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.

1 comment:

Nicholas Clee said...

Particularly grateful for this, as I was in France last week and missed the match reports. I had been in danger of thinking that the win had been straightforward. I should have known better!