Friday, March 27

Just another maniac on Monday

From an interview with Radoslav Kovac on

'Kovac also stated that the club is in a better place without striker Craig Bellamy who left for Manchester City in January.

The midfielder never played with the Welshman for the Hammers and states that he is only going off what his team-mates have told him.

"They are glad he is not in the team. They say he is a maniac," he explained.

"He shouted at everyone who did not pass the ball to him in training, it was crazy. His departure has been a positive thing for the players."'

Monday, March 23

We'll play the wild Rovers no more…

Blackburn 1 West Ham 1

Arriving home from the playground at Finsbury Park expecting a dour 2-0 defeat it’s a pleasant surprise to find we’ve garnered another away point on our march toward the Europa Cup.

Match of the Day reveals that although Blackburn have had most of the game we’ve defended stoutly (the influence of Steve Clarke?) and broken away to take the lead.

Noble makes a great tackle in his own half to race forward to play the ball wide to Luis Boa Morte. The Boa finds Tristan who lays the ball off to Nobes who with the outside of his foot slides the ball into the corner of the net. Boa Morte might be marginally offside in the build-up but Sam Allardyce seems to think it’s an injustice right up there with the UK sanctioning torture.

Rovers equalise early in the second half when a clearance falls nicely for Andrews to shoot home first-time. Diouf has two “goals” disallowed for offside, both correctly. And at the end Kieron Dyer (remember him?) on as a late sub, has his shirt pulled and is hauled to the ground in the penalty area. The referee ignores a clear penalty.

Overall a great point for the Hammers, without our spine of Cole, Upson, Collins, Behrami and Collison. What’s most pleasing is that James Tomkins is starting to mature and take responsibility at the back with one goal conceded in four games and we’ve blooded another Academy product in Josh Payne. The downside is that the Observer’s fan at the game gave Diego Tristan three out of ten and he’s surely a veteran signing too far.

And at least no-one has sued us today, as yet. Admittedly Fulham threatened to get their writs out on Friday, but Neil Warnock claims in the Indie that he simply told reporters that he would consider the legal implications of the Tevez judgement, so might not proceed.

The writs might hit the fans, but we keep marching on to a Europa tour minus XL flights. Carlton Cole and James Collins will be available for our next game against the Mackems, and maybe even Kieron Dyer if he doesn’t trip over an isotonic sports drink in training…

Wednesday, March 18

Anarchy in the UK

West Ham got it spot on in the club statement: "As a club we will strongly resist any attempts to prolong this matter through the courts both to protect our interests and those of the wider game. There is a lot more at stake than the finances of West Ham United and we will do all we can to stop this matter ending in a form of legal anarchy."

Surely any money owed to the players should come from Sheffield United's pay-out? The Guardian has a list of 20 players who might claim today. Does anyone think that the likes of Alan Quinn, Christian Nade and Nick Montgomery would have had lengthy careers in the Premier League? Will handsome Paddy Kenny be sueing over lost image rights?

And now good old Ken Bates, the most popular chairman in football, wants his cut as Sheffield United paid less for players signed from Leeds after relegation. And we all know where he can stick both his blue flag and his white one…

Tuesday, March 17

Statement on Sheffield United settlement

After the out-of-court settlement between West Ham United and Sheffield United Pete May has agreed that it is time to move on and bring the matter to an end.

Mr May said: "For everyone concerned, the time is right to draw a line under this whole episode. West Ham have had very positive discussions over a number of days with Sheffield United and acknowledge their willingness to resolve this in the best interests of both clubs, even if they are a bunch of money wasting litigious ambulance-chasers.

"This now allows me to concentrate on my immediate ambitions, which include seeing West Ham field 11 fit players and finishing above Spurs, without any negative impact on the long-term WHU project of total world domination. I wish Sheffield United well in their bid to secure promotion from the Championship and certainly no huge injury lists, outrageous last-minute own-goal defeats or ghost goals awarded against them by Mr Attwell.

“Throughout the finalisation of the terms for the agreement, the discussions were friendly, co-operative and in the best of spirit with both the Blades and Hammers advisory teams although it might be best if they avoid Ken’s Café for a bit.

"West Ham and Sheffield United are two clubs with a fantastic footballing history who now want to move on and focus on the business of playing football - hopefully for Sheffield United in the Blue Square Premier in a few years time. We look forward to a positive ongoing relationship with Sheffield United at all levels and hope they enjoy their thirty pieces of silver."

Whingeing whingeing Warnock

No end to the Tevezgate saga then. The papers put the figure we're paying at variously £15 million and £20 million plus a £5 million bond if we get a new owner, spread over five years, rather than the one-off payment the tribunal might have insisted on.

And now Neil Warnock is mouthing off in the Daily Mail saying he'll sue Hammers for £500,000. While all the Sheffield players might also be claiming for £500,000 each too.

Warnock says of the Premier League boss Richard Scudamore: "Scudamore's a disgrace. I'd love to get him in a room on my own for an hour." And I guess a lot of West Ham fans would like to get Neil Warnock in a room on his own for an hour too.

You've got your money you whingeing windbag Warnock and you lost to Wigan on the final game, nothing to do with Carlos Tevez. Then you resigned and went to work for Robbie Savage lookalike Simon Jordan. Life's unfair. Get over it.

Hopefully if all these legal shenanigans continue we will counter-sue. If Sheffield United get promoted this season then we could surely argue that they owe us money for ensuring they were relegated and then rebuilt the club on a sound basis in the Championship.

And maybe instead of giving Warnock £500k we could simply offer him a job for life as the club chiropodist where he'd spend the rest of his career cutting Deano's toenails.

Drawing drawing West Ham

West Ham 0 West Bromwich Albion 0

Somehow you know we’ll struggle to beat the bottom of the table Albion, even if Adrian Chiles doesn’t know what he’s doing. Collins, Collison and Behrami are out and Cole is suspended, meaning we’re down to seven-year-old Freddie Sears up front and Kovac and Savio in midfield.

Still, in Ken’s Café Matt has his medals on the table. He just happens to be carrying the medal he won for an NUJ side that thrashed the Morning Star (a whole side of left wingers) in a penalty shoot-out by a nuclear power station. Matt scored the first penalty in the shoot-out and attributes his mental toughness to years of watching Tomas Repka.

Mind you, Nigel has edged ahead in the work trivia quiz, identifying the side with five former England captains (Southampton in 1982). On our way into the East Stand Matt is trying to name all the players who have returned to West Ham, and we come up with Cottee, Dicks, and, erm, that’s about it, not that we’re sad Statto bastards

As we enter the ground Matt makes a dash for the recycling bins behind the East Stand, proving that football fans are now irredeemably middle class. Maybe that's why the ICF hate Millwall so much, they failed to separate their paper and bottles.

“There aren’t many household names,” says Matt, scanning the WBA squad in the programme.

“And that Fortune’s always hiding,” I quip, spotting that Marc-Antoine Fortune is up front for the Baggies.

WBA are the livelier side from the off, and you can see how thin our squad is since the transfer window. If only we had Ashton, Gabbidon and Dyer, but with their injury records you doubt if any of them will play again with any regularity.

Fortune slices into the side-netting. Lucas Neill escapes punishment for a crafty shove in the penalty area. Morrison waltzes past Tomkins and co and looks certain to score before Green pulls off a fine stop with his legs.

After 29 minutes Upson goes down with a calf problem and is stretchered off, to be replaced by Spector with Neill moving to centre back. Five first-teamers out now.

We produce little. Kovac doesn’t look up to it and plays too close to Parker and Noble. Savio provides a brief spark, Noble almost beats Carson and Sears has a couple of efforts blocked, but without Cole we lack all focus up front and Di Michele is having a mare, playing far too deep, then dribbling into trouble and losing possession.

At half-time Fraser note that Zola has said he’s targeting ninth spot as we finished tenth last season. Even though we’re seventh.

“So in ten years we’ll be Champions,” suggests Nigel.

The second half sees us holding on. In fact, considering the injuries, we’ll be pleased with a point.

Martis hits our bar with a header after Robert Green is felled by Jonas Olsson’s elbow. The ref misses the incident, but thankfully Green, a man who knows about the warrior spirit from reading Homer, rises Odysseus-like from the assault by the Cyclops to manfully steer us towards Ithaca, or at least survival.

Stanislas replaces Savio and has a promising debut, putting in several good crosses, the best of which is headed wide by Di Michele. At least Freddie Sears puts in unrelenting effort on his lone role up front.

“What the f**k was that?” hollers the vicar’s son next to me as Di Michele hopelessly slices a volley that goes out for a throw-in. “Take him off! What is Di Michele for?”

Late on Greening is through but chips over both Green and the bar. We’re lucky they’re so rubbish. Mercifully the three minutes of stoppage time ends.

“The unbeaten run continues,” beams Fraser. “Three clean sheets in a row!”

We head to the Central where Nigel’s mate Mesh is waiting and we’re eventually joined by Matt’s mate Peggsy, a rigger from Setanta. This man can tell us about Northwich Victoria and the gantry at Grays FC, earning instant respect from our firm.

Still, we’re on 40 points and virtually certain to stay up even if we lose our final nine games. We’d have taken that after the Everton defeat. Seven points from the last three matches. The game’s been strangely satisfying in a masochistic kind of way. We haven’t played well but in an injury-ravaged side the likes of Tomkins, Spector, Parker and Green have shown huge character to scrap for a point. Even Boa got cheered when he came on and helped us dig in.

Meanwhile there’s a bizarre new boxing machine in the corner of the Central. You pay your cash and belt a punchbag to measure the speed of your punch. A couple of West Ham fans belt it between pints of Stella. Who needs the ICF? You wonder if Tony Mowbray might be tempted to come in and use it. If ever there was a chance for Albion to get three points it was tonight.

Monday, March 16

Tevezgate: the endgame

So we've finally reached a settlement with Sheffield United over the Jarndyce and Jarndyce (sorry, Tevez and Tevez) case... Looks like we'll pay £15 million over five years, which is frankly better than the early figures of £45 million.

It still seems utterly farcical that the case should rest on what "oral cuddles" were given and whether one player can single-handedly win games. And the Premier League must surely take much of the blame for allowing third-party owned players to play here in the first place and then having no clear policy on the issue... we're paying the price for their lack of leadership. The law is not so much an ass as a Tony-Adams-sized Donkey.

Meanwhile Gudmundsson has been given a further three months to try to sell the club by the Icelandic bankrupcy courts. Once owners were custodians of clubs. What this case illustrates is the idiocy of rich men from overseas trying to buy our footballing heritage and offering used third-party owned players as sweeteners... and then the club being sold to a different foreign owner who promises untold wealth and Champions League football only to become brassic from owning a toxic bank.

The safeguards are much more effective in Germany and Spain. Anyone concerned about our game should read David Conn's excellent The Beautiful Game?

Nice to see that Sheffield United's chairman Kevin McCabe said: "We are happy and satisfied with the settlement with West Ham.

"Throughout the finalisation of the terms for the agreement, the discussions were friendly, co-operative and in the best of spirit with both the Blades and Hammers advisory teams."

Yes, quite. Although having once paid in £300 from the penny collection at my daughters' school (we had to take it to the bank in plastic dustbins) you do wonder if we could pay the entire £15 million in one and two pence pieces...

Friday, March 6

Seventh heaven

Wigan 0 West Ham 1

Put the kids to bed and then check BBC’s live text coverage of the Premier League. West Ham have gone a goal up thanks to Carlton Cole and “what a goal it was” enthuses reviewer Caroline Cheese (is that her real name?). Downstairs to the living room to turn on Sky Sports News and discover the anchor man announcing, “Carlton Cole who scored and was then sent off”. Merde.

The second half starts with bulletins from the square, automoton-like figure of Iain Dowie in headphones and mouthpiece, looking more than ever like the Cyber Controller. It’s all Wigan at the start, then there’s talk of a “horror tackle” by Lucas Neill and the news that Wigan’s Lee Cattermole has been sent off too. Good. Ten versus ten. Dowie seems to think the ref should be deleted.

Surely we can’t win again? But as the bulletins from the JJB arrive the Cyberman is enthusing about the defending of Upson, Tomkins, Neill and Ilunga. Although Collison has gone off with a horrible knee injury.

But late on Noble goes close as Dowie is in danger of overriding the emotional inhibitor in his chest panel and then Lopez of all people has another chance at the death. And after some six minutes of injury time we’ve won. We have 39 points and could probably lose out final ten games and still stay up. Quite an achievement, as relegation looked a huge threat during Zola’s early days.

On Match of the Day our goal is an amazing nine-pass move of first-time balls. It’s everything Zola has been trying to instill in the side. A great one-two between Di Michele and Cole results in the rejuvenated striker curling the ball into the corner. We need a plan B when our passing doesn’t work, but when it comes off like this it’s sublime. Just like watching Holland’s Total Football minus the dodgy shirts.

Cole’s sending off is undeserved. He seems to play the ball in the first challenge and has his eyes on the ball when he makes a high challenge near a defender’s head. A free-kick maybe, but a little common sense and a talking to would have been the reaction of a more experienced referee than 26-year-old Stuart Attwell. Ironic, as earlier a great ball from Collison has sent Cole though and he’s too honest to dive as the keeper rushes out.

Neill should have gone too for an over-the-top lunge. The Cattermole sending off is deserved after he clatters Scott Parker. It’s good to see Scotty so angry throughout the game; he cares about winning for West Ham and not the Abu Dhabi Franchise.

Collison’s knee buckles horribly with no-one around him and he’s surely out for the season. A blow, because with every game he’s reminding me of a young Michael Carrick, or even Trevor Brooking.

Mido grazes our post, but after that Noble just fails to connect with the influential Di Michele’s cross after a fine one-two with Neill, and then Nobes’ has another shot blocked.

After the game Steve Bruce deserves credit for agreeing that the Cole sending off was ridiculous. He’s far more scathing of the ref than Zola who proves he’s the nicest man in football by saying he feels sorry for poor young Private Pike, or whoever the ref was.

We’ve lost Behrami last weekend and now Collison, but hey, we’ve won away, and cemented our place in the Big Seven. Happy days — just as long as we don’t go into administration this week.

Monday, March 2

Who needs Craig Bellamy?

West Ham 1 Manchester City 0

Another ridiculous kick-off time of 12.30pm on a Sunday, with the tube down to the bare bones and no time for proper lunch. We sit in Ken’s Café with cups of tea reading the programme news that Robert Green lists The Iliad as his favourite book.

“He likes to read it Homer and away,” I tell Matt. Next we’ll discover that Tomas Repka enjoyed perusing his fellow Czech Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Inside the stadium it’s time to find out if we can find Man City’s Achilles Heel. “F*** off Craig Bellamy!” is the traditional cockney welcome for our former striker. Bellers is also having to play in an abominable luminous orange away kit with one black arm, looking more like a ground steward than a footballer. Matt suggests that "now City are owned by oil billionaires they don't have to worry about selling replica shirts", hence the railway worker chic.

City have two good early chances. Green produces a fantastic tip round the post from Robinho’s back heel, and then Bellamy nutmegs Behrami to set up an easy chance for Robinho to poke wide.

But we come back into it, even if we do, as ever, over-elaborate searching for the perfect goal. Di Michele turns brilliantly to chip in for Cole to just fail to connect, while Collison has a shot saved by Given. It’s much better than the pathetic effort on Wednesday night.

Czech Republic midfielder Kovac is in for the suspended Noble and reminds me a little of Neil Orr with his simple distribution. Mention of Orr (from the boys of ’86 side) inspires Nigel to reminisce about the time his mate Gav received a birthday card from Orr, and also the fact that Neil Orr was once canvassed for his opinion on a Scottish by-election while training on the beach at Leith. Not that he’s obsessed with football trivia.

Just before half-time Behrami goes down holding his knee after falling awkwardly. It looks bad. The stretcher comes on and he’s carried off to warm applause to be replaced by Savio.

The second half starts and it’s got 0-0 written all over it, or maybe a later winner by Bellamy. I’d be happy with a point bearing in mind the absence of Collins, Noble and Behrami. “Short greedy bastard, you’re just a short bastard!” chants the Bobby Moore Stand. But Bellers’ is playing far too deep and then goes off after 66 minutes with yet another injury, to the derision of the crowd.

We’re playing pretty well. Savio is running at people and Collison just fails to connect with Di Michele’s through ball. Di Michele messes up an easy ball on the edge of the box after doing the difficult part, but then half a minute later plays a ball out to Savio. The young Ugandan/German wideman, who comes from Kampala and is better than Ray Parlour, cuts inside and with hardly any backlift fires a vicious curler at Given. The City keeps can only parry the ball out to Collison who controls the ball to gently lob into the top of the net. Goal! We’re ahead against the richest team in the world. Never in doubt.

“Now Carlton could have hit the bar with that…” suggests Nigel. It’s Collison’s third of the season, and he’s hit the post twice too. At last we have a midfielder who might get into double figures in a full season.

We face an anxious 19 minutes. City suddenly start to create chances. Caicedo shots into the side netting when well placed then fires over the bar. Carlton Cole is battered and limping and wants to come off.

“Bring him off!” shouts Nigel. But Zola brings on Spector for Kovac, and Lopez for Di Michele. Then you see why. Cole wins my man of the match award for getting his head to two City set pieces and then, despite lumbering in the fashion of like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of Terminator, dribbling the ball into their corner and occupying three defenders.

"Think of Anvil," I tell Nigel, "Live the dream!" Deep into added time Savio concedes a free kick in Matt Taylor/Stuart Downing territory. Sod it. Elano’s shot is heading for the top corner only for Lucas Neill to head it away.

The whistle blows. We go above Wigan. We go above Fulham in our Premier League Odyssey. Soon we’ll be above FC Ithaca. We’re seventh!

Thirty six points. One more win and we’re safe. And we might even make the Uefa Cup if we finish seventh.

So it’s off to the Central to watch the Carling Cup Final at Wembley. Nice to see Spurs there. Apparently it’s a good day out for small clubs outside the Big Seven.