Thursday, August 28

Carlton capers

West Ham 4 Macclesfield 1 (after extra time)

Missed the game against Macclesfield as I was taking my sister to Heathrow where she was flying back to Australia. Still, sitting around the departure lounge was a bit like being at West Ham, thousands of people wanting to be transported to somewhere more exotic and lots of excess baggage. Although as my pal Mystic Matt says, “WHU quite unlike Heathrow, as one is a place where things go missing for months at a time, sometimes permanently, and the other is an airport.”

As I glanced at the Standard’s back page (“Hammers morale at all-time low”) a text message arrived saying that Bowyer had equalised late on: “Great night for plucky WHU as they hold mighty Macc”. At least we held on to win in extra time and nice to see Hines and Reid score.

As for booing Curbs, it’s pathetic. He’s made some iffy signings, but it’s the owners who sanctioned daft wages and pay-offs and Ferdinand’s sale and generally don’t know what they’re doing. Barracking Pards didn't help the side and neither will this.

Let’s forget hating Ince, as it will just allow the media to portray West Ham fans as racists booing the Premiership’s first black manager, and concentrate on providing some proper support for the team on Saturday. Irons!

Wednesday, August 27

Club statement on Pete May

West Ham United CEO Scott Duxbury said: "West Ham United have absolutely no intention of selling Pete May. He is under contract and is committed to the club. Pete remains a very important part of our plans for the future.

"The club is being run on sound football and business principles in order to develop a fan base which can deliver bucketfuls of cash this season. No supporter would be bought or sold unless that helped to achieve that aim.

"We are not interested in selling fans who are committed to the club and essential to telling our first-team squad to really pep it up and make it mediocre.

"If a fan refuses to buy a season ticket or is a part-timer not crucial to the manager's plans then we will look at offers on a case by case basis and flog them to Chelsea. It is the only sensible way to build for the future.

"We have invested in fans this summer identified by the manager who add to the quality of the fan base by dining at Ken’s Café and drinking iffy lager in the Central after matches and we will continue to do so as and when appropriate."

Tuesday, August 26

Manchester so much to answer for

Manchester City 3 West Ham 0

That’s me in the corner, losing my religion. On Sunday afternoon I’m the only WHU fan in the village of Roydon in Norfolk. My dad died last year and we’re still clearing furniture ready for his house sale. So it’s a pint of Saltaire bitter, a packet of crisps and a solitary post in front of the TV surrounded by Norwich fans.

The game elicits little response from the locals and I’m apparently the only person gripped by the live and exclusive Sky coverage. As ever the Guardian lists a huge casualty roll-call: "Ferdinand hamstring, Collins knee, Gabbidon groin, Spector hip, McCartney pneumonia, Dyer broken leg, Bellamy hamstring."

It doesn’t start well. Manchester City might have all sorts of problems with new Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra, but on the pitch they are much the livelier side.

Petrov looks like Yosain Bolt as he easily beats Behrami for pace. In fact our new full back looks less like the Swiss David Beckham and more like the Swiss Scott Minto.

Davenport deflects a shot onto the bar, before going down injured, and then Carlton Cole collapses injured and is replaced by Sears. I send Matt a text: “At least we’re winning on injuries.” We have yet to muster a shot.

Parker and Noble are being outfought by the classy (bad?) Kompany. Noble is booked for a silly handball after falling down in the centre circle and then three minutes later makes a late, undisciplined lunge at Johnson. It’s a justified red card. Oh dear. Poor Freddie is pulled off by Curbs and replaced by Mullins. Petrov hits the bar with a free kick and Green makes a fine save from Johnson. Somehow we survive to half-time.

My only hope is that this being football, we’ll have one shot all game and somehow win. But early in the second half Behrami allows Petrov several miles of space and his cross is half cleared by Upson to Sturridge who drives the ball into the roof of the net. That’s it, we’ve lost. Neill looks hopelessly out of position on the left and is outpaced by Ireland, who crosses for Elano to score. Then he repeats the scenario for Elano to score again. There’s going to be ten minutes injury time and it could be eight.

“This is a new form of torture. A shot on target would be nice, “ I text. Matt replies: “ Feel my human rights violated, how bad are we?”. Very bad indeed. Etherington and Faubert have been anonymous, Neill and Behrami are alarmingly suspect, Deano’s not had a chance and only Davenport, Upson and Green have looked competent. And the Irons fans are doing the conga, always a sign we’re playing rubbish.

In the pub there’s a busy Norfolk burr of rural types talking about 2.2 rifles, slug guns and golf balls. I’d be tempted to fire all of them at our lads’ posteriors after this.

Curbs does his Eyeore impersonation in the post-match interview, as he admits it was nowhere good enough and that an offer from Sunderland for Anton Ferdinand has been accepted. “We’re a bit thin on the ground,” he admits, which at least makes a change from Harry’s “down to the bare bones”.

We’ve played like a relegation side today. We need Doctor Who rather than Dr Thaksin. Our better players are being sold and those we’ve bought are ageing and injury prone. And we’ve got the mighty Macclesfield coming up…

Sunday, August 24

Ferd Degree

Farewell, then Anton, or maybe not. So far this summer, according to the media, Anton Ferdinand has been almost sold to Newcastle, Aston Villa and now Sunderland. Did Curbs lose patience after Grannygate? The Faces nightclub court case? Or was it when Anton forgot to mark Berbatov twice against Spurs? Yet Ferdinand was also outstanding for the first two thirds of last season.

We are certainly well stocked with almost fit centre backs, with Calum “head on a stick” Davenport returning, James Collins, who had a tremendous finale to the Great Escape season, Danny Gabbidon and the promising James Tomkins. What I do know is that this being West Ham, if Ferdinand does leave he’ll be brilliant and form an unbeatable England partnership with brother Rio, before being sold on to Chelsea for £40 million and of course we won't get a percentage of any sell-on fee.

Although he’ll never be as good as Christian Dailly.

Sunday, August 17

We're gonna win the league...

West Ham 2 Wigan 1

There it is, appearing like an old friend in the Guardian Sport’s squad sheets — West Ham’s injury list.

It sounds like Rowan Atkinson’s roll-call in The Secret Policeman’s Ball.
“Dyer leg, McCartney virus, Gabbidon groin, Spector hip, Collins groin, Bellamy hamstring, Ferdinand hamstring.” And they’ve missed out Quashie and Tomkins.

The close season has seen the usual slice of bizarre West Ham stories. We’ve paid a reported six million quid to cancel Freddie Ljungberg’s contract because we couldn’t afford his 80k a week wages and the board issued a bizarre statement saying that basically it was all the fault of Eggert the Eggman. Buying players from Arsenal? Think Radford, Suker, Wright, Robson, all players on the way down or terminally injured.

We’ve aggravated the best goalkeeper we’ve had in decades by paying him less than the new injured signings.Spurs were said to have offered £18 million for Deano and we’ve signed Valon Behrami, “the Swiss David Beckham” while flogging Zamora for a healthy £6 million.

There’s been a ruck at the pre-season friendly in the US against Columbus crew prompting the Guardian to ask if football hooliganism has arrived in the US. “Shakespeare in Stratford, yomping around the Lakes, and having your head stamped on by a plasterer from Barking. All so wonderfully authentic, isn’t it?” wrote Barney Ronay. When I tried to see the movie Cass in Leicester Square it had been postponed due to “a broken screen”. Or maybe the Columbus Crew had been calling?

The trains are terrible today. The Metropolitan line is suspended, so is a large chunk of the Jubilee and there are no Central line trains to Liverpool Street due to a person under a train. Perhaps it was a WHU fan distraught at Kieron Dyer’s latest injury setback.

But at least I’m in Ken’s Café by 2.30. Big Joe and Phill Jupitus have supped their strong tea and gone, but I join Matt, Nigel and not as big Jo at their Formica table. Despite the credit crunch, in Ken’s a cup of tea is still a reassuring 50p.

Matt, Nigel and myself join Fraser in the East Stand. Wigan appear to be wearing luminous bicycle jackets. After two minutes Faubert crosses quickly, Ashton turns away from Scharner and fires a brilliant strike into the roof of the net. Blimey.
We’re looking sharp and lively, and even take free kicks. Sod Curbishley being favourite Premiership manager for the chop. This is the fluent attacking side he’s been building all along.

“I see we haven’t improved our corners!” sighs Mystic Morris, as Faubert’s iffy corner is played on by Davenport for Deano to niftily stroke home from one yard out. I immediately worry that Spurs will up their offer. Two up after nine minutes. Maybe we’ll set a record Premiership score.

“We’re top of the league!” exclaims Nigel.

“I wonder if Champions league fixtures will be included in the price of next season’s season ticket?” I muse.

“What was that game where we went 4-0 up and still struggled to win? It was Crewe wasn’t it?” says Nigel.

Carlton Cole has a header cleared off the line before clearing one off his own line and it’s all very encouraging. French novelist Faubert is getting numerous dangerous crosses as he provides a sentimental education for the Wigan full back, and is finally looking like the player we paid £6 million for. Maybe it’s best he doesn’t take Madam Bovary to the Christmas do though.

“And we’ve still got Nigel Quashie to come in,” I say.

“Quashie was done over by one of the tabs last week,” says Matt.

“Although it was a bit misleading when they described him as a ‘Premiership star’,” adds Nigel.

The mood is jaunty by half-time. “Was that a Swiss roll?” quips Matt as Behrami goes down.

“Will Wigan be as sick as Faubert’s parrot at half-time?” I wonder.

At half-time we study the Sun’s picture of a banner hanging from a motorway bridge reading “Jack, are the Villa really more important than our marriage? It’s over, Jess.” We decide that Matt is in most danger of suffering from such a misguided missive on the road to Somerset, as he’s missing half his in-laws 40th wedding anniversary bash in order to see us thrash Wigan.

Only this being West Ham a different side emerges after the break. We’re undone by a simple long throw and Zaki scores an acrobatic volley within two minutes of the restart. They pulverize us for most of the second half, bypassing Noble and Parker in midfield. Green makes a great save from Palacios and Zaki misses three presentable chances. Maybe we’re not too good to go down.

“To put the worst spin on this, we’re a mediocre side plus Ashton,” rues Nigel.

At least there’s one fine fast flowing break when Faubert hits it wide after an Academy-style move. But we’re holding on and Curbs takes millenia to make a change.

“Just make the f***ing substitution!” hollers Matt.

“Sometimes don’t you wish you sat next to a vicar’s son?” I whisper to Nigel.

Ashton balloons a free kick over and injure himself in the process. Very West Ham.

The bicycle riders pump endless balls into our area. Davenport and Upson defend well, but it’s horrible to watch. Sub Freddie Sears at least runs eagerly and tries to hold the ball up. There’s three minutes of injury time but somehow we close the game out.

“Never in doubt!” says Fraser.

The club DJ plays Heroes over the PA, which is perhaps overstating it a little. But to be positive, Ashton and Faubert have played really well and Davenport has had a good game deputizing for Ferdinand. And we have Bellamy and McCartney to get back, and hey, it’s three points, we’re fifth for a day and anticipating a European tour. Possibly.