Wednesday, December 30

Jermain Defoe, he's a…

Tottenham 2 West Ham 0

Thankfully I’m having lunch with my brother-in-law’s family as we lose this. Match of the Day highlights suggest we were mullered even if they did only score two. Lennon is far too fast for Ilunga and then sub Spector and we get our usual hamstring pulls in Herita and Parker. Huddlestone hits the post and we can only muster a shot from Kovac and then turning an attack into a goal for Jermain.

And we all knew Defoe would score, shooting at Green before firing an unstoppable shot into the net. I'd like to report that he loves West Ham so much he doesn't celebrate, but he does, of course. At least we’ve got the defeat out of the way now. And just the transfer window to dread.

Matt who watched the game on Sky, comments:

“After the Spurs debacle I have to say we need a complete overhaul of the medical and physio staff, as suffering 4 hamstring injuries in the first 20 minutes, in the last 3 games would not be tolerated by a pub team. We brought in these much hyped people who were supposed to reduce the number of injuries and they have failed utterly. Pardew's staff had a much better record.Perhaps we could poach the Birmingham staff, as they never seem to get injuries.

Other than that, Jiminez is woeful, and Spector nowhere near good enough, and Green gives away far too many goals by parrying shots straight back into the penalty area. And why do our players never shoot? Their second goal came from a corner where we tried to walk it in as ever and failed, but when they broke you knew Defoe would just be looking to get a shot in. We now really are down to the bare bones for Arsenal, and could be heavily beaten, but it is the Wolves game that matters now.

Zola needs to show he is a real manager, rather than just go on about how hard his players tried, and refusing to take any responsibility or any decisions. Just needed to get that off my chest...”

Two-nil in our Cup Final

West Ham 2 Portsmouth 0

We’re in Hertfordshire with Her Indoors’ mother, and the only train running is the Stansted Express. At Tottenham Hale the tube resembles a scene from Day of the Triffids. It’s a shambling Sunday service and only one shop open at a post-apocalyptic Liverpool Street.

But at least there’s a Christmas Carol in Ken’s Café, plus Matt, Lisa, Big Joe and Littler Jo and lots of chips. Although Nigel’s in Richmond Park with his mum and Fraser’s at Wolverhampton races. Little Billy from the Café is going to the debtors' derby as a surprise Christmas present, poor sod.

Before kick-off there’s a little cheer for Hammers legend Hayden “he never lets you down” Mullins. Franco is in the side despite the Independent claiming he had suffered a “freak training ground injury”.

It’s an ugly relegation battle in the first half. There’s the obligatory early injury. Noble goes off and is replaced by Jimenez, leaving us looking lightweight in midfield.

We look nervous at the back and Green drops a cross. Jimenez is fluffing passes and raises the ire of the vicar’s son next to me: “Show some heart Jimenez! He’s like the cowardly lion!” he exclaims, wondering if West Ham will ever find the yellow brick road or be purchased by the Wizard of Oz.

Pompey are playing with just one man up and are also pretty dirty — the odious Michael Brown and Dindane are both booked for scything fouls.

“Small team from Millwall!” sing the Pompey fans. “Is that all you bring away?” chant the Irons.

Diamanti plays in some fine crosses from deep and eventually we win a penalty. Franco is blocked and the ball breaks to Jimenez who is hacked down by one Hayden Mullins. Allesandro has the arrogance you need to be a Premier League player, and never looks like missing from the spot.

Collison should have made it two before the break when he steers the ball wide of an empty net after the as always excellent Parker squares the ball across goal.

Early in the second half Diamanti has a deflected shot brilliantly saved by Begovic. But then we sit back and Portsmouth attack much more once Kanu comes on. Piquionne has a shot saved by Green and then almost profits from a dodgy back pass to Green.

“We’ve got three players who are defensive liabilities in Franco, Jimenez and Diamanti,” bemoans Matt. We can’t see why the half-paced Franco is allowed to stay on. He’s clearly not fit and Nouble would at least run around more. At least Zola brings on Behrami for Diamanti to add some defensive work rate.

It’s end to end though and we have a much better final 20 minutes. Parker and Kovac are both working hard and winning tackles. Collison shimmies and has a low shot saved by the keeper. Sub Behrami sees the ball squirm just wide of the post. Jimenez bizarrely fails to shoot when the opportunity is there and then has a free kick tipped over. But at one goal we can never be sure.

Then on 89 minutes Jimenez swings in a great free kick and Kovac rises like a great blonde Father Christmas to beat Mullins to the ball and thump a superb header into the back of the net, before leaping into the arms of fans in the Bobby Moore Stand as if he'd always dreamed of scoring for the Hammers as a boy in Prague.

“We never doubted him!” says Matt.

“Where was Nigel when Kovac scored his first home goal before becoming a West Ham legend?” I ask. "And when we finally kept a clean sheet?" Before the game you'd have got better odds on Tiger Woods keeping his sheet untarnished.

It’s been a strange game for Jiminez, who has looked lightweight and diffident but made both goals. Nouble at last gets to come on in the first minute of added time.

An ugly game but a great win for the Irons, and we’re now four points off the bottom and out of the relegation zone. We had to get three points today because we never win at Spurs.

Merry Christmas Bob Scratchit, Tiny Tim (or is it Kevin Keen?), seven-year-old Freddie Sears and Gianfranco Zola! And perhaps the enlightened Ebenezer Scrooge is now thinking of making an offer for West Ham.

Tuesday, December 22

Stick your blue flag…

West Ham 1 Chelsea 1

“What hope is there?” ask Jo, Nigel and Gavin as we sit in Ken’s café. Lose and we’re bottom at Christmas.

The News of the World says that players are commenting on Zola’s “hangdog demeanour”. And a formers "Hammers ace" has described Diamanti and Franco as "five-a-side players, the sort that get you relegated". While elsewhere in the NOTW someone called Paul Ince writes, “I fear for my Hammers”. Nigel has a premonition of life in the Championship reading out the future score: “Preston 3 West Ham 1.”

All the hope we can muster is that we have nothing to lose and at least John Terry is on the front page of the NOTW in a sting about dodgy club tours, following up their story on his dad’s iffy dealings.

In the East Stand Fraser’s wearing his lucky flat cap. “We go 16th if we win,” he says perkily. “You’ve calculated where we are if we win?” asks an incredulous Nigel. Joe Cole gets a mixed reception, Lampard the usual boos.

We start off looking up for it. Upson is back bringing some much-needed composure to our defence and the work rate of Noble is making a difference in midfield. Green makes a good save from Lampard’s shot. We survive a penalty appeal when the ball hits Gabbidon’s hand and Parker chests it off the line from Ivanovic’s header. But we are denying them width and Collison has a shot parried only for Franco to be ruled offside.

Gabbiddon goes off injured after 21 minutes —after mystic Morris has said we never thought he’d be back — and on comes James Tomkins. He fits into the back four with some aplomb.

“John Terry, you’re mum’s a thief!” chants the Bobby Moore Stand with seasonal ill will. And then something unprintable about Simon Cowell and a certain player's wife.

It’s fairly even for 45 minutes. In added time Franco plays a nice little ball through to Collison, who is bought down by Ashley Cole. Penalty! Allesandro Diamanti shows he clearly has the big-game mentality by coolly slotting it home.

We’re worried they’ll be angry second half and Ancelotti makes two substitutions. Drogba goes close with a stunning Van Basten-like volley from near the corner flag.

Then Upson tackles Sturridge and from the East Stand we can clearly see he makes contact with the ball. It’s a great tackle but the linesman is jumping up and down like Chris Hollins on the Strictly Come Dancing judges’ table, and it’s a sodding penalty.

“We’ve been f**king robbed… fu**king robbed!” exclaims the political analyst beside me, clearly unaware we’re sitting close to a vicar’s son.

Lampard steps up to score. But no, ref Mike Dean wants it re taken for encroachment! Does he now realise he made an error? This is the chance for Rob Green to make up for that calamity at Bolton. But Lampard scores again. Only the ref wants it retaken a third time. This is getting farcical. Big Fat Frank shows what a god penalty taker he is by scoring again.

But even a point is a good result against top of the league Chelsea. We could wilt, but the lads certainly seem to be playing for Zola today. Diamanti has a shot palmed away by Cech, and from the melee Noble chips up and over. The Italian then produces a fantastic bit of Di Canio-esque skill in the box only to be robbed by a last ditch Terry intervention.

Franco is assaulted by Carvalho from our corner, but the ref says play on. Scott Parker is everywhere and going on rampaging runs. Faubert is playing well going forward and Illunga is looking better too. Even Kovac has a much better final 20 minutes. If we play like this we’ll stay up, no problem.

I’m still imagining a 97th minute winner for Chelsea though, but thankfully there’s only three minutes of stoppage time. We win two corners but still manage to concede a free kick right at the end, only for Chelsea to waste it. A point! Stick your blue flag up your arse!

This just might give us renewed hope. And Father Christmas, if you come down my chimney, any chance of putting in a bid from your Lapland consortium?

Friday, December 18

JJ joins the bidding?

Saved by the bell. Icelandic bank Straumur has had its debts frozen until September so there's no chance of the company going into administration and West Ham being sold off on the cheap. In theory we can now wait for a bid closer to the bank's estimation, rather than grab Sullivan's £50 million. Bad news for Sullivan and Gold, although you wonder if we'll be worth selling if we go down.

However, we spotted a couple of prospective new owners on tele last night. JJ and James, the winners of BBC's The Restaurant could bring in Raymond Blanc at centre back and enliven the whole club with picnic food and designer cocktails. JJ might be an Aston villa fan, but he clearly likes claret and blue as a design theme. All with a smooth front of house charm while serving 34,000 covers. They're good at thinking on their feet and talk a good game even if they're rubbish at making souffle. Could they turn our tired old light and bitter into an exotic cocktail? Over to you CB Holdings...

Wednesday, December 16

Oh Christian Dailly…

Bottom two, vultures circling, pornographers in the wings - there's only one thing for it. A right-royal Christmas knees-up to cheer us all up. All together now:


OH CRISTIAN DAILLY WON'T YOU SHAG MY WIFE! (apologies for non-PC element to this lyric)


There, that feels better...

Just relegation for the claret and blue?

Bolton 3 West Ham 1

Oh dear, it's getting like the Pardew/Curbishley era when we were losing 4-0 at Charlton and you didn't even want to hear the results of games. Leaving my daughter Lola's school concert (one instrumental version of Walking in a Cottee Wonderland but no Bubbles) there's a text waiting and I daren't look. Later I discover it's from Nigel reading "We're dead."

Looking at the goals on Sky Sports News, the first is a one-two where Faubert isn't aware enough to close down Lee. Further proof he's not a natural defender. Our equaliser is well worked, Franco in to Collison and a fine top of the net finish from Diamanti. That was the big plus of the night and Diamanti might go on a scoring run now. And look at the passion on his face when he scored. That's something the rest of the side, apart from Parker, seem to lack.

But late on Green fumbles a simple catch into the path of Klasnic and it's all over. At least that should keep Chelsea away. On 87 minutes Cahill easily outjumps our defence to head home the sort of goal relegation sides concede. To top it all Dyer goes off after 21 minutes. Sadly for Kieron, you can't ever see him being the player he was, and we can't place our hopes on someone with his injury record.

We're second from bottom and looking doomed unless a buyer arrives. Although this being West Ham we'll probably go and beat Chelsea now.

Staring at the precipice?

Interesting email debate going on between Mike and Don...

MIKE: The boys played their best considering the sold off players and the injured, but just soooo unlucky again.

Still think Zola/Nani have cocked up on purchases. So many PL players would have joined us after last season’s success, but millions spent on foreign players that just aren't up to the league. Really sad to see Green/Upson/Parker/Noble/Cole/Collison etc fighting so hard this season with no reward. Shouldn't hold it against them if they leave

More great Hammers going off to strengthen other squads...

I didn’t see it like that. I thought we only started playing when we were down to ten men (what a ridiculous red card by the way) and before that allowed Birmingham the freedom of the park. And we’ve now conceded the same goal how many times? Zola is a little lost, I think, why leave it until 10 mins to go to bring on Nouble? Why didn’t Collison start? Parker had a poor game, as did Kovac and Faubert (pick a right back and stick to him, I say), Gabbidon was not much better – and yet with a bit of luck we might have squeaked a draw. But that shouldn’t obscure the poverty of the performance.

It’s going to be a long, hard season. Again.

MIKE: Zola's selection and subbing has always been a tad eccentric, eg Hines and Green should have come off sooner last week, but Diamante is Di Michele mark II albeit with a bit more youth and as for Jimenez.. Its just madness.. So many PL boys available Don. We got Bellamy cheaper than Diamante..Mike

I agree about Jimenez - he’s a disaster, but Diamanti (with an ‘i’) is a completely different player to Di Michele. He’s yet to click properly but we’ve have seen glimpses of what could be. And he’s the only one prepared to shoot on a regular basis…I think if you go back over the summer, these legions of PL players you say were available, simply weren’t. And we bought Bellamy from a club that didn’t want him, it was a freak piece of luck, a bit like Di Canio.

The point for me, Mike, is that you can’t blame the new players for what’s going wrong, the old players just aren’t doing it apart from Carlton. If anything, Franco’s done OK for us, Da Costa looks pretty good, Diamanti has scored and created goals. Kovacs is hopeless, so three of the five have done OK. Collison, Noble, Parker, Illunga have just not recaptured the form of last season, Behrami’s not ready and, sad to say, we really miss Lucas. Which reminds me, Upson is a rubbish captain.

All that said, I still think we’ve got plenty but it really shouldn’t be this hard to get them to play like they can.
So frustrating.

MIKE: Da Costa is a great player, so why on the bench for the last 3 games ? And it is the manager’s job to get the best out his squad. Wenger managed it yesterday at Anfield. Diamanti played some awful shots at Birmingham, and had a perfect assist that he ignored and tried to curl one in. Grumble, grumble I know, but Zola doesn't seem to be making any effort to recruit at home. Ignored Davenport, Bowyer, Nobbie etc all who were on the books and cheap to run. . Really hope we get a result at Bolton.

Diamanti can be very selfish but has shown genuine moments of class such as the shot against the post against Wigan, his cameos against Arsenal and Everton and his chip at Birmingham. I still think that with the confidence of a couple of goals he could be a fine player for us - as long as Zola can get him playing for the team and decide where to play him.

Problem is our youngsters can't cope in playing in a losing side - Collison and Stanislas look lost at the moment. Da Costa looked good against Villa so I think is worth another chance.

The biggest indictment of Nani is signing Savio from his old club for a fee of £6 million rising to £9million. When Bellers left it would have made much more sense to sign an established journeyman striker like James Beattie who would get ten goals a season if Zola didn't nut him... and pick up a proper right back too...

"Lightweight Hammers staring at the precipice" reads today's Guardian... And Chelsea in for Green and Liverpool for Parker are latest rumours...
Let's hope the Bolton fans turn on Megson if by any chance we score early on tonight...

We all have our gripes and opinions, and we know the boys can play well as witnessed against Arsenal, Villa, Burnley and all the draws/ close losses this season. It will be the end though if the tough lads like Parker/Green/Cole/Upson go though. Don't think Sullivan and co will be very sympathetic execs. Fingers double-crossed for Bolton. Think we will get a win

Monday, December 14

He comes from Canning Town, he'll send the Hammers down?

Birmingham City 1 West Ham 0

Matt texts from the Magritte Museum in Brussels and wonders “if we will see the surreal thing from WHU this afternoon”. He then fails to identify the Paul Simon song that mentions Magritte (it’s Rene and Georgette Magritte with their Dog After The War) so it’s 1-0 to me in the trivia stakes. Which is as good as it gets.

We’re in Bath for our wedding anniversary so mercifully we spend the afternoon in the thermal spa feeling the healing qualities of the natural spring water as the game is played. At least the Romans didn’t have to worry about football.

Although any regenerative effects from the spa are ended at five o’clock when Matt texts “We made a Magritte mess of that”. Lee Bowyer has scored the winner of course, which you could have predicted before kick-off.

On Match of the Day (don't say I don't know how to show Her Indoors a good time) we’re struggling early on with Ridgewell missing a great chance and Green making a fine save. Hines is out long-term now too, Faubert comes in at right-back, while Collison is dropped to the bench. Diamanti flashes one shot wide but we go in level at the break.

Bowyer breaks the deadlock after Stanislas is dispossessed and in an act of class (not a word previously associated with Lee) he declines to celebrate against his boyhood team. It’s Bowyer’s sixth goal of the season and getting rid of him for nothing and buying Kovac is looking a bad piece of business by Zola.

We show some spirit in the second half. Diamanti goes close with a great chip. You keep thinking that one day he’ll score a fantastic goal and become a force in the premiership. Sub Kieron Dyer races down the let and pings a shot against the post. Noble is read carded, rather unluckily for a second booking. Faubert is dispossessed and almost lets in City for a second. And that’s it, we’re now second from bottom and it’s a relegation fight until the end of the season.

Not signing a right-back when Neill went is looking like an act of folly and we’re looking for a porn baron to save us. If we lose at Bolton on Tuesday it looks critical.

Friday, December 11

Come on down…

So David Sullivan and David Gold have bid £40 million for the club or they can do a deal on a 50 per cent stake in West Ham plus guaranteed player investment. CB Holdings may well turn it down, but we can't be too picky about our suitors. The pair didn't do a bad job at Birmingham, rebuilding the stadium and staying mainly in the Premier League, and they presumably come with Karren Brady who might at least sort out the finances a little and get West Ham mentioned on The Apprentice.

The pair might go up to say £50 million, but you sense their valuation is about right, with West Ham having £40 million debts and owing £30 million in transfer fees and Tevezgate money.

And as the publisher of the Sunday Sport famed for headlines like "World War Two Bomber Found on the Moon" Sullivan should at least be prepared for the surreal goings on at Planet West Ham.

Tuesday, December 8

Sick as a parrot

West Ham 0 Manchester United 4

Her Indoors wants me to go on the Climate Change march, but instead it’s the Irons versus the Mancs. In my defence West Ham never threaten to make Europe so we never have to take continental flights and we do have a Green in goal.

The best part of the game is a free SboBet scarf on the seat. We are without Upson, Cole, Noble and Behrami, while ominously United have Berbatov and Owen on the bench.

The first half is fairly even. United have a makeshift defence of Fletcher at right back and Neville and Brown as centre backs and look out of sorts.

Early on Giggs misplaces a pass to Hines who crosses for Collison to just miss connecting in front of goal. Hines worries them occasionally with his speed and Franco looks clever on the ball, but it’s Giggs who is running the game.

Indeed the United fans sing, “Giggs will tear you apart again”. Although if we’re using Joy Division chants then perhaps “He’s lost control again”, might be more appropriate for us. Or “Don’t walk away in silence.”

Without Cole we never test United’s weak back four even after Neville and Brown limp off. Michael Carrick comes on to play centre half and we make him look like Franz Beckenbauer.

The 45 minutes is up and we all have to do is defend properly to go in at 0-0.Only we don’t. We fail to clear three times and Scholes volleys home from the edge of the box.

“How bad was that? Three times we could have cleared it. What sort of a f***ing clearance was that from Collison? And that header from Spector was terrible… United won’t play as badly in the second half, that’s for sure…” complains the Vicar’s son beside me.

We show some bite at the start of the second half with Stanislas checking for some reason when it looks as if he could have reached Franco’s through ball. But you know United will improve and a great counter attack involving Giggs, Rooney and Anderson ends with Gibson firing home a cracker from the edge of box.

Hines goes off injured. “It’s a real sign of a relegation team when you pick up injuries from nowhere,” mutters Nigel sagely.

Substitute Diamanti has a fine free kick tipped away by Kuszczak, having earlier shot wildly over from another dead ball.

Then we collapse in similar fashion to the last 30 minutes against Burnley. Valencia taps home unmarked from a left wing cross and then Rooney steals in to score a minute later from Evra’s cross.

And Robert Green has been sick (as a parrot) in goal. He is feeling nauseous, like most of us, and has to be substituted by Kurucz. My daughter later asks, “What if the ball had landed in the sick?” Now there’s a potential moment for “What Happened Next?”

Spector has been roasted again (no, not in that sense). Collison is mistiming everything and doesn’t look fit, Ilunga looks nothing like the star of last season and Stanislas has a poor game too.

Luckily United take it easy late on. Stanislas misses the target when he should score late on and it sums up our afternoon. Nigel, who is seeing Status Quo next week and is worried we are going down, down, deeper and down, starts to wonder if Zola’s job is safe.

“So much for my lucky scarf!” quips Fraser as we leave. Nigel has received a text from a gloating Manc. “Tosser! He doesn’t even live in Manchester!”

Crucial away games at Birmingham and Bolton are coming. And like the climate change deniers we have no defence. Our back four is not sustainable and can not control its emissions. Can anyone save planet West Ham?

Friday, December 4

My transgressions: A personal statement

I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all my heart. Through my secret liasions with 11 men in the E13 area I have not been true to my values and the behaviour my family deserves.

I am not without fault and I am far short of perfect. Sometimes I even believe that West Ham can keep a clean sheet. I am dealing with my behaviour and personal failings behind closed doors with my family and my PR team. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.

I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father my family deserves. For all those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.

No goals without Cole?

So Carlton Cole is out with ligament trouble until January at least. A blow although at least it's not the rest of the season as the Sun claimed. We'll miss his hold-up play badly, but thankfully Franco is starting to look a decent striker and with Hines he will hopefully trouble defences.

Beyond that though we're down to the untried Nouble, although I'd like to see Diamanti told to stay in the last third of the pitch and do some damage. We're also said to be after 32-year-old Italian international Toni, although knowing us that might be a translation error and we're actually after Joe's mate Big Tone, a regular in Ken's Cafe...

Monday, November 30

It's just like watching West Ham (in the sixties)

West Ham 5 Burnley 3

Matt reveals his conspiracy theory, as we sit in the unusually busy Ken’s Cafe. Upson and Behrami are going to be sold as they are both apparently injured for today’s match. Although that presumably means Ashton and Boa Morte are on their way to Man City too and that JFK was shot by Ronnie Boyce from the halfway line…

It’s catching. Mike claims that Robert Green is definitely going and we’ve signed a replacement. While North Bank Norman’s old mate Matt says he’s seen David Gold’s motor in the car park with the subtle number plate of “GOLD 1” and that he and David Sullivan must be preparing a bid.

And this one is really unlikely. Nigel says there’s no sleep til Hammersmith as he’s going to see Motorhead, the Damned and Girlschool later. He gets his fry-up at 2.50pm, Gav helps with the chips and it’s a late dash to the match.

Noble is injured and on the bench, Kovac and Stanislas come in to midfield and Gabbidon replaces Upson. This is one game we have to win, against notoriously poor travellers.

Burnley start quite well, knocking the ball about confidently, and Carlisle has an early header cleared off the line by Parker. Collison crosses and Franco hits the bar with a great header, and then has another header into the roof of the netting.

Parker is fouled and plays a quick free kick into the path of Collison, who is onside, and strolling through deserted Clarets’ rearguard. Jack coolly slots home. One-nil in our cup final.

“Just as long as we don’t get a second we’ll be fine,” I tell the lads, “and as long they don’t go down to ten men.”

It gets better. Franco, now looking a great signing, controls the ball fairly, despite Burnley claims for handball, and plays in Stanislas who shoots at Jensen’s legs. But he still has time to gather the rebound and shoot past the corpulent custodian. There’s hysteria in the East Stand and the bloke behind me falls over his seat into our row, such is the excitement. Burnley’s defence is starting to look leakier than a nautical craft imagined by Edward Lear.

“We could get a hatful here!” I exclaim and am instantly told to shut up by a mortified Nigel. Kovac plays a great ball through to Spector and the marauding full back races into the area, turns inside and is felled for a clear penalty. Carlton Cole recovers from an injury a few minutes previously to stroke home the penalty.

“Remember Wimbledon and West Brom?” counsels Matt. Although it has to be said a clean sheet at half-time has even a seasoned Hammers watcher doubting our ability to blow this one.

CQ sends Nigel a text saying “stay pessimistic”. But it’s hard, because we score a forth after the break. Stanislas takes a free kick from the right and Franco heads home, running to the Bobby Moore Stand exclaiming Scottish epithets (well the programme has revealed his Scottish ancestry).

Zola then makes a bizarre substitution, taking off Franco and bringing on Jiminez, leaving us devoid of a focus up front for the final 30 minutes. It seems to pay off when Jiminez is brought down by Jensen and the Chilean himself knocks in our second penalty. 5-0 in our cup final! “You’re just a small team from Blackburn!” chants the Bobby Moore Stand.

What spin will Alistair Campbell put on this? Will we get nine like Spurs? As if to punish us for thinking such things, Eagles starts to roast Spector on the left, and crosses for Fletcher to sneak past a statuesque defence to tap home.

Nigel suggests that Charlton once lost a five goal lead in the 1950s.

“We’re going to win 6-5!” chant the Burnley fans. We stop running. Eagles crosses from the left again and Fletcher nips behind Da Costa to score again, as Green stamps his feet in frustration.

We’ve grown bored of throwing two goal leads away and are now trying to lose a five goal lead. Hines can’t hold the ball up alone up front and we’re showing an utter lack of professionalism. Are the lads, like Nigel, distracted by the prospect of watching middle-aged rock chicks Girlschool later tonight?

A free kick from Eagles then clips Green’s post. “We need to take it in the corners,” I suggest, no longer joking. “Blow your bloody whistle ref. It’s worse than the Cup Final…”

In a rare attack substitute Faubert finds Hines who outspeeds the ponderous Caldwell. The defender hauls him back and is red carded. Oh no, now we’re playing ten men… definitely lost it now.

It's a relief that Caldwell's dismissal wastes some time. Stanislas blasts the resulting free kick into the wall. Deep into added time Tyrone Mears crosses for Eagles to score a third. Unbelievable.

The whistle blows and we’ve somehow managed to make the fans feel bad after scoring five goals at home. Jeremy Nicholas plays Twist and Shout but we feel more in need of a pacemaker.

“It was just like watching Ron Greenwood’s side in the sixties,” says Fraser as we walk to the Central. “I saw a 5-5 draw once.”

We’ll take the points, but this season we’ve less chance of keeping a clean sheet than Russell Brand and Katy Perry. On the positive front Parker had a fantastic game and Franco scored again, while we’re scoring (and conceding) from every position. At least we can’t complain about the entertainment value… but best not to think what Rooney might do to our defence next week.

Friday, November 27

Dyer predictions

"Dyer ready for West Ham comeback," reads the headline on Read that before somewhere, but at least he scored twice against Stoke for the reserves. Let's hope that after 17 months out and then a dodgy hamstring this really is his big return... He's made just four starts for WHU and signing Danny Dyer might have been a better use of our £6 million as at least we'd have got to meet some tasty geezers and Ross Kemp. Still, someone who could keep hold of the ball when we go 2-0 up would certainly be useful.

Thursday, November 26

Two-nil and we f***ed it up... (again)

Hull City 3 West Ham 3

We’re at the British Museum’s Moctezuma exhibition looking at receptacles for human hearts as Matt’s text arrives. “3-3. We were 2-0 up in ten minutes, 3-2 down at half-time and they had a man sent off. Another shocker.” So nothing much happened at the KC Stadium then.

I text back remarking that perhaps we need more human sacrifices at Upton Park. Matt suggests that Dyer and Deano aren’t doing much… although they’d probably miss the sacrificial ceremony through injury. Still, it’s an away point and we’re out of the bottom three.

The evidence on Match of the Day shows that we start brilliantly. Stanislas and Franco play a nice one-two resulting in Cole shooting against the keeper. From the resulting corner Franco heads home unchallenged. Then Franco, who’s starting to look like a decent signing, plays a great reverse ball though for Collison to head over the stranded Duke. Jack does a Lampard-style goal celebration, pointing to the sky in memory of his dad.

Then, as at Sunderland, we mess up a two-goal lead, Da Costa conceding yet another free kick on the edge of the box. Jimmy Bullard hits it hard; it strikes first Parker and then Cole and loops over the helpless Green. A fluke, but Bullard, the Dickensian-looking urchin of a player we gave away to Peterborough, made it happen and is dominating midfield for Hull. (Saw him train once at Chadwell Heath and thought he stood out, even in the Di Canio era.)

The returning Danny Gabbidon looks exposed at left back. Just before the break Hunt crosses and Zayatte gets goalside of Da Costa to volley home. Even worse, the referee gives Hull a penalty as Fagan backs into Faubert and goes down like he’s had his pocket picked. Poor Gustave Faubert hasn’t touched him, although it’s all part of his sentimental education. Inevitably, the irrepressible Bullard fires home the penalty.

In the second half we rally as Mendy is sent off for hauling down the marauding Parker, who’s clean through on goal. On 68 minutes Da Costa fires home after Upson knocks on a WHU corner. Both sides then have chances to win it. Vennegoor of Hesselink has a good penalty shout after Upson climbs over him. While sub Jiminez fires into the side netting when he should have scored and Stanislas sends a late free header over the bar.

Can’t argue with the entertainment, just our defending. Like Moctezuma we seem to be giving up to invading forces without a fight. Steve Clarke needs to get back to basics, get Ilunga fit and find a right-back. A good away point, but it could have been so much more.

Saturday, November 21

We're solvent and we know we are?

Interesting piece in today's Daily Telegraph by Jason Burt claiming that things might not be as bad as we thought financially.

He claims that that things are improving at Icelandic bank Straumur (our main creditor) post-credit crunch and that the club has had three interested suitors. These are David Sullivan and David Gold (obviously quite keen to judge by leaks to the tabloids threatening to buy Charlton instead if they don't get us cheap), US consortium Intermarket and Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, the founder of Air Asia.

Burt also claims that the debt is easy to service on a £90 million turnover and with the improvement in Straumur's fortunes we will not be forced to sell players like Cole and Green in January. Let's hope he's right.

Wednesday, November 18

Perry good

So this is how we'll clear our debts… Nice to see the club website is selling replicas of Katy Perry's saucy MTV awards WHU costume for a mere £300 each. Sure prospective new owner David Sullivan could expand on this range…

Tuesday, November 10

There's only one Deano

So it looks like Dean Ashton is being forced into retirement. He leaves us with many fine memories, his FA Cup Final goal, the brace at Man City, a great overhead kick against Man United, a turn and shimmy to score against Blackburn and a fine brace against Wigan. The finest striker ever to dine out on Domino's pizza. How different recent seasons might have been with a fit Deano. Pards would have been in a job for a start, we wouldn't have nearly gone down, and we might even have made the Europa League. And imagine the rejuvenated Carlton Cole and a fit Ashton together… At least the insurance money and anything we can sue England for might help pay off a little of our debts. Deano we salute you and good luck in your new career.

Mersey beat

West Ham 1 Everton 2

Strangely they’re no cocktails on offer in Ken’s Café. Several of our Irons contingent have been out late on Saturday night to the London Cocktail Club celebrating my birthday, somewhat belatedly since it was back in August. And maybe I shouldn’t have had those final two martinis…

But Gavin came up with a signed picture of Tevez and Mascherano and my other presents included Brian Belton’s Black Hammers, a book of Steve Bacon photos and a Hammers duck for the bath.

We discuss the News of the World’s story about John Terry’s dad. Will we insult his mum or dad when we play Chelsea? And we agree that Everton are our bogey team as we never seem to beat them. They might have injuries, but their starting X1 still appears strong/.

In the first half neither team plays well. Faubert has a couple of dangerous crosses. Parker creates a half-chance. Everton score with their only chance, when Cahill lays the ball off for Saha to score with a minimum of backlift. That’s five in three games against us.

At least Da Costa is looking OK. Franco and Hines aren’t getting much change from the excellent Yobo and Distin though and we miss Carlton. It’s too much for the vicar’s son next to me. “Take a proper corner! Don’t try to thread it through the eye of a needle! That’s s**t!”

“This is no way to commemorate Remembrance Day, we’re defending more like the Maginot line,” suggests Matt. At half-time I thank Fraser for the bottle of whisky he gave and suggest it might be needed later tonight.“Why didn’t you give him the pearl-handled revolver as well, to make it the full West Ham supporters kit?” suggests Matt. We await a half time appearance from Kate Perry, but instead have to be content with a tiny Vera Lynn impersonator singing “We’ll Score Again…”

Zola brings on Stanislas for Collison and puts Hines in a wider position for the second half, and eventually brings on Diamanti. But Everton double their lead with their second shot, Gosling profiting from a scramble on the edge of the box, shooting at Green but then netting the rebound. The loyal home crowd immediately burst into a chorus of Bubbles.

But a minute later Diamanti plays a beautiful through ball to Stanislas who lobs the keeper. The ball heads for the line and Hibbert can only kick the ball into the roof of his own net.

We have a good final half hour. Everton sub Lucas Neill is serenaded with “There’s only one fat Greedy bastard!” Diamanti has another great free kick well saved. Franco has a good goal disallowed for offside.

Hines is through one-on-one but pokes his effort wide of the post. A Diamanti through ball create another half-chance for Hines but he gets his angles wrong again. It will do Hines good in the long term to experience the ups and downs of the game, although this afternoon his misses have cost us a draw, even if he is getting in the right positions.

The man from Diamanti gets a bit selfish with two shots late on, but you still wonder why he’s not starting in the team because he’s the only player who can cross or take a set piece and makes things happen.

Everton hold on and we’re back in the bottom three. Maybe we should sign Harry Redknapp’s Missus. There’s a minor incident in the Central afterwards when Matt asks for a vodka martini, shaken not stirred, and is nearly shaken firmly by the neck.

On the district line I ponder the fixtures and think things will improve. From Boxing Day we have home games against Portsmouth, Wolves, Blackburn, Birmingham, Hull, Bolton, Stoke, Sunderland, and Wigan. If we pick our best team then surely we can win most of those? Can’t we?

Friday, November 6

One Katy Perry

The press (strangely it wasn't in my Guardian though) is full of pictures of Katy Perry wearing West Ham undies in a tribute to boyfriend Russell Brand.

Another celebrity fan, eh? Wonder if she and Russell could afford to buy us? He's announced on Twitter that he plans to take her to the game on Sunday. It can only be a matter of time before Katy and Rusty are dining in Ken's Cafe before matches.

Matt suggests she might even appear on the pitch singing that big favourite of Diego Tristan's, I Missed A Goal and I Liked It.

A nation rejoices

Blimey. We win a home match and there's fireworks all over London last night. Never knew we had so many fans…

Thursday, November 5

Zav it!

West Ham 2 Aston Villa 1

Chaos on the District line as usual. The tube stops at every station for five minutes due to “congestion”, so it’s a rushed cup of tea in Ken’s Café where a disconsolate Gav is waiting for DC, who’s got his ticket. No doubt they’ll be in for half-time. Even Mystic Morris misses the first 15 minutes, although Fraser and Matt are in situ for Bubbles time.

Zola and Clarke have made brave changes after Sunderland, dropping Spector and Tomkins for Faubert and Da Costa. There’s a nice reception for James Collins from the 32,000 Upton Park faithful, and much booing of Villa's sub Nigel Mediocre.

We start the game with plenty of desire, driving into Villa’s box. Noble has a stinging shot well saved well by Friedel. But after seven minutes Ilunga pulls up and is substituted by Spector, who’ll be playing on his weaker left side again.

Villa come back into the game. Young lashes in several vicious crosses and corners. Carew turns Da Costa too easily to get in a shot at Green. The ball drops to Petrov on the edge of the box and sumptuous volley is expertly tipped over by England’s Number One. The Vila fans serenade us with cries of “Shitty fans My Lord” to the tune of Cumba Ya My Lord.

Then on 31 minutes our sodding injury jinx continues as Carlton Cole pulls up with a hamstring strain. “That’s the end of our season…” suggests Mystic Morris.

Cole is replaced by Hines. We just want to reach half-time with a clean sheet, when the unthinkable happens in added time. Parker plays the speedy Hines through in the box and Zavon’s nudged in the back by Beye. Penalty! Not every ref would have given it, but there was contact. But no Diamanti on the pitch to take it. Braveheart Mark Noble steps up, despite recent failures, and fires into the roof of the net.

We hold out for half-time and start to fantasise about 15th place while debating who are the two most expensive English players not to have a cap (Nigel Reo-Coker and Curtis Davies apparently). Nigel Mediocre is on for the second half and is taunted by the Bobby Moore Stand. “If he scores he’ll make Adebayor look restrained,” suggests Nigel.

Villa win a soft penalty early in the second half. Nobody even seems to appeal for it. Da Costa makes a great leap to head clear but his knee accidentally catches Collins’s head. But Green excels again by saving Young’s badly-placed penalty.

Could this be the luck we need to get our home win? We’re starting to dream, which is always dangerous. In the 51st minute Young crosses from the left, except it turns into a fantastic goal, dipping wildly over Green, completely unlike Paul Konchesky’s intentional wonder strike in the 2006 FA Cup Final. Bugger. We’ve held our lead for six minutes.

Villa will surely go on to win it. Although Mystic May predicts a 2-1 home win when quizzed by Nigel.

And indeed, something extraordinary happens in the final half hour. We start to play with real spirit. Da Costa is much improved at the back, Parker is man of the match, winning countless balls, Franco is dropping deep to chip forward balls for Hines and Spector, yes Spector, is rampaging down the left flank.

Hines is terrifying the Villa defence, forcing mistakes through sheer exuberance and hard running. He shoots just wide after some typical harrying and then fizzes a shot across the face of the goal.

“Always said we should get rid of that donkey Cole,” I quip.

Faubert has a cross deflected agonisingly wide of the post by Ginger Collins. Noble, looking much more like the rampaging local hero of two seasons ago, forces another fine save from Friedel with three minutes left.

Spector is hauled down by Beye late on and it’s a second booking and a red card. For any other team this would be an advantage, but we’re always rubbish against ten men.

We move into four minutes of stoppage time. Jiminez comes on with regulation Hammers midfielder blonde tints, does well to win a corner and then takes a rubbish dead ball Villa win two corners Surely they won’t snatch a late winner?

You wonder if we should be holding the ball up, but Parker comes forward for one final surge, plays the ball into Hines who is surrounded by three defenders, but somehow he jinks inside Collins and Dunne, shuffles the ball from his left to right foot and has the composure to lift the ball over Friedel and into the net.

GOOOOOOOAAAL! Zavon and Faubert run for the corner flag and Upton Park celebrates as if we’ve just won the X-Factor and can finally pay Curbs and Sheffield United their money.

Hands are shaken and backs patted in the East Stand. Zola is jumping in the air. That’s the break we needed. A fantastic finish from Zavon that Zola himself would have been proud of. Small team in Dudley, you’re just a small team in Dudley!

There’s only half a minute left. Green gathers and it’s over. A delighted Zola runs on the pitch to hug Hinesy. Nigel gazes mistily at he league table calculating goal differences. We go above Wolverhampton Wanderers! We go above Blackburn Rovers!

We retreat to the Black Lion where a fine evening is rounded off by the guest ale being Maldon Gold from Essex. If only Gav was here and not in the Central he’d be in real ale dreamland. We watch the Sky highlights and still worry that Noble will miss his penalty and Villa will score late on.

And then the barmaid arrives with my season ticket, which I must have dropped on the floor buying a round (always dangerous to open your wallet in my opinion, but we had won).

“Tough luck mate! I’ve been trying to lose mine for years!” quips the fan at the next table. In the week that Matt has visited the Vatican asking the Pope about the doctrine of West Ham’s lack of infallibility, perhaps this is a sign. Don’t give up on the Irons and Zola’s immaculate conceptions. Many are called but few are chosen for the East Stand. Keep the faith and the righteous will be rewarded by our new Zaviour.

Wednesday, November 4

Knowing the price of everything…

Just when you though Mike Ashley couldn't alienate the Geordie public any further… Newcastle's sponsored stadium is is to be called the @ St James' Park Stadium.

We might have to do likewise though if we're to clear our debts. Could the lads soon be running out at the Ken's Cafe @ Boleyn Stadium?

Curb your enthusiasm

So Curbs has won his case for constructive dismissal against West Ham, and is likely to receive a £2 million pay-off. Meaning we'll have to sell another player.

The ineptitude of the Gudmundsson era is never ending. We managed to lose £37 million in 2007-08, Tevezgate cost us £30 million, we had to pay off Pards and then appointed a manager with a clause in his contract saying he had the final say in selling players, then sold players over his head and hoped he wouldn't walk out. After which it cost another £2 million to recruit Zola and Clarke.

And all this from a man who offered "progress through stability", a new stadium and Champions League football.

Tuesday, November 3

Upson out?

Worrying reports in the Sunday papers that we will sell Matthew Upson in January. You can see the logic would appeal to bankers, £10 million for a thirty year old who's on 50k a week, although it ignores the fact we'd be left with no defence. Apparently we'd use some of the money to fund a bid for Bordeaux's Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh.

But would anyone trust Nani to identify a cut-price replacement for Upson? So far we've had Ilunga, Savio, Kovac, Da Costa, Diamanti and Jiminez, a mixed bag of good and bad foreign signings at best. And is it worth sacrificing our last experienced defender to bolster the forward line? Surely we should have bought out and out strikers earlier rather than several players who like to sit in the hole behind Carlton.

Monday, November 2

Two-nil and we f•••ed it up...

Sunderland 2 West Ham 2

Oh no, we’re winning 2-1 against ten men. Nothing worse than hope when you're a West Ham fan. Collecting my daughter from her friend Maya’s house I catch the scores on Sky Sports News. Now I have to wait 30 minutes watching helplessly with Maya’s dad, a similarly panic-induced Plymouth fan bemused to be winning at Boro.

Matt’s texted to say he’s on a mini-break in the Vatican seeking a miracle. My suggestion is he says ten hail Di Canios if it gets us an away win. Inevitably Sunderland then equalize and I’m tortured by catholic guilt. There’s a report every few minutes detailing nerve-tingling escapes for the Irons. Thankfully for Matt we hold on for an away pontiff. Although he says he wants to crucify the lot of them and our defence resembles the Walls of Jerico.

After trick or treating with the kids in a Cyberman mask Match of the Day reveals a strange team selection after the Arsenal game, with super subs Diamanti and Hines still on the bench.

We play well in the first half as Collison plays in Franco for the Mexican to score from close range, a reward for the manager’s faith. Even better Collison then wins the ball to play in Cole who sidesteps a defender to slot home like an England centre forward.

But then Jones raises his hand to Ilunga’s face and the defender writhes on the floor like a man who’s just seen Nick Griffin on Halloween night. The sending off is technically correct though, even if Herita’s histrionics are unnecessary. That seems to fire ten-man Sunderland and after Kovac fouls on the edge of the box, Reid fires a fantastic free kick into the top corner to make it 1-2 at half time.

Franco goes close with a header early in the second half, but after that it’s all Sunderland. Green makes two excellent saves and then the Makems hit the bar in quick succession. Finally a cross takes a wicked deflection off Upson and falls perfectly for Richardson to score.

Zola says we “need to be more cynical” and it’s clear we have forgotten how to close up a game. But, as they say, we’d have taken a point at the start.

Is it lack of character or the loss of Neill and the suspended Parker that cost us the win? Ilunga is out of form and Spector tries his best but is not the answer. Perhaps there’s a case for bringing in Gabbidon and putting Tomkins at right-back? Or trying out Da Costa again? Or even giving Bondz N'Gala a chance?

Still, Sunderland are a much improved team and perhaps we’ll be grateful for an away point come May. If we can avoid defeat against Villa and beat Burnley then we just might be looking upwards again.

Wednesday, October 28

Diamanti geezer

West Ham 2 Arsenal 2

In Ken’s Café Jo, clearly enlivened by the earthy Whitstable air, is comparing West Ham to sex, saying it’s all foreplay and no climax. Hmm. Maybe it’s because I said we lacked penetration in the box…

Meanwhile a gentleman of the press is saying that Roy Keane has banned laughter at the Ipswich training ground — something we’ve achieved just through our start to the season. Nigel arrives and says that if we win 3-0 and Bolton lose then we go out of the bottom four, but if we lose 10-0 we have the same goal difference as Hull. Then Carol shouts at him for not saying ‘please’ when he asks for sugar, leaving our Statto suitably chastened.

Spector is in at right-back for Faubert and Franco replaces Diamanti. We almost concede in the first minute, but for the next 15 look up for a derby, Cole is fast and threatening and Collison has a goal disallowed for offside.

“We haven’t done badly so far,” I say, just as Sagna crosses and Robert Green inexplicably palms it on to Van Persie’s boot to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal. “Mystic May strikes again,” says Nigel.

Matt says that Lisa has found a web feed where she can watch the game live, but it’s a bit pixelated

Arsenal win a corner and Gallas outjumps a static Ilunga to head home.
“We’re definitely looking a bit pixelated,” I tell Matt. “Does Lisa see lots of blurred claret and blue shapes chasing white shadows?”

It looks like we’re on for a morale-sapping drubbing at home. Arsenal haven’t even got their passing game together yet and we’ve gifted them two goals. Franco isn’t doing much, Green’s confidence has gone and Ilunga can’t find his form.

Nigel reads out Zola’s programme notes. “He says ‘We just need to focus and avoid the little mistakes’.”

“It’s the big mistakes we have a problem with,” quips Matt.

CQ sends Nigel a text saying “At least it won’t be 10-0”. Humiliatingly the Arsenal fans interrupt their anti-Adebayor chants to sing about how quiet it is as Upton Park.

At half time we discuss if we could beat a beachball. We conclude that we’d outpass it before shooting wildly at it and watching the ball rebound into our own net. We predict the full-time scores and most of the lads suggest three or four-nil to the Arsenal, although out of perverse hope I opt for 3-2 to West Ham as my kids go to school opposite the Emirates and I don’t want to have to explain a 5-0 home defeat.

Fabregas goes close and there’s only one possible winner. Zola brings on Diamanti and Hines for Franco and the jaded-looking Noble after 54 and 56 minutes. It’s a brave move to bring on strikers rather than try to keep the score down, but surely too late.

The shaven-headed and heavily-tattooed Diamanti has opted for the Dicksy geezerish look and thankfully for us, appears angry at being dropped. His first action is a fantastic reverse pass to Ilunga that the full back ruins with a poor cross. Then he shoots from distance. It’s wide but he’s trying to make things happen. Hines and Cole combine for Cole to volley wide. At last we’re having a go at Arsenal.

Hines runs at the Arsenal defence and wins a somewhat lucky free kick. Diamanti chips the ball beautifully over the wall, Mannone saves but palms the ball back towards the goal for Carlton Cole to head home. Yes! 1-2.

Suddenly we have new belief. The crowd is noisy again and there’s Bubbles and “Come on you Irons!” echoing around the stadium. Diamanti is at last looking like a £6 million player in the hole behind Cole and Hines.

Parker runs at the Arsenal defence and is surely brought down in the box but the ref says play on. But then Song hacks at Cole’s ankles and the big man goes down and YES! A penalty to West Ham.

We pray the Diamanti geezer’s not going to chip it again, but this time he blasts the ball home to cause raptures among the claret and blue hordes. You thought you had won you were wrong! Take that Wenger! You’re not singing anymore! WHO ARE YER! WHO ARE YER!

But the ref still tries to lose it for us, Fabregas brings down Parker who handballs as he falls. It’s a second booking and a ridiculous dismissal. Ten men with six minutes left. Come on You Irons… Don’t blow it now. Please. Think of my children, dear God, and Wrighty’s ads and George Graham’s bung and Wenger refusing to shake Pards’ hand.

Deep into added time they cross and sod it Van Persie heads into the net but no, Green produces a stupendous save with his lags, making amends for his earlier blunder. Kovac comes on to waste a few more seconds.

The whistle blows, Jeremy Nicholas plays Twist and Shout and it feels like a victory. We’ve taken a point from one of the big four and it might just be the turning point of our season.

Tuesday, October 20

Not the Messiah?

The News of the World had a back page exclusive about a US consortium apparently trying to buy the Hammers. At first we assumed that North Bank Norman, now a Tae-kwondo magnate in San Francisco, was coming back to save us and install Clicker Bacon, Porky the Poet and Part-Time Percy as executive vice-chairmen.

But no, the consortium was fronted by one Jim Bowe, a Wall Street financier. Rather worryingly, today's Guardian says that Bowe has only been in his current job for a month at Intermarket, a Canary wharf based financial analysis company, and implies that the whole exercise was designed to get a bit of free publicity. And there's still no information who Bowe's mystery investors actually are.

Maybe Jim Bowen might be more likely to score a Bullseye?

Who let Mad Dog out?

From BBC Sport:

"League Two side Cheltenham Town have placed manager Martin Allen on gardening leave.

Allen, 44, has been asked to stay away from Whaddon Road pending an investigation into an alleged incident at a nightclub."

According to today's Daily Mail it involved Mad Dog trying to jump a 16-person queue at the nightclub and allegedly "racially abusing a bouncer" at Thirteen Degrees nightclub.

The Mail also informs us: "Four months ago he was barred from The Salisbury after allegedly dancing with his shirt off before dropping his trousers and moving towards the dancefloor in front of shocked drinkers at the pub."

Think he might have just ruled himself out of ever getting a job at Upton Park...

Monday, October 19

Irons battered by Potters

Stoke City 2 West Ham 1

After last season’s bank holiday fiasco involving an enforced change at Derby to wait for a one-carriage train to Stoke, it’s reassuring to find that the Virgin Pendolino only takes one hour and 20 minutes from London to Stoke. Indeed it's surprising we haven't been linked with Virgin Pendolino, whom Nani probably thinks is a chaste but speedy Italian midfielder.

There’s even time to check out some family history and visit the house my mum was born in. So it’s down the London Road and past the oatcake shop and chippy and the former pottery turned into a park. It’s quite a posh house for Stoke, in that it’s semi-detached and has a garden, rather than a yard. My grandfather was a regular at Stoke and today I’m meeting my mum’s cousin Terry for an expedition in to the Boothen End.

We’re fortified by several pints of “Peddy” (Marston’s Pedigree) in the The Gardeners Retreat, accompanied by City slickers Keith (a closet Port Vale fan) Darren, Mark, and 78-year-old Arsenal turned Stoke fan Vinny. The landlord Ken’s appears to be their version of Carol; they seem quite upset that at the bar he was sociable instead of his usual irascible self. Everyone is mystified why Tuncay can’t get in the side, although they say Etherington gets kicked out of games just like he did for us.

Nigel texts to say that he’s also in Staffordshire at Burton versus Barnet checking out the great Gary Breen in the Barnet defence.

Then it’s a walk down the canal past local sights such as the Incinerator Plant and on to the Britannia, built on the site of an old coal mine.

It’s a pleasure to be in a ground with a proper old-style atmosphere, and the choruses of Delilah and When the Reds go Marching In are certainly intimidating. There’s a bloke in front of us who says long rambling sentences in a thick Potteries accent and I can’t understand a word so I just nod a lot and try not to sound like a soft cockney bastard.

After 10 minutes we’re one down. Fuller backheels it into the path of Matty Etherington (remember him?) and Faubert brings him down for a penalty. It’s a rash challenge and another sign that Faubert is not a natural defender, Beattie pummels the ball into the roof of the net. A winger at right back? Why why why Clarke and Zola?

But slowly we come back into it. Upson receives a kick in the head fro Shawcross but recovers after treatment for a cut. Cole wins a corner and Sorenson hesitates and the unmarked Upson heads home.

The Stoke lads graciously admit that we’re the better team. We’re passing it around very nicely in midfield. Kovac looks very good against Stoke, getting his foot in and playing it simple to his fellow blonde Behrami. With Noble and Collison in support we’re putting together all the passing against the likes of the pedestrian Delap. But it’s no use if we can’t get the ball in the net.

After the break we continue to pass them to death. Diamanti wins a couple of free kicks and has a couple of speculative shots but you still wonder if he’s a show pony or a proper support striker. There are glimpses of ability but not enough to truly support Cole. A fine pass from Behrami puts Cole in on goal but the impressive Shawcross makes a fantastic saving tackle.

But sure enough it’s the direct approach that produces results after 68 minutes. Upson lunges for the ball and goes to ground as Fuller waltzes round him and down the right. Green parries the flying Potter’s shot but Beattie shows more desire than Faubert to get the ball and pokes it into the net, before celebrating in front of us by kicking the advertising hoardings.

“You can stick your fucking bubbles up your arse!” chorus the Stoke fans.

We continue to pass it around and Zola brings on Hines and Stanislas. It’s a great contest between Cole and Shawcross and generally Tomkins has played well at the back. As we’re about to pump a free kick into their box Upson is whacked in the face by Huth. All the officials miss what should have been a red card and a penalty.

Fuller makes another fine run down the right, beating Tomkins but crossing inaccurately. Franco comes on for a couple of minutes but we never really threaten to break down the door and forgive me Delilah, I just couldn't take any more.

I’m back at Euston by 7.20, which is almost quicker than going to WHU. Nigel texts to say that Breen’s Barnet have lost 2-0 and it should have been five. Matt texts to say not to worry we won't be playing Stoke next season unless we get them in the Cup.

So it’s another defeat and a rubbish start to the season. Fine points and second from bottom. But in some way’s today’s performance was encouraging in that we were the better footballing side and deserved a draw.

As Zola said afterwards, it was similar last season when we kept believing in the way we played and then the wins came. Yet it’s worrying that Upson is starting to make the odd mistake and we also need a defensively minded right-back and Diamanti or Hines to come good. But one day our passing game is going to come off and we’ll surely give someone a pasting. Although probably not Arsenal, our next opponents

Sunday, October 11

Never mind the buzz stops

West Ham striker attacked by bees… And a swarm welcome to Guillermo Franco, who played in Mexico's 4-1 won against El Salvador. The match was for halted for ten minutes after a swarm of bees took up residence in the El Salvador goal. Amazingly he avoided injury, almost a shame as it would have ranked right up there in the annals of bizarre Hammers injuries with Devonshire Flu and Steve Lomas injuring himself walking round Disneyland... Franco must pray we don't get drawn against the Bees or the Hornets in the Cup... Jest beehive, will ya.

Wednesday, October 7

Wizard of Oz?

Never thought I'd write this, but the person we're missing most is Lucas Neill. Maybe not the greatest defender ever, but he shouted a lot on the pitch and organised the rest of the defence. And if he couldn't tackle someone he'd stop them by any means necessary, giving away about three penalties a game that the refs never saw.

Plus he had that Aussie will to win. Faubert has done OK, but you sense he's too busy overlapping or thinking about Madam Bovary to dominate the defence. Yes, Neill was a greedy bastard wanting his 70k a week. But if we had any money, Lucas is one person we should have kept... instead he's now in Everton reserves.

Tuesday, October 6

Only Fools and Horses

Today's Mirror claims David Sullivan wants to buy us for a knock-down price as we owe "£45m to several different banks", "£19m to Sheffield United" and "£15m to other clubs" after signing players, and "the Hammers are also running at a loss of £20m this year after recording an operating loss of £33.6m for the financial year ending May 2008".

On the plus side we'd get Karren Brady, star of The Apprentice, and Sullivan does have a Chigwelll gaff with statues on the lawn, columns and thick carpets. And an endless supply of Daily Sport lovelies to keep Frank McAvennie happy...

Monday, October 5

Drawing drawing West Ham

West Ham 2 Fulham 2

It’s surely the first time “deforestation” has ever been mentioned in Ken’s Cafe. But it impresses my green missus. The two blokes on the table next to us are discussing carbon footprints and how it’s deforestation that is the real contributor to climate change.

“See I told you it was a ferment of intellectual debate in Ken’s before home games…” Blimey. There are geezers here who’ve seen The Age of Stupid without thinking it’s a movie about West Ham.

Our daughters Lola and Nell tuck into eggs chips and beans with salt and ketchup and white bread, while Nicola dreams of pumpkin seed salad. Nicola is berated by Carol for not buying her programme at the counter while I’m loudly denounced a “cheapskate” after asking for tap water to fill up our water bottle. I try to argue that we are saving plastic and carbon by refusing to buy bottled water, but Carol remains unconvinced.

Big Joe arrives in his tweed racing jacket, TV star Phill Jupitus pops in and Michelle, sister of Steve Rapport (ex North Bank Norman) discusses his progress with his San Francisco eco-home. By the end of lunch I’ve convinced Nicola that Ken’s is the hottest literary salon in London, the haunt of the modern Bloomsbury Set. Apart from when we play Millwall.

In the first half we play quite well. The passing is lively and we take a deserved lead when Faubert is hacked down by Hangerland. Diamanti whips in a wicked free kick and Carlton Cole outjumps the huge Hangerland to head into the top corner.

Tomkins then misses the target with a free header from Diamanti’s corner and Hines curls a shot just wide. Johnson pulls his shot wide when through for Fulham, but we appear to be in control after Dikgacoi is sent off for an off-the-ball bout of slapping and handbags with Scott Parker. Even West Ham will beat ten men, won’t they?

Maybe it’s the throaty-voiced US wrestler they bring on at half time to do some whooping for the Hammers that upsets the lads. We’re 30 seconds into the second half when Upson wrestles Kamara to the ground in the box and it’s a penalty for Fulham. Murphy scores and the scattered outpost of Fulham fans begin to sing “We’re by the far the greatest team the world has ever seen!” Which isn’t strictly true.

Our belief goes and simple passes go astray. Ten minute later Green flaps at a Fulham corner and misses, leaving Gera to prod home. There’s only one ‘F’ in Fulham.

Upson is looking unfit after his layoff as he fluffs a couple more challenges, while Ilunga looks like he’s carrying an injury too and is failing to overlap with his customary verve. Noble is jaded, Jiminez peripheral, Hines has disappeared and Diamanti tries too many tricks. Fulham appear to be playing against ten men.

“Fulham are poopsicles!” chants eight-year-old Nell. Her mum tries to convince her to adopt a more sporting outlook. Although in her defence, Fulham clearly are poopsicles.

Nell is hiding her head inside her hood and 11-year-old Lola asks “Why do they always attack from the wrong place” as we pump high balls towards towering defenders, always try one pass too many and never get to the byline.

Lisa, the vicar’s daughter in Matt’s seat is tempted to start swearing. Fraser maintains a Zen-like detachment through chanting an internal mantra of TV and Satellite Week listings.

“There’s too much passing… It’s too technical and not enough emotion,” suggests Nicola. “And why do they never attack on the left?” Sure enough Zola agrees with her and brings on Stanislas on the left and Behrami to beef up the midfield.

The changes make a difference. Behrami gives us some energy in midfield while Junior Stanislas is an outlet on the left and isn’t scared to shoot.

“If we could clone 11 Behramis we’d be fine,” suggests Lisa.

But it seems inevitable we’re going to lose as the part-timers head for the tube. I tell the kids to have faith, it’s never over until the fat bloke leaves, and others things I don’t really believe.

Four minutes of injury time. Come on you Irons! Stanislas shoots on the left, the ball takes a crazy deflection and veers into the net. Yes! It’s 2-2, but being West Ham we contrive to nearly ruin my kids' Academy day out again. Green rushes several acres out of his goal, loses the ball and loss the ball to Eddie Johnson, who looks certain to score, but ably held up by Upson before prodding lamely wide. Phew.

“Why was Robert Green trying to play on the pitch?” asks a bemused Nell.

At least we haven’t lost. We’ve played rubbish in the second half, but it’s the sort of game we’d have lost in the Roeder relegation season. I still think we’ll be OK if we keep the team together as the fixtures in the second half of the season are much kinder. Although on this evidence it’s starting to get worrying…

Friday, October 2

Suicide is painless

Interesting to see that Phil Brown and Hull City's players apparently talked a woman out of committing suicide as she was about to jump off the Humber Bridge.

Let's hope our lads don't ever go for a walk via the River Leato achieve what Phil Brown terms "clarity"… I've been tempted to jump off the Abbey Mills bridge myself, mumbling "Ferdinand, Lampard, Cole, Defoe, Johnson, Carrick…"

Thursday, October 1

Feed the Hare and he will score…

Nice to see Marlon Harewood score his first goal since April 2008 for Newcastle last night. Always had a soft spot for Marlon since the FA Cup semi-final winner against Boro and for the fact he described himself as "a kitchen fitter" when playing away and caught by the News of the World…

Wednesday, September 30

Welcome to Manchester

Manchester City 3 West Ham 1

It’s a trip to my mate Robert’s house to watch the game on ESPN and enjoy the delights of Ray Stubbs and Kevin Keegan on Setanta-lite. Robert’s son Bruno warms us up with 40 minutes of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. All those hapless Jedis being cut down by vulture droids is good preparation for watching WHU.

The Force is not with us, as Upson’s out again and we have the very inexperienced partnership of debutant Jedi knight Da Costa and James Tomkins in central defence. If only we still had Collins. Jiminez is back though and Diamanti starts too, with Kovac replacing the injured Collison.

It takes five minutes for Petrov to cross from the left and the bizarrely unmarked Tevez to sweep the ball home. Carlitos then shows his class by apologizing to the West Ham fans, raising his hand and then making a praying gesture. He later says "part of me will always be a Hammer". And one day we'll sign him back, probably when he's 40. Adebayor take note.

Time to break open the Whitstable Bay Organic Ale as it promises to be a long night. Tevez almost scores two more and we’re looking second best, but then in our first real attack we equalise. Kovac’s shot is probably drifting wide but Cole cleverly backheels it home.

Our lead only lasts eight minutes before Jiminez slightly shoves a City player and Petrov fires the free kick through the wall and into the net. Green should probably have done better, despite otherwise playing well.

It should be 2-2 when Carlton quite legitimately tussles with aristocratic cad Sir Joleon Lescott (see Observer Sport Monthly's very funny guide to footballers who should have been in 19th century novels) to win the ball and cross for Parker to sidefoot home. But unfortunately the man in black is Darth Vader and he blows for a foul.

We improve after the break, while Green makes a good save from Barry. But there’s no excuse for City’s third. From Bellamy’s (remember him?) free-kick, three City players are unmarked on the right and Tevez heads home. Sticking with your man appears to be very last year.

We show more spirit towards the end. Diamanti (an individualist or our great hope?) has a shot deflected wide for a corner and then has an excellent curling shot tipped over by Given.

But it could have been more for City and even Zola describes himself as “angry” at our under-performing. We have some good players, but so did the Roeder side that went down. We’re in the bottom three and now have to beat Fulham to start our season. I’d ditch Kovac, pray that Upson returns, make Diamanti play further up the field and unleash the pace of Hines at the Fulham defence. And maybe Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo too. Although knowing us we'll probably sign Annakin Skywalker.

Zamora will score of course, and probably Konchesky and Paintsil too, but we have to get a result if the WHU Empire is to strike back. We need A New Hope.

Friday, September 25

Where's our money gone?

Today's Standard claims that Scott Duxbury and Gianluca Nani paid some of the dosh owed to Franco's agent out of their own salaries, so bad is the financial situation at West Ham. In which case put me down for a tenner towards our next signing… I'll gladly sacrifice a couple of meals at Ken's Cafe for the cause.

You have to admire Nani and Duxbury's commitment, although the fact we're so skint is hugely worrying and suggests Upson, Cole and Green may be sold in the next window unless we find a buyer.

Oh for a fit and proper person... or even an unfit and improper person with some dosh.

Or failing that the nationalisation of a much-loved but ailing institution might just save the election for Gordon Brown. He could even promise to curb the players' win bonuses safe in the knowledge that we never have to pay them anyway.

Wednesday, September 23

Concentrating on the league

Bolton 3 West Ham 1 (after extra time) Carling Cup

Oh well. At least we don't mind getting banned from the Carling Cup now as we've done it ourselves. Their defender made a hash of Diamanti's corner for Ilunga to sneak in and tap home, but it's a worry that another goal was conceeded from a set piece for their late headed equalizer.

We took it to extra time, Diamanti hit the bar and it was good to see Bondz N'Gala make his debut. Cahill's goal was unstoppable and apparently we missed several chances.

We might have known Elmander would score the third. It's a football law that any player or team on a terrible run is certain to end it against West Ham. It was his first goal in 23 games and his first this year. We resurrected Nick Barmby's career after he scored a hat-trick against us and we've probably saved Elmander's season too.

Now for that FA Cup trail to glory...

Mersey beat

West Ham 2 Liverpool 3

Getting to West Ham is a marathon not a sprint. With no District Line tubes it’s a two-mile walk down West Ham Lane from Stratford station, taking in the ornamental Gardens of West Ham Park and the environs of Plashett Road before relaxing with an isotonic mug of tea in Ken’s Café. Matt’s back from Australia, which he found marginally easier than yomping from Canning Town.

It’s almost our first choice line-up with Behrami and Ilunga back and Diamanti playing behind the front two. Will the man from Diamanti be the new Di Canio? Zola says he has “crazy eyes”.

“Well, they say that Diamantis are forever” quips Matt.

We start well. In the second minute Cole challenges for the ball, the speedy Zavon Hines moves in to dispossess a dithering Carragher, he rounds Reina and hits the post. Should he have scored? Maybe, but it was a tight angle looking at the replay.

The Scousers soon show us their class. Gerrard plays Benayoun in with a fine ball but Yossi shoots straight at Green, and then Torres athletically volleys wide after another incisive move. Everything is going through Mascherano in midfield.

“He’s not fit to lace Hayden Mullins’ boots,” I mutter.

“He wouldn’t make it as understudy to Carl Fletcher,” suggests Nigel.

Liverpool take the lead after 20 minutes. Hines’ pass in midfield is intercepted by Mascherano who finds Torres on the left edge of the box. The Spaniard bamboozles Tomkins with a shuffle, outpaces him and then fires into the net from an acute angle, beating Green at his near post. A brilliant goal, but some naïve defending. Upson is injured trying to tackle Torres and Behrami’s sciatic nerve is playing up, so both players are replace by Gabbidon and Kovac.

But there’s still hope with Hines outpacing the Liverpool defence and finding 57 varieties of ways to make Carragher look slower than a District Line tube.

Carlton finds Hines on the left and he outpaces Carragher who brings him down for a clear penalty. Diamanti, who’s looked skilful throughout, shows an appetite for the big occasion by grabbing the ball and chipping the ball into the centre of the net. Or did he slip as he took the penalty and kick the ball with both feet? We don’t care, it went in.

Only 12 minutes later Liverpool get a corner, Gerrard rises to easily above Kovac and Kuyt prods home. Typical West Ham. But this is proving an exhilarating gamer. Skrtel brings down Hines and Diamanti’s free kick is deflected wide for a corner.

As half-time approaches a distraught Matt watches Noble jog up to the corner flag. “We’ll never score from this, they haven’t even sent Gabbidon up,” complains Mystic Matt.

Noble’s corner swings into the box and Carlton Cole gets between three defenders to head into the corner. Let’s hope we never send Gabbidon up again.

There’s still time for Mascherano to be booked for bringing down the effervescent Hines. Rarely can a young player making his home debut have exposed international defenders to such devastating effect. 2-2 at half-time and a great game.

The second half can’t possibly match the first and Liverpool appear to have kicked Hines out of the game. But it's encouraging to see Gabbidon making last-ditch challenges as of old, Parker is still making some great tackles and the crowd are really behind the Irons. Benayoun makes a mazy dribble into our box at one end, while Parker tries to dribble through the other penalty area instead of trying a long range shot.

Diamanti isn’t forever, he’s substituted for Kieron Dyer after 65 minutes. Dyer makes a fine run from the right but turns inside instead of shooting. Reminding Matt of why he was nicknamed ‘Jigsaw’ at Newcastle, “because he went to pieces in the box”.

Then on 75 minutes Kovac misplaces a pass, Johnson has a shot blocked and the ball runs to Babel who crosses invitingly for Torres to jump between Faubert and Tomkins and score with a header into the corner. Sod it. Credit the home crowd though, that goal is immediately followed with a rousing chorus of Bubbles.

We lump it long, Cole wins the ball late on and heads across to Kovac whose header is palmed away one-handed by Reina. But you can’t see Liverpool conceding again and they don’t.

We take the long march back to Stratford. Maybe the tube closures are simply a club plot to slim down some of the jelly bellies spotted on the pitch against Millwall. “Perhaps the players had to walk as well,” I suggest, thinking it might account for our long injury list. Poor old Deano probably made it for the first 100 yards.

But we eventually find a seat in the Park Tavern in Stratford and decide there’s cause for optimism. The quality of Mersey has been strained and young Hines was, ahem, full of beans. Our defence could be blamed for all three goals and the midfield gives the ball away too often, but with a fitter Ilunga and Behrami and Jiminez, Collison, Da Costa and Franco to come in we’ll surely soon move up the league soon.

Friday, September 18

Nigel Mediocre

From today's Sun:

"MARTIN O'NEILL and Nigel Reo-Coker grappled each other to the ground in an amazing training-ground bust-up yesterday.

It followed a heated exchange between the Aston Villa manager and his midfielder and the pair eventually had to be separated by shocked players."

What a shame...

Show me the way to go home...

Very considerate of TfL to close the District Line on Saturday. It seems football matches in the E13 area have taken them by surprise.

Part-time Matt getting home from Australia was the easy part. Much more difficult is getting to WHU on a match day. My best route is maybe Stratford which looks to be about 45 minutes walk. Or should it be Forest Gate or Canning Town? Or maybe rowing down the River Lee might be an option?

General welcome for Franco

So we've completed the signing of Guillermo Franco, the 22-year-old Mexican international and ex-Villareal striker. Well, Paolo Di Canio did always insist that we needed a strong leader like Mussolini or Franco to make the training run on time.

And at least he's got a chantable name. Looks worth a punt on his record, although we should perhaps remember that Diego Tristan also looked good on YouTube... .

Pointless on the road to Wigan

Wigan 1 West Ham 0

On the TV evidence it looks as if we were a little unlucky at Wigan. The team selection is a little strange. Never sure about Kovac, and playing Gabbidon at left back, welcome as his return is, seems strange when Spector has done a relatively decent job there. Zavon Hines is in up front, and you have to say he deserves his chance for his midweek hat-trick for the reserves and that goal against Millwall. TC rates him too and he short know a short-arsed goal poacher when he sees one.

Rodallega has a deflected shot tipped over by Green in the first half, but Hines also looks to have a good case for a penalty. Bizarrely, the ref blows for half-time seconds before Carlton puts the ball in the net.

Wigan take the lead after Charles Insomnia's shot is parried by Green, only for Rodalegga to net. Poor marking on the right flank. We rally though. Parker has a shot tipped over and Tomkins fails to connect with a free header.

The man from Diamante comes and makes an instant impact, going close with a free kick and then brilliantly turning and chipping a shot against Wigan’s post. Exactly the sort of flair we’ve been missing. It’s also really great to see Behrami come on as a sub.

We’ve lost, but at least against Liverpool we should have Collison back, Illunga and Behrami available and Diamante on from the start.

Friday, September 11

Two lions

Robert Green and Matthew Upson shaded it as my joint men of the match against Croatia. Green did well to make a double save for Croatia's goal, but was let down by some Gary Breen-style defending, while Upson was dependable and made telling tackles.

Now all Capello needs to do is to bring in a third Hammer, the lethal goal-scoring machine that is Carlton Cole, (at least he's lethal compared to Emile Heskey) and we'll win the World Cup in South Africa.

Wednesday, September 9

Joy of six

Uber Fan Mike reports from his Blackberry on WHU reserves' rout of Birmingham last night:

"Birmingham side were kids but: Hines got a hat trick! Diamanti is so skilled and active, like Tevez but a bit more pace, and can deliver free kick goals, (2 in fact). Valon is really back on form attacking and defending, and Quashie and Da Costa kept the midfield boiling. Nouble is like Heskey, fast attacking bruiser, and perfect partner for Hines. Diamanti played behind them and never stopped. The other new boys were OK, Stech very shaky. Young Zola warmed up but didn't get on. It was a new team though. Well done Zola!"

Thursday, September 3

I don't want to go to Chelsea

Chelsea have been banned from signing any new players until January 2011 by Fifa, having been found guilty of inducing teenager Gael Kakuta to breach his contract with Lens.
Is it too much to hope Sheffield United and Wigan might find a reason to sue them as well?

Walker's world

So ex-Iron Jimmy Walker has signed for Spurs. To judge by his legendary programme notes in 'Walkers's World', he must be going as a fifth columnist. Jimmy will surely undermine Spurs' morale and destroy their season through ridiculing the Totts' stars' dodgy gear, any player "having himself" and Harry's dodgy pants... Gertcha!

Life after debt?

“West Ham stare into financial black hole,” reads the Guardian today. The full extent of the Magnusson/Gudmundsson era’s progfligacy has been revealed in West Ham’s accounts for 2007-08. We made a loss of £37.4 million and wages of £63.3 million were 77.67 per cent of turnover. What’s more, West Ham was only kept out of administration by the goodwill of its bankers, despite covenant breaches on a £20 million loan.

Finance director Nick Igoe fingers the signing of Ljungberg, Bellamy and Dyer: "West Ham United purchased three high-profile players in 2007-08 at a combined cost of £20m with total annual wages in excess of £12m. Those players made 36 starting appearances between them in the season." The signings of Boa Morte, Neill, Upson, Quashie and Davenport presumably all added to that drain.

"It is clear with the benefit of hindsight that not all of the investment undertaken in the playing squad in the period under review was prudent," declares Igoe. This seems to be accountantspeak for “blimey mate, we’re Brassic”.

Igoe added: “A business strategy which relies on the goodwill of the group's bankers to waive covenant breaches is fundamentally flawed.”

Plus we owe Sheffield United £21 million payable over four years.

Hopefully the club is now much better run and the 2008-09 figures wil be much better. The removal from the wage bill of the likes of Ljungberg, Bellamy, Ferdinand, Etherington, Harewood, Reo-Coker, Neill, Collins, Zamora, McCartney and co will surely help. But the thought remains, was there no-one around capable of saying no to Guddmundsson and Eggert the Egg Man?

It all makes it much more likely that we will have to be sold to the likes of David Sullivan. At least he might liven up the programme…

Farewell Ginge

Sad to see James Collins go to Aston Villa for £5 million. At least we kept Upson, Green and Cole, but Collins has been outstanding in all three league games this season and Villa have profited from our financial problems.

During his first season under Pardew he looked good in the air but sometimes vulnerable on the ground. But during the Great Escape under Curbishley he was fantastic at the back and just as big a reason for staying up as Carlos Tevez. His finest game was at Old Trafford during that epic 1-0 win. A proper centre half who attacks the ball in the air and is not afraid to hoof it.

Admittedly we have Tomkins ready to step in and Gabbidon is fit again and maybe one day Davenport might play again. But if Ginge was simply sold for financial reasons you can't help feeling that perhaps we should have kept Collins, not signed Kovac and sold a few more fringe players.

There you go Savio

So we've exchanged Savio Nserako for Portugeezer defender Manuel Da Costa from Fiorentina plus £3 million. If Da Costa is any good it might prove decent business as we get 50 per cent of any sell-on fee on Savio. Da Costa has Champions League experience with PSV and thankfully lots of comic possibilities if it all goes wrong with a name like Manuel (West Ham's Fawlty Towers at the back anyone?).

But basically it seems we wasted £5 million of the Bellamy money on Savio, despite all the spin about giving him Di Canio's number 10 shirt. He's had problems settling which seems to mean he was homesick. For all Nani's vaunted skills in the market, he should perhaps have predicted that a Ugandan-born kid raised in Germany then playing in Italy might find it a little difficult to adapt to Chadwell Heath, Ken's Cafe and the Congestion Charge. Maybe we should re-employ Jermain Defoe to show our new signings how to meet Danielle Lloyd and Chantelle Houghton in Faces?

Savio had potential, as we saw with his swerving shot that made Collison's goal against Man City, but what we should have done is spend the money on a proven Premier League striker last January and that way we might have made the Europa League.

Wednesday, September 2

Boring boring West Ham

Blackburn 0 West Ham 0

Breaking news: A weekend passes with no stabbings of players, no tragic deaths and no riots featuring lardy-bellied geezers from the football (pie) factory. On Sky Sports News Phil Thompson is supposed to be monitoring the match but is hopelessly disracted by the Liverpool game at Bolton.

We nearly score when Carlton bundles his way through but then fires over when well placed. They have a decent penalty claim turned down. Upson and Collins have fine games. Kieron makes it on to the pitch in the second half. Sam Allardyce looks ever more like a grumpier Les Dawson. And that's about it really. But after the week we've had, normality, tedium and an away point is welcome.

Saturday, August 29

Diamanti geezer

So we've signed a second striker at last. Although rather embarrassingly Alessandro Diamanti (18 goals in Serie B last season) could only be bought for around £4 million from Livorno thanks to an "advance" from sponsors SBOBET. Clearly they thought he was worth a punt.

You wonder if we had to hand over the players' Rolexes and Baby Bentleys as security. For our next signing we may have to visit the pawn shop near me on Seven Sisters Road...

Friday, August 28

I Predict a diet

The Daily Mail blames all the Millwall trouble on the film Green Street. Could Elijah Wood and a mockney accent really do that?

And the other thought is that to judge by the pictures of the pitch invaders the Green Street Elite are not so elite any more, just a bit well, fat. Come and have a go if you think you're lardy enough...

So that's what a lifetime of eating all the pies and dining at Belly Busters does for you... they look like they should take on the F-Plan diet rather than Millwall's F-Troop.

Wednesday, August 26

I Predict a riot

West Ham 3 Millwall 1 (aet)

What a bloody week. After Davenport's stabbing and the death of Jack's dad comes riots and pitch invasions against Millwall. "YOBS" reads the back page of the Sun, along with "thugs drag soccer back into the gutter". A relief to have been on holiday for this one and would it have been worth going anyway? You have to say that maybe all West Ham versus Millwall games should perhaps now be played behind closed doors.As it is, we risk expulsion from the Carling Cup after such scenes

Yes, a section of the Millwall support are horrible, but there's no excuse for the pitch invasions or the supporters who stayed outside all game rucking. Tottenham was acceptable banter between the fans, but this was war with two stabbings, brickings and more.

On the pitch it was positive to see Junior influence the game (although that sprint to the fans after scoring was inadvisable in such an atmosphere) and Gabbidon got through a full match after two years' out. Zavon Hines also scored a tasty goaland might help solve part of our striking problem.

But the only true bravery on display last night came from Jack Collinson who played two days after the death of his father in a motor bike crash and left the pitch in tears. That took courage, unlike joining in with the rival firms.

Monday, August 24

Mugged by lasagna-eaters

West Ham 1 Tottenham 2
Managed to commute from holiday in Yorkshire to see this and observe the lesser-spotted Shane Barber, ex of On A Mission fanzine in Ken's Cafe, and have a live text conversation with Matt in Melbourne and Nigel in France. Mike O'Brien is there too, name-droping about his trip to Beijing (does the Slverlink go that far?). Welcome to the global game.

In the first half Spurs hit the bar through King but we come right back into it. A stupendous goal from Carlton puts us ahead, swivelling on the edge of the box to volley home an unstoppable shot. A direct result of Zola telling him to shoot more.

We played well, overall, but our lack of depth was exposed when you looked at the benches. On the positive front Faubert looked a lot better at right back, Spector battled hard while out of position, Stanislas created what should have been a goal for Cole by skinning Corluka and Parker had a great game. Jiminez looks really skillful, can kill a ball instantly and was unlucky not to score with a header.

The Gav left at 1-1 because his dog's paw had been run over by a cyclist and he'd left it alone at home eating pigs' ears, which brings me to Carlton's pig's ear of a back pass to sodding Jermain that changed the game. Did he think they were still playing together for England? At least CC looked genuinely hurt by his error and otherwise tormented Spurs, who still look like a potential top four side.

A shame about Spector's semi-error for Lennon's winner but at least we kept going and Collison had a late toe-poke at Cudicini. But we desperately need a fit Ilunga and a second striker...over to you, Franco.

Calum Davenport

Best wishes to Calum Davenport after the horrendous stabbing at the weekend, apparently by his sister's boyfriend who has been charged with GBH. Calum's mother was also stabbed and whoever did it is a pathetic coward and will hopefully have plenty of time to reflect on this in jail, where they won't be very popular with any WHU supporters. Get well son, Calum

Sunday, August 16

No one likes them... we don't care

Been watching Green Street after the Carling Cup draw against Millwall, only sadly it seems few of our middle-class home crew are standing their ground. Nigel's in France, Matt's scarpered to Australia and yours truly will be in Saltaire, Yorkshire. So it looks like it's down to Fraser and the Gav to hold the East Stand...

Freddie and the dreamers

It seems 12-year-old Freddie Sears is destined never to score again after his debut winner against Blackburn. His 'goal' against Bristol City for Palace recalled another legendary non-goal 'scored' for Palace by Clive Allen. Even Zola might have used a mild expletive after that piece of myopia...

Still, almost worth it to see Warnock lose it so comprehensively...

Wolves tamed

Wolves 0 west Ham 2

We're walking Hadrian's Wall. Just after we've reached Carlisle and settled down to a Roman pizza, Nigel leaves a message to say we're joint top of the league. We've won 2-0 at Wolves, a great start for the Irons' legions and Wolves thrown into the Vallum.
Hammers for the title anyone?

I have to watch MOTD in mute mode as we're in a family hotel room and the kids are asleep but the evidence is encouraging. Nobes' strikes a fantastic shot into the top corner for our opener and then Green makes several great saves. Dyer (remember him?) has a shot cleared off the line and Collison has another effort saved before Upson rises unmarked to head home from a set piece. Oh, and someone called Faubert played. Mick McCarthy looks like a downcast extra from Brassed Off and Zola's grin illuminates the silent screen. And whatever Shearer is saying, it's better in mute.