Wednesday, May 27

You're going down with the Shearer!

West Ham 2 Middlesbrough 1

Ken’s Café is free of fry-ups at 3.30 pm on Sunday as we experience yet another kick-off time. DC arrives and then glides away to the Doctor Martens, while Matt and Lisa listen to cheers from the pub as Millwall lose to Scunthorpe. Big Phill is regaling us with tales of giving that Brian Dear and Paul Brush a lift home in the back of his cab after the End of season Gala Evening.

Boro need to win to have any hope of staying up. We have to win to finish either ninth or tenth. We have an ambient end-of-season feel to our game, but at least Cole is back up front and Zola has dropped both Di Michele and Tristan in favour of a five-man midfield.

Johnson fires over from a good position for Boro and inspires chants of “That’s why you’re going down!” Upson does well as Boro press without really threatening. Junior hits the bar with a deflected effort for WHU. Then on 33 minutes Luis Boa Morte plays a great ball through to Herita who crosses for Carlton Cole to slide the ball in to the net.

Boro come into it after the break and inevitably score. Tuncay is allowed the freedom of our area to pass to O’Neil who scores from an angle. But just to prove why they’re rubbish, Middlesbrough let us straight back. Junior Stanislas does well to shoot from the edge of the box but Bates allows his shot to squirm over the line.

“Down with the Geordies! We’re going down with the Geordies!” chant the admirably humorous Boro fans.

Luis Boa Morte has a storming game, winning tackles and running at the Boro defence, being rewarded with his own song from the Bobby Moore Stand. Who’d ever have thought it?

For the last 15 minutes Tristan and Di Michele come on to give us their full repertoire of badly weighted passes and stupid dribbles. “How shit is that? It’s like watching Laurel and Hardy!” rages the vicar’s son beside me. Kieron Dyer makes a couple of runs into their box and looks as knackered as the break-dancing 73-year-old on Britain’s Got Talent. Gav texts to ask us our orders for the Central. We wondeer if he'll be able to sit there alone with five pints, or if it will be like Poo Bear and the honey. The ground breaks into end-of-season choruses of Bubbles and "West Ham 'til I Die!"

We win and Boro go down. Their players collapse. Jeremy Nicholas plays Heroes, two clowns gather in the crowd beside the pitch (Are they Diego and David in disguise?) and it’s announced after the Doris award goes to Junior that Scott Parker is the official Hammer of the Year. Zola who's only five foot three and comes from Italy gives a speech with a feedback-inducing microphone and the lads parade around the stadium.

“It’s more a trudge of honour than a lap,” says Matt as the lads shuffle around the pitch accompanied by a banner and numerous injured stars in suits.

“We’re up a place from last season. That means we’ll win the Premier League in 2018,” I suggest to Fraser.

We adjourn to the blitz-themed beer garden at the Central where Gavin is getting the drinks in. We meet a Welsh Iron from the Valleys who now lives in Poland, over for the match. Matt presents Fraser with a designer cigar. We reflect on the likelihood of Nigel Quashie turning up in a Chadwell Heath broom cupboard over the close season. We’ve come a long way, from knowing what Dean Ashton looked like in August to relegating Boro and finishing ninth, while losing an owner, manager and sponsor. That’s good enough for us.

Thursday, May 21

Hammer of the Year

I've voted for Herita Ilunga as he's slotted in brilliantly at left-back, been consistent all season and plays with real passion and hunger. We've not missed McCartney at all, the player Curbishley resigned over. Plus he writes a good blog too and has lobbied Parliament over human rights abuses in the Congo.

Mattie Upson, Robert Green, Valon Behrami and Scott Parker were all candidates too and even Carlton Cole has been a revelation. Since Zola gave him unconditional love and a bit of shooting practice. Young players of the year are Jack Collison, who at times looked like a young Brooking and James Tomkins has been fantastic in recent weeks.

Tuesday, May 19

Mersey beat

Everton 3 West Ham 1

Everton away has an end of season feel to it. By the second half it's more interesting listening to the Hull and Newcastle dogfights on Sky Sports News. Kovac puts us ahead with an unexpected rocket from outside the box — where has he been hiding that ability?
But the game turns on the moment Tomkins concedes a penalty by tripping Cahill and the centre back is somewhat harshly sent off. Saha scores despite Green enticing him to shoot to his left by standing closer to his left post.
The unmarked Yobo fires Everton ahead from a corner after the break, but Hammers come back. Sub Carlton Cole plays a tremendous ball through to Boa Morte who shoots tamely at Howard.
The game's over when Piennar tricks Spector to send over an inviting cross for Saha to tap home his second. There's still time for Robert Green to make absolutely fantastic one-handed save late on to prevent Saha getting his hat-trick.
We've single-handedly resurrected the career of Luis Saha, who has now scored four in two games against us.
Our European dream is over, but really with Di Michele and Tristan up front it was never going to happen and hey, we've been spared 19 games to win the Europa League. Collison has returned, Carlton's played a half and next week we can officially relegate Middlesbrough. Rejoice!

Saturday, May 16

West Ham stars caught in Brewery

“This is proof that the West Ham directors can organise a piss-up in a Brewery!” quipped host Phil Jupitus (pictured with some well dodgy members of a mystery consortium trying to buy the club and install Carol from Ken's Cafe as the stadium catering manager) at the first West Ham End of Season Gale Evening held at the Brewery in Barbican. The night features old and current players mixing with fans who’d paid £250 to charity for their tickets.

Mr Jupitus’ first question to Gianfranco Zola was “Have you ever eaten the full English breakfast in Ken’s Café?” Strangely, his answer was no. Zola was adept at stand-up banter on stage and said he might leave Ken's “not having eaten anything,” before being embraced by Phill.

Ray Winstone upped the geezer quotient on a table including John Motson, Matt Lorenzo, Jeremy Nicholas and Scott Duxbury. Former stars present included Alvin Martin who’s got even less hair but we don’t care, Kenny Brown, the legendary Steve Potts, Paul Brush, Brian Dear, Malcolm Musgrove and, erm, Ray Parlour.

Tony Carr got a sort of lifetime achievement tribute and said we should be nicer to big Fat Frank as his success reflected well upon the club. Matthew Upson and James Collins were discussing golf in the gents and Freddie Sears still looked about seven at close quarters. Walter Lopez, sitting on a table of expats, appeared a little bemused by the cockney banter, but young Kevin Keen joined in a knees-up to the very enjoyable Rat Pack band. And yes, Frank Sinatra crooned Bubbles.

The only thing that was missing from the evening was an appearance by Hayden Foxe…

Friday, May 15

Boa selector

Luis Boa Morte has been called up for Portugal's training squad, prior to the World Cup qualifier against Albania. They will surely be quaking in the streets of Tirana now the Boa has returned to the world stage. Who needs Carlos Tevez, eh? First Boa got his own song and now this. Luis, we never doubted you (much).

Wednesday, May 13

He ain't Chelsea no more

The BBC has agreed to pay libel damages to Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke after Harry Harris, speaking on Five Live, "wrongly alleged they had attended an interview with the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich the previous week with a view to becoming the club's management team next season".

"The broadcast of this unfounded allegation caused Mr Zola and Mr Clarke acute distress and anxiety as it was understandably feared that it would damage their relationship with their employers and with the players and fans of West Ham United," said Zola and Clarke's brief James Quartermaine. Which seems to be legal-speak for "Stick your blur flag up your arse!"

Tuesday, May 12

Home truths

West Ham 0 Liverpool 3

It’s chaos at Mile End as numerous fans try to get on the truncated District Line trains. Planned closures for maintenance work, scheduled a year in advance, says TfL. It takes three trains before it’s possible to squeeze on board. You wonder if it might be possible for West Ham to have planned injuries. We could book Kieron Dyer in for September to May already.

Yossi receives a cheer as Jeremy Nicholas announces the teams and plays Fat Boy Slim. We would cheer Mascherano if we remembered him ever playing for us. We kick off and after 60 seconds, in horrible sallow motion, Torres plays the ball though our defence. The centre backs have stepped up, Neill hasn’t and Gerrard calmly rounds Green to score.

Fraser arrives after eight minutes citing a suspect package at Stratford (thought to be Di Michele’s shooting boots) and a late night watching the remains of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. They even performed I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (better than Frank Sinatra’s version) but sadly there was no sign of Billy Bonds doing a turn.

We improve after the early shock, Kovac heads Noble’s free kick over the bar. Amazingly, Boa Morte is causing them problems. He’s chopped by Mascherano and Alan Wiley waves play on, resulting in chants of “You’re too fat to referee!”.

Tomkins makes a superb tackle on Torres, which we all think is Moore-esque. Boa is hacked down by Mascherano again (what do you expect from a poor man’s Hayden Mullins?) and Liverpool race down the field to win a penalty. Torres heads over after a defensive mix-up, Yossi chips into the path of Torres and Boa Morte pulls his shirt. Green saves the penalty like a goalkeeping Odysseus, but the ball falls straight to Gerard who can’t miss.

Then comes our chance. Carragher air kicks in comic style, leaving Di Michele to run at goal. He hesitates like Bobby Zamora on Valium, tries to round Reina, kicks the ball against his foot, dives and gets booked for simulation. “He wanted to beat three players and then back-heel it in,” suggests Matt.

Liverpool continue to break at lethal sped in the second half. Yossi blazes a volley over, Green saves from Kuyt, Benayoun fires just wide. Boa still wins a few free kicks and Collison gets on for the final xx minutes. He plays one sublime ball to Ilunga down the left.

Di Michele seems to get the ball more than any other player, control it superbly, and then make ridiculous decisions rather than play the simple ball. “How many times? Get him off!” rages the vicar’s son beside me.

Herita (Hammer of the Year anyone?) never stops trying and with Noble is involved in our best move of the game, which ends with the hapless Di Michele firing wide. But really it’s like training game for Liverpool

“It’s a wake up call for this side,” suggests Matt. “We’ll struggle to stay up next season if all we have is Tristan and Di Michele up front,” I suggest. We need to buy at least two strikers.

Four minutes from time Babel has a header saved but scores from the rebound and the Koppites are singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

And then, because of the 5.30 kick-off, it’s time to rush to East Ham to make an Islington dinner party with Julie from Growing Communities and Polly a barrister turned environmentalist. No consideration for the chattering classes at Setanta.

We’re down to ninth, and now have to hope Parker and Cole are fit for our final two games, otherwise our obligatory tenth spot beckons.

Thursday, May 7


So Mr Gudmundsson only owes £301 million and is suffering an existential crisis.

"The situation is very bad," he told Icelandic newspaper Morgunbladid."I have everything on the line - personal liability extends to all of my assets. "I'm left with the question, what is my position? I must admit that I'm a little lost." ("Isn't that Luis?" suggests Matt.)

Could this be the chairman who announced in the Wigan programme in August 2008 that "West Ham is all about progress through stability"?

Perhaps we should have a whip-round for him in Ken's Cafe and buy the onld boy a bacon sandwich... and maybe the Central can offer him a gratis bed for the night in one of its en-suite partially-built hotel rooms...

Chelsea Dagger

Several readers have reported problems with their SatNav. They type in Chelsea and it comes up with "two minutes from Rome"...

Wednesday, May 6

We're not going on a European tour?

Are we destined never to play in Europe? Even when we finished fifth under Redknapp we missed out, and third place saw in 1986 saw us suffer from the ban on English clubs. And now, in shades of Manny-gate, today's Telegraph reports that "West Ham at risk of European ban over accounts and takeover… The club's failure to declare their accounts and doubts over their ultimate ownership are understood to have prevented completion of the licence application" by April 30. "The form has to be submitted to the joint Premier League/Football Association committee that administers the system on Uefa's behalf."
Let's get it over with, haul Manny out of retirement, and play him while unregistered for our final three games.

Monday, May 4

Short throws… we only take short throws…

Stoke City 0 West Ham 1
Never travel to football on a Bank Holiday weekend. My early morning arrival at Euston is futile — due to engineering works the train is going from St Pancras. So it’s on to the 9.25am St Pancras to Derby train, full of Exeter City fans trying to get to Rotherham. At Derby, Matt and Lisa, part of the team that meet in caffs, are staying in a “boutique hotel”. Presumably they’ll travel to the game in George Best-style wide-collared flowery shirts.

Only the Derby to Crewe train is just one carriage. Clearly the rail staff have been taken by surprise — it would all run perfectly if it weren’t for passengers turning up and demanding trains and generally acting like they own the railways, which they once did.

That one carriage is absolutely jammed and hundreds of football fans and people going to Uttoxeter races jostle hopelessly on platform five. Then the driver refuses to move, saying the train’s overcrowded and this is a safety issue. “Kibosh!” mutters the Stoke fan in front of me.

Replacement buses are laid on for the race-goers but still the train doesn’t move. After a half-hour impasse the required 12 passengers detrain and Mr Jobsworh finally drives his solitary carriage out of the station. A text arrives from Gavin. He’s also gone to Euston by mistake and is now marooned on a slow-moving train to Nuneaton.

“Don’t worry, the next train will have three carriages,” announces a man from East Midlands trains, indicating they’ve really pulled out all the stops. Matt, Lisa and myself squeeze on early doors (we still have to stand) and engage some lager and Strongbow-drinkers in WHU chat. One geezer uses West Ham’s ex-physio and thinks Deano is in serious trouble.

At Uttoxeter we look out for Mattie Etherington, but he seems to have left early. Finally we amble in to Stoke-on-Trent station at 1.20pm. As my mum came from Stoke I was hoping to visit the house where she was brought up, but now there’s no time for genealogy.

There are none of the promised buses in Glebe Street, so we take to canal towpath to the Britannia. It’s all very Morrissey, lots of iron bridges, disused pottery kilns and a warehouse offering “Same Day Beer” (“as opposed to ordering a pint and it coming the next day” suggests Matt). But there’s peaceful stretches of water, grass, chugging narrow boats, old clay-pit lakes and an air of post-industrial calm. Oh, and the big draw in these parts, the incinerator plant.

The Britannia Stadium is unusual, as it’s set among fields, or at least reclaimed gravel pits and mines. Bizarrely there are no oatcakes on sale, so lunch has to be a cheese and onion pie. We take our place in the away end and discover that Dyer hasn’t even made the bench (“swine flu maybe, he’s unlucky enough”) and Kovac is in midfield.

We note that the much-feted “noisiest crowd in the Premiership” have to be pumped up with loud music. The West Ham fans regard this as a challenge and give a noisy rendition of Bubbles and "Where's your famous atmosphere?". One rotund Stoke fan is subjected to protracted choruses of "Big fat Frankie Lampard!"

Big Joe has been here for two hours while Jo and Mike have also arrived making it a healthy turnout. Gavin is here ten minutes before kick-off rather miffed that his cabbie has charged a tenner simply because he detoured to view the Beehive pub that’s in the Camra guide.

Matt Etherington gets a good cheer from the Hammers fans. It does get pretty noisy when they all sing Delilah with their arms in the air, but we survive that and an early disallowed goal from one of Delap’s long throw-ins. Fuller has pushed down on Green with his arm and thankfully the ref saw it.

Kovac gets in a strong tackle, Stanislas looks confident and we start to play a bit. Luis Boa Morte crosses, Tristan chests it down and Di Michele controls to put it in the net. No goal. The referee has spotted a dubious handball.

There’s some sort of ruckus going on to our right as stewards, police and fans get involved in some argy-bargy.

Neill is having a great game and plays the ball in towards Di Michele. Faye fouls him and it’s a free kick on the edge of their box. “We’ll never score from this,” declares Mystic Matt. Diego Tristan dutifully curls a beautiful free kick into the top corner. One-nil to the cockney boys. He might not have pace anymore, but he’s still got class. We ask Matt to be pessimistic more often.

A few minutes later Stanislas plays the ball to Tristan whose backheel plays in Di Michele who blazes just over. You wonder if that miss will prove costly.

Boa Morte slides the ball into the touch with a rousing, ball-thumping tackle and suddenly the West Ham fans are hollering “Luis Boa Morte, whoah-ho-ho!” to the old Nigel Reo-Coker tune. “What were the odds on us singing that ten weeks ago?” we wonder. But if you show commitment the West Ham fans will always love you.

The fired-up Boa then goes in late on Delap, who while on the ground retaliates with a kick. Both players are booked, but it shows we’re up for the physical stuff. Lawrence is booked for trying to con the ref into giving a penalty and we go in at the break 1-0 up.

After the break the Potters come at us with a barrage of long throws. Etherington's ability to fire in a cross that deflects off the first defender for a throw suits City perfectly. The atmosphere is upped too, with some rousing choruses of When the Reds Go Marching In and Delilah from the Potters fans. Clearly Tom Jones is still cutting edge in these parts. We ponder perhaps singing something by Englebert Humperdink.

Delap has a ball boy with a black towel ready to dry the ball before catapulting in his incendiary throws. We cope well though. The players have been told by Clarke and Zola not to crowd the box and Green catches several of Delap’s missiles with ease.

But Stoke force a series of corners, send up their army of giants and Faye has a heard cleared off the line by Noble. Throughout the second half the back four are immense. Tomkins has a flawless game and now looks a real quality centre half. Under the influence of Clarke, Neill looks a different player, committed in the tackle and racing forward to start attacks. Lucas winds up home crowd by insisting on a towel too whenever he takes a short throw in.

Kovac still gives the ball away too much, but unlike end of season games under Curbishley, we’re looking like we really want that European place. More good news is that Jack Collison makes a welcome return from his dislocated injury, coming on for Luis. The Irons contingent breaks into another song celebrating new cult hero the Boa.

On 90 minutes Tristan turns past Delap and, blimey, appears to outpace him. He’s one-on-one with the keeper but chips the ball wide of the post. There are five minutes of added time, enough for another long throw, this time from Sonko. In the scramble Fuller pokes the ball over our bar.

The final whistle blows. We rule Britannia. We’ve beaten Stoke with our reserve forward line and midfield.

We’re kettled after the game as police charge at loitering Stokies, but eventually we’re allowed to detour on to the canal path, hoping that the ICF hasn’t arranged a ruck there. Luckily they haven’t and we’re soon on the train back to Derby where we stop for refreshment.

Gav has his Camra guide and in the Brunswick Inn, close to the station, we find real ale nirvana — Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, Everard’s Beacon, plus the Brunswick brewery’s Father Mike’s’Dark Rich Ruby Ale, Triple Hop, White Feather, Triple Gold and Station Approach.

We leave the pub’s hoppy hour satiated men, taking the 9pm train to Leicester and then on to St Pancras, arriving home at 11.30pm. We can only imagine the scenes in the boozers of Stoke, the City fans muttering into their pints: “That West Ham, they’re all short throw-ins… it’s the only tactic they’ve got.”

XL flu

Lisa, our health corespondent writes: "Did you see last Wednesday's ITN News? They did a piece on swine flu from Cancun, Mexico, where their case study tourist was a bloke in a West Ham shirt, with the doomed XL sponsorship logo worrying how he was going to get home!"

Banks, travel companies, swine flu… wherever there's disaster you can find a West Ham connection.

Friday, May 1

WHU pandemic

The World Health Organisation has declared a Category 6 alert as the result of a pandemic that is believed to have originated in a Chadwell Heath laboratory. One man who ate a Domino's pizza three years ago has been under observation ever since. A 30-year-old man from Newcastle was incapacited for 18 months, but has recently recovered and been seen in public for 60 minutes. A man from Wales reported problems with his balance two years ago and has been placed in the Chadwell Heath isolation ward. Men from Switzerland, Wales and England are all said to be suffering from the virus, which is believed to be spread through contact with a football pitch.