and waving a Hammers scarf above a parody of West Ham’s club crest now reading "White House United". All because his sister had married an Englishman and Obama’s new relatives in Kent were all apparently West Ham fanatics.

Forget Hockey Mums. The Sun added that Obama’s campaign team had “recently revealed that he is a massive soccer fan and a nifty player himself while a student at Harvard.” Maybe he could bolster our midfield or fill in at right-back...

Am I alone in hoping that under an Obama Presidency he might buy the club and restore democracy to the Premiership, inspiring much shock and awe at Chelsea after we invade them?

Mullins for England!

Middlesbrough 1West Ham 1

More powerless watching of Sky Sports News in Scotland. The Hammers line-up is intriguing, albeit more like a Carling Cup side. Zola is giving youth a go, starting Collison and Sears after the anaemic display at Old Trafford. Thankfully Neill is back and Faubert restored to his correct position as a right winger.

I trudge Edinburgh’s Broughton Street shopping for organic potatoes during the first half, desperate to escape the impending sense of doom. But returning to our Georgian gaff at half-time there’s the astonishing news that West Ham are a goal up.

“Of course that goal doesn’t tell the story of the game,” announces the link, about to say that Middlesbrough have pulverised our goal. But no,“West Ham have totally dominated!” he continues. Blimey. Bellamy and Sears are doing all sorts of damage up front.

Mullins has scored and I text Matt with “Hayden for England!”. He replies “His second goal of the season – and one of them for us!”

Matt Le Tissier is doing the Sky reports and says that Aves has blasted a free kick over the bar. Then they announce that the ball is in the net at the Riverside. “But it’s been disallowed, Taylor offside by a matter of inches,” gushes Le Tissier.

Then after a horrible pause the anchor tells us there’s been a goal at the Riverside. Matt Le Tissier is smirking like the useless underachieving loafer with no skill he’s always been. “It had to come! Substitute Mido has scored from a free kick given on the edge of the box after a foul by Collins!”

Please, please, no more goal flashes from the Riverside. No news is good news. A point would be more than we’d expected after for straight defeats.

“Boro doing all the pressing against beleagured West Ham” intnrs the anchor as Le Tissier reports another sodding corner for Boro. How much longer left? Not another last minute defeat.

“And West Ham are hanging on!” gushes the anchor.

“We’re in stoppage time and West Ham are pressing now!” says Le Tissier. Phew. “And an amazing save from Turnbull! West Ham will be kicking themselves they haven’t taken three points” says Le Tissier.

And then Nicola rings up saying she coming back from Edinburgh Zoo just as the final whistle blows, but at least it’s made me forget about the game for a second and avoid a stress-induced collapse.

A workmanlike point is what we need. It’s our first draw of the season and with two homes games coming there might be cause for a little optimism at last.

Match of the Day shows Hayden making a marvellous air-kick, before connecting rather better with his second effort into the top corner. Sears looks lively early on and Turnball produces a great double stop to deny Bowyer and Collison in the last minute. The Observer’s fan at the game says that Collison “absolutely bossed the midfield”.

It’s a good performance and a sound point, with two home games coming up. Zola says he’s finding management “tiring”. He should try being a fan…

Any old irons

Manchester United 2 West Ham 0

We’re in Edinburgh for my kids’ half-term holiday, watching the game on Sky Sports News. With Cole suspended, Ashton out until at least the new Year, the Irons are going to struggle for height up front and the forward line of Di Michele and Bellamy looks decidedly lightweight. Neill is still out and so is Noble. In fact we could be in as much trouble as Russell Brand.

Paul Walsh’s early bulletins from Old Trafford describe “one-way traffic”. All the excitement is coming from Phil Thompson at the Arsenal versus Spurs match — he’s yelping and screaming, causing great disturbance to the team of ageing old-pro pundits around him. Walsh reveals that Ronaldo is roasting Faubert. After 20 minutes we’re 1-0 down through Ronaldo, of course, sweeping in a Nani cross.

After half an hour Ronaldo scores again following what Walshy describes as a sublime piece of byline skill from Berbatov, that bamboozles Collins and sets up the Portugeezer. Just before half time Behrami is stretchered off and — words every West Ham fan now dreads — into the fray comes Luis Boa Morte. We’re looking at a tonking.

Mercifully United relax in the second half. Walshy looks increasingly bored as Phil Thompson gets more excited than Russell Brand on heat with any old Irons’ grandaughter. Oh, and Walsh says Boa Morte has just failed to control the ball when played through to fluff our best chance.

It’s only 2-0 but we’ve now lost four games in a row. Lose at Boro on Saturday and it’s five. And the fire-sale to come. Crisis club West Ham, anyone? It’s almost temping to ring up Andrew Sachs and join Jonathan Ross in a three-month suspension.

Tuesday, October 28

Stinking stinking Arsenal

West Ham 0 Arsenal 2

It’s always a risk bringing my daughters to games against Arsenal. They go to school opposite the Emirates and are at permanent risk of attraction to the Wengerian supermen. So I opt to take Lola, who at ten might be able to take a home defeat better than seven-year-old Nell. Precursing our trip in pessimistic style with “Now you won’t be upset if we lose 4-0, will you?”.

Egg chips and beans and two white slices in Ken’s Café fortifies us for the afternoon. Arry’s gone to Spurs, which is a shame as I was hoping they’d go down under Ramos. We know things are looking up for Spurs when we see mockney rebel Chas Hodges, of Chas and Dave fame, doing a book signing at the Newham Bookshop. Bet 'Arry knows all the words to Gertcha and Rabbit too.

Jo arrives at the bookshop with a broken arm after a cycling accident. “You can be listed with the West Ham players injured in the Saturday Guardian team sheets now,” I suggest.

Zola has made changes after two defeats. Neill, Behrami and Noble are injured so in come Bowyer, Mullins and Collins, while Etherington is on the bench, overlooked for Di Michele.

The new formation appears to work. The midfield hussle Arsenal incessantly and Di Michele goes close with a rising drive tipped over by Alumnia. Then Walcott skins our defence and hits the bar, and another fine passing move from the Arse ends with Green masking a fantastic one-handed stop from Walcott again.

Green saves well from Bendtner too. But we’re giving as good as we get. Collins is dominating the back four, Cole is causing problems with his strength and Parker, falling over, plays the best ball of the game through to Bellamy, whose finish is tipped over the bar by Alumnia’s leg.

In the second half the crowd begin to sense a result and there’s a wafting chorus of Bubbles from all sides of the ground. Lola notices that Alumnia is cuffing himself around the head in a bid to maintain his concentration.

Green appears to tip Van Persie’s shot onto the post (he didn’t when I watch the replay) and I remark that he’s playing as well as he did at the Emirates when we won 1-0. Nigel and Matt immediately curse me, saying I should be saying he’s playing like he did against Bolton, and now we’ll lose.

We have several appeals for handball after Bellamy bursts down the left, and then, sure enough, Arsenal break, substitute Adebayor crosses, and Faubert, under no real pressure, inexplicably turns the ball into his own net. I hold my hands up and accept all blame.

“That’s 21 games since we kept a clean sheet,” sighs Nigel.

“We haven’t kept a clean sheet since I stayed in the West Ham Quality Hotel,” I suggest.

“You’re f***ed and you’re one-nil down!” chant the Gooners fans, with their usual library wit.

We keep trying, bringing on Boa Morte, Etherington and Sears. After We have several appeals for handball after Bellamy bursts down the left and suddenly Bendtner plays a great ball to the unmarked Adebayor slots home a cool second.

Then in the last minute Cole makes a silly late challenge and is shown a straight red. It looks harsh, but really, what was the point with the game lost?

“Stinking stinking Arsenal!” chants Lola, causing a frisson of paternal pride.

The DJ plays Let’s Stick Together. Matt’s very aptly off to see General Fiasco at the Electric Proms. I pacify Lola with crisps in the Black Lion and claim we’ll win at the Emirates. Matt talks us through his days as a ballooning correspondent.

We’ve played well, and given Arsenal a tough game. If we knew what was happening in the January transfer window there might even be room for some optimism. Was it only 2005 when Pards was saying we could be bigger than Arsenal?

Now all we have to do is win at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

Monday, October 20

Hull 1 London 0

Hull City 1 West Ham 0

We’re on the highway to Hull. Nigel picks me up at 8.15am at Finsbury Park and after a service stop and a fine view of the Humber Bridge we’re in ’Ull by 1.45 to meet Matt and Lisa (part-timer Fraser is on the Orient Express, hoping it’s not murder at the KC).

There’s time to park near the shopping centre, then stop at a chippy by a boarded up-pub, which Nigel has to photograph for some reason. In the chippy they still sell spam fritters and haddock for £2. Then it’s past Windass Way, over some waste ground and into the KC Stadium. We hear an old East End folk song echoing from the Smith and Nephew Stand: “Oh, I drink ten pints, I beat my wife ’cos I’m a northern bastard!”

It’s a compact stadium and less bland than most modern creations, with a deranged DJ sounding like a kamikaze Alan Partridge as he screams “Thisisthekaaaaceeeestadiuuuuuuum!” at the massed ranks of orange and black-clad fans.

Hull have the best of it early on, with Boateng and Ashbee tackling fiercely in the middle and Marney going close. But soon our passing game begins to look more fluent. Noble has a penalty claim ignored, Bellamy (does anyone remember him?) shows forgotten pace down the left and crosses for Cole to shoot straight at Myhill. Ilunga, who otherwise has a great game looking strong and composed, heads wide with a free heard from a corner.

The home fans chant at “Where’s your money gone?” at us.

The West Ham fans chant “We pay your benefits!”

The Tiger club respond with “You’re going bust (pronounced “boost”) in the morning”, followed by “You’re not English anymore!”.

“You live in poverty!” retort the Irons fans, apparently unaware of all the City bankers and estate agents now selling the Big Issue outside Canary Wharf.

“Back to your shithole!, You’re going back to your shithole!” chant the Yorkshiremen. Nigel looks indignant and may be about to lecture them on pots, kettles and the merits of the tea-rooms, plant and fossil shops in Kew Gardens.

It’s been an exciting end-to-end first-half, but soon we’re a goal down and the inevitable London 0 Hull 4 Housemartins headlines start to loom. Turner outjumps Upson to head home from a corner. Undone by a simple goal.

But within 90 seconds Behrami is making a great break down the right for Cole to swivel and shoot against the underside of the bar.

We put Hull under sustained pressure, but mainly through crosses from deep that are easily headed away by their huge defenders. Zola takes Faubert and Etherington off for Di Michele and Sears and suddenly we have too many strikers and no-one to get to the byline.

Noble fires a free kick straight at the wall and makes several poor decisions. Carlton Cole shows Heskey-like strength to win the ball muscle past two defenders and cross for Etherington to volley wide. We wonder why Cole didn’t shoot.

“Where’s your bubbles gone?” chant the Hull fans followed by “Down with the Tottenham, you’re going down with the Tottenham!”.

The Irons fans hurl regional stereotypes back at them — “Sign on with hope in your hearts” and “We’re going to work in the morning!”

It’s a fantastic atmosphere and the Hull City fans are in dreamland. You can’t help but feel that their success is good for football in a billionaires league.

The whistle goes to a cacophonous cheer from the Housemartins fans. It’s not been a happy hour (and a half) for the Hammers. Zola may have to think for a minute. Still, Nigel cheers up when he spots Frank Dobson MP among the away crew, the man who wanted to be Mayor watching the Irons have a mare.

We’re held on the concourse outside the ground for 20 minutes. Don’t they know we have an MP with us?

“What’s over there?” asks Nigel gazing towards the metal fences.

“Oh, just machine guns,” says Matt, “I could get out if I had a motorbike.”

The West Ham fans holler at the stewards to let us out. Finally the doors clank open.
“These must be the gates of Hull,” I mutter.

At least Ye Olde White Harte in Old Hull is a fine boozer, although I can’t bring myself to drink London Pride, instead opting for Theakston’s Best.

On the way home we decline to discuss our emotions (nihilism, misanthropy, fear of mortality, railing at the lack of God in a point-less Premiership, etc) and opt for trivia. Matt asks us to name all the Premiership players playing at the weekend who are ex-Hammers and then all the League players.

Part of the M1 is closed so we make a huge detour via the A1 and don’t get home until 12.30am. But at least we’ve recalled the likes of Steven Bywater, Adam Newton, Tyrell Forbes, Henri Camara, Grant McCann and Matt Holland.

Our trivia-fest has raised morale a little as we return to the beautiful south. Hull have gone up to third. “Still, you don’t expect to get much at one of the Big Four,” I muse, disappearing into the darkness of Seven Sisters Road , having been to Hull and back.

Wednesday, October 15

Diego the Hammer

After Diego Hilton comes Diego Tristan. Another ageing striker joins the Hammers on a free. Diego Tristan was nearly signed by Real Madrid once, and there are some great goals of his on Youtube, but as Matt the Stat says, the Wikidedia entry is a little worrying:

"In total Diego Tristán scored 87 goals in the shirt of Deportivo in 4 seasons. However there have been suggestions that Tristán doesn't live like a professional athlete and doesn't do all he's capable of to reach his best level. Eventually the club ran out of patience with him and he was released on 1 September 2006 along with team mate Lionel Scaloni."

He then rejoined Mallorca but was released 31st of January 2007 "due to a lack of fitness, form and goals."

So he should fit in!

Sunday, October 12

Progress through stability

"West Ham is all about progress through stabilty."
Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, West Ham v Wigan programme August 16, 2008.

Since when... one manager resigned, two defenders sold to Sunderland apparently against the ex-manager's will, three emergency signings made on deadline day, one new manager appointed, one new assistant manager appointed at cost of £1 million, one sponsor in administration, one compensation bill received from Sheffield United of around £50 million after lost tribunal, one takeover bid from Indian billionaire rumoured, one bank Landsbanki (major shareholder Mr Gudmumdsson) placed into receivership.

Friday, October 10

Where's our money gone?

Well, nothing much ever happens during the international breaks. Apart from global financial disaster and the collapse of Landsbanki resulting in “Meltdown: Hammers on brink as crunch hits football” (the Sun) and “Hammers crunched by credit crisis” (the Daily Mail). The Telegraph even suggested we might have to sell Nigel Quashie as part of the enforced fire-sale.

And the Sun claiming that we allowed an unregistered doctor to treat our players, which will probably result in another £30million claim against us, along with the £700,000 that Bolton now want and the £323 million that Arsenal are thinking of claiming on the grounds that “Carlos Tevez looked at Arsene Wenger in a funny manner”.

Oh, and the UK is now at war with Ireland. The government has frozen the assets of Icelandic companies in Britain under the Anti-Terrorism and Crime and Security Act. This may or may not include West Ham, depending on whether a loose shot from Luis Boa Morte could be deemed a direct threat to the House of Commons.

Still, it does raise the interesting prospect of West Ham being nationalised. The idea of West Ham— funded by state money and with supporters buying shares in the club as at Barcelona and Real Madrid — taking the Premiership road to international socialism is intriguing. Soon the Irons will be smashing the bloated capitalists and lackeys of imperialism at Chelsea and Man United and Manchester City. Maybe every cloud does have a claret and blue lining. Fans of West Ham Unite, we have nothing to lose but Sheffield United's compensation claims.

Thursday, October 9

Air today, gone tomorrow?

The latest revelation from West Ham is that Craig Bellamy is sleeping in his own personal altitude tent to save his career.

You wonder if some of our more injury-prone players have their own personal life-support systems in their rooms.

Still, watching West Ham can be a bit like enduring altitude sickness. Eleven men finding it difficult to breath after 45 minutes and then having trouble making the most basic of decisions.

We’ve had many players who have scaled the heights of the Premiership only to succumb to exposure on the way down. In fact the famed death zone around Chadwell Heath is littered with the prostrate forms of those who were never seen again after starting their long descent — Nigel Quashie, Danny Gabbidon, Kieron Dyer, Dean Ashton, Lee Bowyer and Craig Bellamy. Still, it was the way they would have wanted to go.

Wednesday, October 8

Club statement on financial meltdown of Pete May

West Ham insist they will not be affected by Pete May being Brassic, having placed all his dosh in an Icesave account and a West Ham season ticket.

"This is not affecting West Ham," a senior boardroom member revealed. "One of Mr May's investments has gone bad, but he is still standing and has a lot of other investments. Although he may no longer be able to afford to invest in the match day programme in January."

Another board member said May had made it clear that his predicament had "no implications, no impact" for the club.

"West Ham is protected by Mr May’s investment in an East Stand season ticket," he said. "He has considerable personal wealth in a number of sectors, such as a series of short-selling shares in Ken’s Café, leveraged collateral debt in the Black Lion, a series of dodgy derivatives from Newcastle, a 1980 FA Cup Final programme, a Bjork coloured vinyl EP and a monkey on the 2.10 at Kempton."

A weekend newspaper report claimed that Indian billionaire Anil Hugewadi was interested in buying May’s West Ham season ticket and had been told it was available for £15.

But the board member said: "Pete’s West Ham season ticket is definitely not for sale. Mr May is not looking to sell his seat and he is as committed as ever. That is unless the Icelandic government sells it on his behalf or a consortium of Mike Ashley, Mark Goldberg and Terry Venables comes in with a bid."

Monday, October 6

A good game to miss...

West Ham 1 Bolton 3

Always write the football fixtures in your diary the day they come out. Her Indoors' arranges stuff aeons in advance and back in June she cited my blank diary as an excuse to book us on a family trip to Bath. Hence I’m in west country exile for the Bolton game.

We stay with Julie and Ben in the village of Limpley Stoke, which sounds a little like an Irons capitulation at the Britannia stadium. And the posh country pubs built with Bath stone don’t even have Sky.

At kick-off time we're tramping through wooded valleys and across a boggy field, where an irate cow charges our party. It's a little reminiscent of being confronted by Kevin Davies. Outstretched arms and an aggressive posture manage to see it off, although I wonder if Lucas Neill and co would be able to do the same.

Still, another win and we’ll make the top four. As we sit down to a pub Sunday lunch in Freshford the texts start to come through.

Barclays Premier League: West Ham 0 Bolton 1 (Kevin Davies 30)

Barclays Premier League: West Ham 0 Bolton 1 (Gary Cahill 33)

It’s strange how some mysterious form of kinetic energy enables the exiled Hammers’ fan to live the game while viewing it by text mesage. Over a mouthful of roast potato there are visions of early dominance ruined by a couple of defensive errors as Bolton bully us out of the game. The vicar's son near us will be swearing at Zola, Fraser will remaining cool and Nigel will be muttering about record home defeats and does anyone remember that Nick Barmby hat-trick here. There will be a second half fightback of course and a consolation goal to give the fans that terrible hope that always lurks within us:

Barclays Premier League: West Ham 1 Bolton 2 (Carlton Cole 68)

And then the inevitable late third that seals the game:

Barclays Premier League: West Ham 1 Bolton 3 (Matthew Taylor 86)

“Good game to miss…” texts Mat and I wonder if I’ll have to pay compensation to poor Lisa who was using my ticket. It’s almost as if I don’t need to watch Match of the Day.

But the TV evidence is that it’s the unlikely figure of Robert Green who’s let us down, spilling an innocuous cross to Davies and then failing to hold a shot for Cahill to poke home for the second. Bolton’s third was a scorcher from 40 yards, made easier by the lack of a defensive wall.

On the positive side Carlton Cole has already scored four goals this season and produced a brilliant save from the Bolton keeper. With Deano out all season it’s a huge chance for him to finally become a decent striker who gets 15 goals a season (he normally gets no more than four) providing he hires a chauffeur for nights out at Faces.

Zola reiterated his faith in Green and all the players; his trust is rather refreshing after the usual managerial rants and Arsene Wenger feeling “physically sick” whenever a side plays well at Arsenal.

And, in the absence of XL Holidays, we’re all going to Hull and back in a fortnight — the Barcelona of Humberside I’m told. Matt likes it so much he’s even turned it into a romantic mini-break, where hopefully the day will end with a Housemartins-style score of HULL 0 LONDON 4.

And there’s always Tottenham to laugh at.

Tuesday, September 30

Oh what fun it is to see West Ham win away

Fulham 1 West Ham 2

It’s different up west. Walking from Fulham Broadway it’s lunch at Pret a Manger instead of Ken’s Café and bistros instead of Belly Busters. At the Local Hero cafe Matt and Lisa are asked by a woman to look after her handbag while she goes to the loo. Now that wouldn't happen in Green Street.

Through leafy village-like streets we find the Cottage pub. Inside they take credit cards, it’s safe to wear your colours and Fulham fans politely make room for you at the bar. Fraser, Matt, Lisa, Nigel, Jo and Mike and two of Fraser’s Fulham mates are all here as we discuss the possibilities of Zamora, Konchesky, Paintsil and Bullard scoring against us (near to certain) over a civilised pint of London Pride.

A gentle amble to the ground past the “Neutral section” of the Putney Road stand (is there such thing as a neutral football fan?) and we take our seats, which are practically in the Thames. The river looks glorious in the sunlight and there’s always the prospect of watching the boats go by should we be crap.

“Shame the boat race isn’t on,” I muse.

“No, the same two teams get to the final every year,” says Nigel.

Zamora and Paintsil receive applause and songs from the away fans. Despite the Sheffield United judgment our fans give constant spirited support, as always.

For the first 40 minutes Fulham have the better of it as we give away a series of free kicks around our box. Davies volleys wide, and Green saves well from Bullard before being clattered by Paintsil, who is suddenly abused by the fans who thought he was better than Kaka a few minutes earlier. Zamora puts a header wide, thankfully looking more like the inconsistent finisher we sold.

Andy Johnson lunges in studs first at Ilunga and is lucky to only receive a yellow card. Parker and Noble are working tremendously hard in the middle but we’re creating little. Carlton Cole meanwhile is constantly controlling the ball but running into trouble.

“When he was arrested was it for performing an endless three-point turn?” I ask.

“We’ve got Craig Bellamy!” sing our fans as our Welsh irritant warms up.

“Not for long we haven’t,” suggests Matt, “he’s hardly ever played for us.”

Just as we’re saying we’d be happy to get to half time at 0-0 we score. Having been clattered in the right by Konchesky, Etherington recovers to sprint down the right, an area he hasn’t been seen in since the days of the Domesday Book. Incredibly he crosses with his right foot, Schwarzer can’t hold it and the ball falls to Carlton Cole to wallop home.

“Let’s raise a glass to Carlton Cole!” suggests Matt.

“Always believe in Carlton Cole!” sing the 2500-strong Spandeau Ballet revivalist contingent.

“Now would be good time to score another,” says Mystic Fraser, and 20 seconds later we do. Noble plays a through ball, the Fulham defence scarpers and the rejuvenated Matty Etherington bats the keeper to slot home his second goal in a week. And then Johnson gets sent off for his second yellow card and surely even we can’t blow this?

In the second half Fulham fight back, despite being down to ten men, and as ever we struggle to keep a 2-0 lead. Neill handles in the box and Murphy makes it 2-1.

But we are still playing some good attacking football and have numerous chances to finish Fulham off. Ilunga, looking strong and a real find at left back, produces a good save from Schwarzer.

Nigel receives a text saying that Paul Newman has died. We wonder if Hayden Mullins will come on as a midfield Hustler and if Al Fayed will show us the Colour of Money.

Etherington makes a great run down the left only to slice the ball into the side netting causing the vicar’s son by me to curse “How many f**king chances do we need? That was a pile of dog poo Etherington!”

Substitute Bellamy puts a volley over an open goal, Carlton Cole, having a great second half, has another shot saved and then Behrami, looking stronger and fitter as the game goes on, is the latest Iron to go close.

There’s still time for Zamora to not connect with an inviting free kick and Bullard to place an injury-time free-kick into the wall.

At last the whistle blows and it’s three points and stuff those litigious whingers from Sheffield. Tottenham are going toxic, Arsenal are about to lose to Hull and we’re up to fifth. And once we’re in the Champions League we’ll easily raise that £30 million.

Friday, September 26

What doesn't kill me only makes me stronger

Another day another disaster. Carlton Cole has been arrested for drink-driving, being stopped by the Old Bill on Tuesday night at 4.30am, just three days after Zola was talking about him playing for England.

Zola claims that Cole is now a different, more mature player to the one he was at Chelsea, but that he will “have to learn to look after his body”. And also, presumably, that drink-driving risks killing innocent people.

Meanwhile Dean Ashton, having injured himself in training on Zola's first day, is now having an operation on his dodgy ankle. It’s interesting that one of the “sources” close to the club dissed Curbs to the press for wanting to accept Spurs’ £18 million offer for Ashton. He’s a great player, but maybe Curbishley realised his fitness was more of an issue than we thought.

Oh, and Sheffield United players might also sue us for loss of earnings on top of the £30 million the club wants. Zola is right when he says that not even Maradona could win a game on his own and such rulings endanger the future of all competitive sport.

But perhaps strength comes through adversity. As Nietzsche, whoever he played for, once said: “What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.”

We are West Ham and we’ve been through the dark days at Rotherham. We came back to reach the Premiership and the Cup Final and we can do so again.

At times like this it’s appropriate to draw consolation from the greatest ever Doctor Who story Genesis of the Daleks:

“We are entombed but we live on! This is only the beginning! We will prepare! We will grow stronger! When the time is right we will emerge and take our rightful place as the supreme power in the Universe!!!”

And maybe even make the fourth round of the Carling Cup.

Wednesday, September 24

Another fine mess

Very West Ham. Two seasons on, an obscure independent tribunal has decided to rule in favour of Sheffield United over the Carlos Tevez affair and it might cost us a mere £30 million in compensation.

You do wonder why we didn’t go to court over this as we have a strong case. The Premiership punished us with a £5 million fine, so surely any fault is theirs? You also wonder why Terry Brown and Paul Aldridge have not been called to give public evidence and why Tevez’ then-owner, Kia Joorabchian, is still apparently advising West Ham over transfers and indeed criticizing Curbs’ transfer record after the man has resigned.

And how can a tribunal rule that Tevez was worth an extra three points? Martin Samuel has written an excellent piece in today's Times on the absurdity of lawyers (the panel was former MCC president Lord Griffiths, Sir Anthony Colman, a former High Court judge, and Robert Englehart QC) predicting the results of football matches. It was 20 odd games before Tevez scored for West Ham! Sheffield’s argument seems to be based on the fact that Marlon Harewood would not have been as good as Tevez... which a good brief could surely demolish as Marlon scored 16 goals the previous season compared to Tevez’ seven.

And anyway, it could be argued that it was the inspired performances of Hayden Mullins that really kept us up. And what about Christian Dailly who was so good that several thousand Hammers fans were offering him sexual relations with their spouses? ("Oh Cristian Dailly, you are the love of my life, oh Christian Dailly you can shag my wife!") Tevez never received that kind of offer.

Another point is that none of the people involved are now at the club — bar chief executive Scott Duxbury whom the Daily Mail claims gave "oral assurances" to Joorabchian's representatives that the third party agreement was still in place, despite the club saying it had been ripped up. This claim is denied by the club. Yet it’s the fans that will, as always, be penalized. And then to have to suffer Neil Warnock being sanctimonious…

Nurse, the screens.

Up the Junction

Watford 1 West Ham 0

We’ve lost £30 million and we’re out of the Carling Cup. Oh well, another day at West Ham. And we thought this season might be boring.

At least the Carling Cup defeat was softened by beer, white wine and a stuffed pepper thanks to our party (Iain, Alastair, Jo, Mike and Matt) blagging a box at Watford. You do have to wear a suit, but a nice touch is the fact they ring a bell for the start of each half as if it’s the theatre.

Among the prawn sandwich set we accosted England goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence, there to watch Watford’s Scott Loach, and explained to him and his Missus why Robert Green should be his number one. So expect Greeny to be an England fixture from now on.

Also observed in the boardroom was ex-Hammers chairman Terry Brown, the man in charge when we signed Tevez and Mascherano. A somewhat surprising day on which to appear in public.

It was a typical early round Carling Cup fixture. Our away support was as ever excellent, but vast sections of the ground were empty. Lastuvka made a fantastic one-handed save and looked a solid keeper until his misjudging of a cross caused Mullins’ own goal. Watford’s young side competed better than we did and dived into tackles and their winger Lionel Ainsworth looked a player with a big future. Boa Morte was terrible again, Sears still looks lightweight and Di Michele anonymous apart from one dribble to set up Noble for a shot that was well saved.

We improved when Parker came on, Lopez curled in some dangerous crosses, Etherington missed a free header, Faubert hit a free kick just over and Matty Upson hit the bar. But as the home end chanted “Yellow Army!” and “Premiership — you’re having a laugh!” and “Premiership — you fucked it up!” the inevitable happened and we lost to lower league opposition.

We retreated through the gloom to Watford Junction station with 10-year-old Watford fans chanting “Where’s your sponsor gone?’ at us.

Out of another trophy and thoroughly embarrassed to lose to the somewhat effete-sounding Yellow Army, aka the Golden Boys. We were not the only people going up the Junction — it might be the club as well.

Tuesday, September 23

Taking Di Michele

West Ham 3 Newcastle 1

“We’re all going on an XL holiday/ let’s get stranded for a week or two!” sang the chirpy Geordies on the District line. Followed by “You’re not flying anymore!” in the ground.

There’s no fanfare for Zola as we come on the pitch, but the applause seems warm enough. From the kick-off it’s apparent that he has new ideas. He’s dropped the Head on a Stick and plays Neill at centre back, where he looks much better. Faubert plays at right-back and Etherington and Di Michele float behind Carlton Cole. Cole beats a defender for speed and surges on goal as if inspired by Zola’s advice to learn from Maradona (ok lads, maybe not the handballs, drugs or chat shows).

“One Mike Ashley! There’s only one Mike Ashley!” chant the Bobby More Stand followed by “Where’s your Keegan gone?”

As seems obligatory at home matches we go 2-0 up. The Newcastle defence looks petrified by Cole’s muscular interventions. Di Michele lopes in a deflected shot and then has a shot saved by Given before chipping the ball over the prostrate Colocinni and volleying in a Di Canio-esque finish. He over-elaborates at times and can be selfish, but on this evidence he has the class to become an Upton Park favourite.

"Down with the Tottenham! You're going down with the Tottenham!" we chant.

“We don’t even have a song for Zola yet…” muses Matt.

“What about ‘Hello hello Zola’ by the Kinks?” I suggest.

“Followed by ‘We’ve got Carlton Cola’, adds Matt.

“And Julien Faubert…’ I finish. Right, that’s the song sorted.

Early in the second half Newcastle have more possession. To the amusement of Nigel, Mystic Matt sighs “We’re not playing well we don’t deserve to be leading,” seconds before Cole plays a superb through ball to Di Michele who crosses for Etherington — relishing his now floating role and, ahem, taking a gamble in the box — to stroke home.

The Newcastle fans are regaled with choruses of “Three–nil to the Cockney Mafia!” and the superb cockney humour of “Your messiah is a c••t!”

The open midfield makes the game seem like a throwback to the 1970s. Di Michele misses a great chance to get his hat-trick, but this being West Ham, we let Owen score with a fine finish and then Duff has a shot saved by Green. Matt starts talking about the Wimbledon and WBA games (3-0up, 4-3 down). But then Boa Morte comes on (yes, Zola is a Boa Selector) and blazes over before missing a one-on-one.

There’s a full-house, sunshine and warm applause. The DJ plays Golden Years by Bowie as we leave, which seems a little over-optimistic. But just as long as we play Newcastle every week we should be fine.

Wednesday, September 17

Claret and Blue Monday

As capitalism and WHU sponsor XL collapses under the weight of its own internal contradictions (and Dean Ashton's thighs) tens of thousands of West Ham fans remain stranded miles from their promised destination of the Champions League.

"I wanted to visit Barcelona and Madrid, but all I've been offered is a trip to an Icelandic biscuit factory," said one angry fan.

Meanwhile West Ham claims that the use of a pioneering Zola-powered vehicle will still propel Hammers fans towards a European tour.

But City experts fear that the club has over-exposed itself in the sub-prime player market and traded it too many derivatives from Newcastle. Will the government step in? Or will West Ham have to merge with Chelsea — a process that some analyists believe has already begun.

Monday, September 15

Keen out!

WBA 3 West Ham 2

Good to see that Gianfranco Zola’s first job at the club was to find his mum’s old claret curtains from the attic and hastily get out the Singer sewing machine to patch over our XL logo. Still, I expect there’s a deal with Lehman coming up.

With rare rays of sunlight illuminating the metropolis, my Saturday afternoon involved a family trip to a previously undiscovered section of Hampstead Heath. We ambled past previously undiscovered ponds and woods towards Golders Green, before ending the afternoon with a pint of Autumn Gold in the Spaniards Inn. There was always the temptation to text someone for the score, but somehow I knew it might intrude horribly upon our bucolic ramblings.

But upon returning home and turning on Setanta Sports News, there it was. “Bastards! Stupid stupid Bastards!” I exclaimed in the manner of Michael Palin in Ripping Yarns. Somehow the West Ham diehard knows that a 3-2 defeat at WBA must have involved a late goal and an injury to Deano. While Bobby Zamora suddenly looks England class at Fulham.

The evidence on Match of the Day suggests a great game but three defensive blunders from the Irons, although it looked like Green played the ball first for the penalty. Upson lost Morrison for the first and Albion’s winner involved the Hammers defence leaving a space wider than Mike Ashley’s vacant seat. Our back four, minus Ferdinand and McCartney, parted with the alacrity of bankers in search of a redundancy cheque. At least Curbs knew how to close out a game.

We shouldn’t be losing to newly promoted sides, but on the positive side we came back to take the lead, scored from a corner again and Di Michele and Parker missed great chances. New left-back Ilunga was said to have had a sound debut too.

And so young Kevin Keen, aged 16, has played one, lost one. Now it’s over to Zola and Steve Clarke, who’s cost us another £1 million in compensation just to replace Mervyn Day. Hopefully Clarke was the backroom genius who made Mourinho look so good and at least he’s not Dennis Wise.

One final thought. If it wasn’t for the collapse of XL we might have been able to buy Newcastle as our feeder club.

Friday, September 12

'Ello 'ello Zola

The appointment of Gianfranco Zola is a huge gamble. He was a fantastic player but as the cliché goes, great players don’t make great managers. It’s significant that the likes of Wenger, Benitez, Mourinho and Ferguson were all average or worse players.

So far Zola has only worked as an assistant to the Italian under-21 side. At least Curbishley could point to 15 years of relative success at Charlton. Admittedly the likes of Gareth Southgate can enter management in the Premiership without previous experience, but then Southgate has a chairman who is prepared to take a long-term view and not panic at the first run of poor results.

It’s also a little worrying when John Terry describes Zola as the nicest man in football, as is the fact that Zola himself appears to one day want to manage Chelsea: "Let us put it this way - one day I would like to be good enough to manage Chelsea. It is in my heart."

Was he just an easy choice because he is a star name and happy to have less than absolute control over who comes and goes from the club? I hope not. Zola is certainly making the right noises about playing attacking football and his upbeat manner will be a welcome contrast to the seemingly perpetually moribund Curbs.

One hopeful sign is that billionaire owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson might be more willing to release funds to someone he trusts. He was clearly exasperated by the huge salaries of the Magnusson/Curbishley era and a “source” has told the BBC: “It is down to Gianluca Nani and Scott Duxbury to prove they can effectively manage the transfer budget and wage bill before Mr Gudmundsson starts to invest heavily in players again.”

Yet this regime’s record with managers points to short-termism. (Will Hutton wrote an excellent piece in the Observer highlighting this problem with the new breed of mega-rich owners.)

Pardew was sacked in panic after four games under Eggert, before the transfer window had opened. Curbishley kept us up, consolidated the club’s position but was then forced into walking after just three games this season, with the club fifth and the injured players finally returning. We’ve overspent and then overcompensated and have failed to achieve any continuity of management.

We can only hope that Zola energy proves to be the answer to the perpetual climate change at Upton Park.

XL is an ex-sponsor

West Ham's sponsor XL has gone into administration (in fact we have the anti-Midas touch, on our pre-season US tour the airline went bust too).

We understand that XL's plan to have all West Ham fans wearing XL shirts backfired disastrously when Dean Ashton stopped ordering pizzas from Domino's on the advice of nutritionist Dr Capello.

The credit crunch has also affected the WHU fan base and reduced waistlines, with Ken's Cafe reporting a significant decline in gross domestic product thanks to fewer full-fried breakfasts being served to the increasingly svelte literati types dining out on the vinyl tables and demanding frites lightly drizzled with ketchup.

Belly Busters burger bar also reports a decline in the so-called jelly belly ripple effect among fans in nylon replica shirts. Even celebrity fan Phill Jupitus is said to suffering from deflation.

Thursday, September 11

WHU scientists seek dark matter

West Ham Scientists have hailed a successful switch-on for an enormous experiment which will recreate the conditions a few moments after West Ham’s last trophy win.

They have now fired two beams of minute Zola particles around the 27km-long tunnel which houses the Large Irons Collider (LIC).

The £5bn machine on the E13 border is designed to smash protons together with cataclysmic force, aided by Tomas Repka.

Scientists are hoping that new sub-atomic particles will emerge, revealing fundamental insights into the nature of the Premiership.

There were fears that a black hole would be created sucking in all finance from Iceland, but Dr Nani and his team hailed the experiment as a huge success.

Dr Nani’s machine will hunt for the Higgs boson and McAvennie Cottee so-called “God” particles and seek clues to the nature of dark matter

The latest observations suggest ordinary matter makes up just 4% of West Ham’s Universe. The rest is dark matter (23%) and dark energy (73%).

Matt finish

West Ham’s Matthew Upson inspired England to a memorable 4-1 win in Croatia last night. With England looking shaky at 4-1 up against ten men and surely about to lose-5-4 in injury time, Upson emerged from the bench in the 89th minute to lead a heroic rearguard action and win a throw-in.
West Ham rejects David James, Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard also played and some kid from Arsenal scored a hat-trick.

Tuesday, September 9

His name is Zola?

What’s happening on Planet Irons? We’ve signed Uruguayan left back and free agent Walter Lopez, thus circumnavigating the transfer deadline. He’ll also be the first Wally to play for West Ham since the days of Steve ‘Wally’ Walford.

Lopez says that back in South America he “watched the Premier League all the time” and was “very happy (to) get to play for West Ham”. So we can assume, that like Segei Rebrov, he's a lifelong Hammers fan having grown up watching the great Trevor Morley as a kid. In fact Matt says that back home “whenever WHU were playing he’d always set the Montevideo”.

Fraser’s bagged some Fulham away tickets for the hefty sum of 48 quid apiece. He suggests “We can each recoup this by betting two pound each on Paolo Di Canio at 25 to 1 with Paddy Power to be next West Ham manager. Barrack Obama is 5,000 to 1 if you really fancy a flutter.” Personally I think Sarah Palin might be in with a chance — a rifle on the training ground might be just the motivation the lads require.

And as for our managerial vacancy? It seems like it’s going to be Gianfranco Zola, one of the few players to ever look up to Dennis Wise. At least the quality of candidates has been high, with Bilic, Donadoni, Houllier, Collins and Laudrup all in contention.

The only way having Gianluca Nani as a director of football is ever going to work is if the manager trusts him to sign players. So it makes sense to hire a fellow Italian who might have a footballing rapport with him.

Apparently Paolo di Canio might be involved too, and he’s been in the Sun still saying that his West Ham shirt is “like a second skin”. My West Ham shirt is like a second skin too, albeit one suffering from psoriasis.

If it is Emile Zola as boss, then along with Gustave Flaubert providing a sentimental education on the right wing, we are well on the way to assembling the greatest collection of French writers in Premiership history. All we need is Maupassant in midfield to complete the set.

And if it all goes wrong we can always recall our own great English writer from ’86, Alan Dickens.

Friday, September 5


George McCartney has told the BBC: "I have seen on the West Ham website I handed in a written transfer request. I never did anything of the sort. It was purely a family issue and I never handed in a written transfer request.
The state that the club's in at the minute they are just trying to cover their tracks with the supporters."

Was McCartney a paperback writer? Did he ask for a ticket to ride? Oh won't you please help me...

Situation vacant

Applications are invited for the post of West Ham United Team Manager:

The applicant must have proven abilities in:

Delivering positive outcomes on the football pitch while outsourcing defenders.

Arguing with at least one temperamental first team star after every home match.

Explaining to the press that: “We are a bit thin on the ground” or “down to the bare bones”.

Perusing copies of Nuts and Zoo outside the treatment room.

Facilitating and taking an active role in negotiations for bulk orders of Domino’s pizzas.

Carrying takeaway cups of Rosie Lea from Ken’s Café to the Director’s Lounge.

Knowledge of dressing room banter would be advantageous, as would taking the piss out of various players’ “gear” and anyone who is “having himself”.

An ability to negotiate football transfers will not be necessary.

West Ham is an equal opportunities employer and does not discriminate on the grounds of race, gender, religion, disability or footballing competence. Although that chippy bloke from Newcastle would be wasting his time.

Please apply in writing to West Ham United FC, The Boleyn Stadium, Green Street, London, E13 9RA.

Thursday, September 4

We've got Di Canio?

So the Sun has Paolo Di Canio lined up for a return to Upton Park and getting the training running on time. As Di Canio’s an avid reader of Mussolini biographies his strong leadership might be interesting.

Obviously we’d have to invade the footballing equivalent of Abyssinia to restore nationalist fervour among the masses – maybe we could annex Leyton Orient or Dagenham and Redbridge? Or failing that Canvey Island? The players would be told that their West Ham shirt was a second skin and Paolo could substitute himself from the bench in disgust after a poor performance.

Although considering Curbs’ comments on “ a breach of trust and confidence” over sales, you wonder if any manager will want to work at a club where they don’t control transfers. Paolo would be shoving the board over within minutes before threatening to feed them to his piranhas.

Wednesday, September 3

Curbs out

Just when we thought Newcastle had the monopoly on boardroom farces, Alan Curbishley has resigned with the Irons fifth in the Premier League. The sale of Ferdinand and McCartney appears to have been the catalyst.

What is Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson and his board up to? We need to trim the squad, but not through flogging our only left back. Clearly all has not been well with Curbs installed favourite for the chop at the start of the season, despite finishing tenth last time round. Selective leaks from inside sources have appeared in the press, and today’s Independent reports that Curbishley clashed with captain Lucas Neill after Saturday’s over Blackburn, with Neill demanding more leadership from Curbs.

Last week the Indie also claimed that Slaven Bilic was lined up to replace Curbs and quoted boardroom sources as being unhappy with his “negative” attitude and “demeanour”, as well as his purchase of a team of injured stars and lack of expertise in the foreign market.

Curbishley has clearly retained his mental balance through stoicism, never overreacting to victory or defeat and you have to admire the way he’s insisted “I’m a big boy, I can take it” when criticised this season. Yet that phlegmatic approach has alienated him from some fans and it seems the board. At West Ham we demand passion. It’s why Alan Pardew finally grew to be loved, after the Pardew shuffle against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup and the Wenger handshake spat.

Yet it’s impossible to knock what Curbs has achieved so far. The Great Escape was unparalleled in Premiership history and tenth last season despite a huge casualty list was impressive. He made some bad buys, such as Freddie and Kieron Dyer, yet at times this season, with Bellamy, Parker and Ashton fit, it’s looked like a top eight team has started to gel.

West Ham. There used to be a football club over there. Pardew should never have been sacked by Eggert and Curbishley deserved another season at least. Keegan shouldn’t be getting humiliated at Newcastle and Avram Grant was sacked for being a penalty kick away from winning the Champions League. We used to be different. A club that never sacked managers. But that’s what happens when football clubs become the trophy brand of billionaires.

Pete May: Latest club statement

West Ham United Football Club can confirm that discussions are ongoing between the Board and Pete May.

Both the Club and Pete would like to reiterate that Pete remains a fan, although sometines it's bloody difficult. He has not resigned nor has he been sacked, as has been confirmed in respective statements made by Pete and West Ham United Football Club

Late loan arrangers

Car keys, mobile, wallet, cheque book, packet of Eggert’s old biscuits, hang on, there’s something I’ve forgotten, yes, that’s it, we’ve signed two players. Oh well, better put it on the club web site. Only at West Ham could we create our own late transfer window. It emerges that we’ve signed Italian international forward David Di Michele and Congolese left back Herita Ilunga on loan for the rest of the season.

The WHU web explained: “The club recognises the lateness of this announcement but certain formalities including the release of international transfer certificates had to be completed.”

So they forgot to tell anyone until the day after deadline day just to torture us with the image of Luis Boa Morte as emergency left back.

Nice to know that according to Wikipedia, in March 2007, Di Michele was accused and found guilty of illegal betting and received a three month ban from Serie A – a man who likes a punt might have got on well with Teddy Sheringham and Roy Carroll. If he was in the Palermo side that beat us then he’s surely half decent. And at least we’ve now found a left back — even if he was probably purchased from The Pound Shop at 11.59 on deadline day.

Tuesday, September 2

Get back to where you once belonged

“They’re doing what? They’re selling McCartney! Why?” My agent David Luxton (that’s literary not footie) might have just told me that Abu Dhabi billionaires have bought Man City and they’ve bid £34 million for Berbatov on deadline day and plan to capture Robinho changing forever the face of English football, but all that registers in my cranium is that George McCartney has travelled across the universe to Sunderland. May all the cloggings of Repka be unleashed on whoever is responsible.

It could be argued it’s more important to keep McCartney than Ashton or Ferdinand, as we only have one left back at the club. Now we have none. Was he sold over Curbs’ head? To lose Konchesky was unfortunate but to lose Konchesky and McCartney and miss out on Shorey looks like carelessness. Now it seems that McCartney’s wife was homesick. Surely we could have done a deal where we’d let him go in January once we signed a replacement? And I thought he’d divorced Heather anyway. Or is it a cover for an enforced fire sale? Playing half a season without a left back is madness. It all reminds me of Labour in the 1990s. Perhaps we've abandoned all concepts of anything leftish, and will now be playing a Right Back and a New Right Back in the slightly the other side of right position.

And what of my McCartney puns? No more McCartney to give us wings. Should we just let it be? Never again will I be able to fantasise about a suspended McCartney going AWOL and inspiring a headline of “Banned – on the run”. No doubt in January he’ll be replaced by Norwegian wood.

Head on a stick!

West Ham 4 Blackburn 1

Ferdinand has gone to the Mackems for £8 million, but West Ham and Ken's Cafe endures. Ken’s is so hot that the doughty Carol has given up serving behind the counter. Even the loyal denizens of Green Street are finding the prospect of fried food too much in the unexpected humidity.

My Blackburn-supporting mate Scott has been and gone, possibly the only sociology lecturer ever to explore the greasy paradigm of Ken’s Café.

So it’s into the West Stand where Matt and Fraser are feeling smug having loyally watched the Macclesfield match, unlike myself and part-timer Nigel, who refused to fly back from Canada.

It’s the same line-up as against Man City. Early on Behrami is dispossessed on the goal-line and Rovers nearly score, but then, bizarrely, we’re two up, just like in the Wigan match. Davenport heads home Faubert’s corner, prompting Matt’s partner Lisa to text him with the missive “Head on a stick!”.

Then Noble plays a great ball out to Gustave Faubert, takes the return and his cross come shot creeps in off Samba, under pressure from Ashton.

It’s great for Curbishley, who’s endured headlines such as the Mirror’s “Hammered Curbs to fight on” after the extra-time win over mighty Macclesfield. Yu wouldn’t have thought we’d won a football match. A crisis after three games surely belongs to the realm of Alastair Darling-like pessimism. The Chancellor would propably say that this is the worst West Ham side for 60 years, although they have been the victims of outside forces.

In the excitement we’ve almost forgotten about Ince, before an obligatory chant of “Judas, Judas what’s the score?”
“Don’t worry lads, we haven’t lost a game where we’ve gone 2-0 up all season,” I say. But then, just like in the Wigan game, our knees go all trembly. Behrami’s dodgy clearance is miscued by Parker and Roberts turns Davenport far too easily to score. Then Rovers have what seems an onside goal disallowed.

In the second half there’s yet more Blackburn pressure. Santa Cruz is substituted, at least allowing me to suggest, to groans, that “Santa Cruz isn’t coming to town”.

Cole handles a direct free kick and it’s a penalty, but England’s number six makes his usual fine save from the Roberts weak spot kick. Then Green saves brilliantly from Emerton’s free header. We’ll be lucky to snatch a point.

Curbs brings on McCartney for Faubert, one of our better players, switches Behrami to the right of midfield and Neill to right back. We’re all baffled by this, but then suddenly Curbs appears to be a tactical genius. Behrami looks a different player in midfield, Neill is much more at home at right-back, and with McCartney on the whole side looks better balanced.

Bellamy replaces Ashton, and quickly fires a volley of abuse at the ref to earn a booking. Then a proper volley produces a fantastic save from Robinson, who seconds later makes another great stop from the hard working Cole. What a great match it’s proving to be.

In injury time a long clearance finds Bellars’ outpacing the Rovers defence and firing a half-volley of sumptious arrogance past Mr Robinson. Blimey. And now we’re stroking the ball around to cries of ‘Ole!” from the crowd. Behrami slips his way to the byline pulls it back for Parker to cross and Cole to prod home for a deserved goal. Eight goals in two days...

On the way to East Ham station there’s that excited buzz from the fans that hasn’t been heard at Upton Park for a good six months. There have been signs of optmism; Noble played like he owed us for the Man City debacle, Etherington was more like the old Matty on the left, Cole unsettled their back line all afternoon and Davenport, apart from a mistake for their goal, has won everything in the air. We’re fourth! Crisis, what crisis?