Sunday, January 4

Unbeaten in 2009

West Ham 3 Barnsley 0 (FA Cup)

In Ken’s Café we learn that part-timers Matt and Lisa are on a romantic mini-break in Vienna — which means nothing to me. Probably wondering if Zola will bring on the Third Man while enjoying sachertorte and melange in Cafe Central in Wien. So it’s down to Nigel, Fraser and myself to cheer the lads on our march to Wembley.

Big Joe is marooned on the train from Church Stretton after a plane crash into the train line near Rugby, but Nigel, Phill, Iain, Jo and Alastair are all to be found predicting Cup glory in their tea-leaves, that is if we’re not in administration by March.

Parker is suspended and Upson is ominously rested, but at least Bellers plays. Barnsley have virtually the whole of the lower Centenary Stand but are soon a goal down when Noble’s free kick goes right through their defence to fall to an unmarked Herita Ilunga, who sidefoots home. Matt sends a text from some museum in Vienna about “the happiness of Herita in West Ham.”

Collison misses a good chance but we go 2-0 up when Noble cleverly dribbles past two men in the area only to be brought down for our first penalty of the season, which Nobes himself dispatches. The Tykes fans content themselves with chants of “where’s your money gone?” and “Down with the Woolworth’s you’re going down with the Woolworths!”

Barnsley’s lively Spanish midfielder Diego Leon, once on the books at Real Madrid, twice hits our woodwork, once from a free kick and once after Green knocks his shot onto the post. A good signing for us in January maybe? Barnsley looks like they’re coming back into it but fade again after Leon’s efforts. Collins and Tomkins have done well at the back though.

“All we need is 42 points by the end of January plus the nine they’ll dock for going into administration,: and we’ll be fine,” I muse, still concentrating on the league.

The biggest cheer of the day comes when Kieron Dyer comes on after 16 months out with injury. We’d forgotten we had a number seven shirt at the club. Dyer immediately provides something we’ve lacked since Tevez and Yossi left, unpredictability and flair in midfield. He has an early shot wide, hits the bar and looks hungry and classy. “Maybe Man City will offer £12 million for him?” I suggest.

Cole seals the game with a glancing header from Ilunga’s cross and we have now won three in a row with cutting-edge Carlton scoring in three successive games.

The whistle blows and on the way to the tube we discuss the details of our FA Cup Final breakfast. Obviously we have to mirror the lucky play-off final victory routine exactly, so it’s round to Nigel’s in Kew and on to the game on the day. “We can probably live without staying in a Wembley hotel,” suggests Fraser, as we mentally firewall May 30 in our diaries.

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