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.