Thursday, December 30

Don't titter, it's Titi…

Today's Daily Mail reports that former rubbish West Ham striker Titi Camara has been appointed sports minister of Guinea.

The 38-year-old Titi was Guinea's national coach for four months last year and is also an expert at sitting out well-paid contracts.

The Mail adds: "Newly-elected president Alpha Conde has now made Camara Guinea’s first ex-sportsman to hold a government post. Reports suggest Camara had helped fund Conde's presidential campaign to the tune of 25m CAF Francs (£32,000)."

At this rate Raggy Soma will soon be appointed President of the EU and Gary Charles will be made Home Secretary with a brief to clamp down on drink driving...

The changing men

West Ham 1 Everton 1

Thanks to the 5.30 kick off Ken’s Café is a twilight zone of customers wondering if they can stomach a fry-up at five. All I can face is a mug of tea from a Christmas Carol. Big Joe’s down from Shropshire, Mike’s been to Blackburn and back and Littler Jo has taken in Whitstable versus Ramsgate in the snow.

Inside the stadium Nigel, Matt and Fraser have returned from their festivities only to be bemused by Grant’s selection. It seems most of the team can’t play two games in three days. Cole is on the bench and Ben Haim, Gabbidon and Stanislas are omitted, while Kieran Dyer is presumably at Lourdes. So much for not changing a winning team.

Matt is happy though. In the spirit of Half Man half Biscuit all he wanted for Christmas was a Dukla Prague away kit, and his brother has sent him one over from Australia which he's now wearing.

We discuss the club’s threat of legal action against the Daily Mirror after the paper alleged that several stars could only train two days a week.

“Training for as much as two days a week? Now that is libellous!” quips Matt.

We start off reasonably brightly and young Freddie Sears impresses with his energy, winning a corner. From Parker’s corner Tim Howard saves from Tomkins’ header, Kovac hooks the ball back in to the box and it takes a fortunate spin off Hibbert and into the back of the net. One-nil.

“Our season could have turned. We never used o get lucky goals,” suggests Nigel, before being shouted down by a superstitious triumvirate not wanting to tempt providence.

Everton slowly come back into the game. Ilunga is taken off after 20 minutes and Spector comes on as left back. “He’s the worst left back I’ve ever seen!” says the Vicar’s Son.

True to form, Cahill crosses and Coleman ghosts past the missing Specs to slide the ball home.

In the second half Everton are the better team. That Fellaini can play a bit as well as make films and Matt suggests awarding him Eight and a Half out of ten.

We are fading after two festive games, whereas Everton are much fresher, without creating too many chances. Cole comes on for the limping Piquionne.

When we do get a free kick on the edge of the box, Obinna places the ball like he’s Tiger Woods. “Victor’s taking all that time just to blast it onto the wall…” sighs Matt. Sure enough, he blasts it into the wall. Victor has one of those games where he doesn’t play anywhere near the other striker and you’re not sure if he’s a striker or a winger.

But his one good moment comes with a sweeping ball out to Freddie Sears on the right. He plays a great first time ball low into the path of Carlton Cole who fluffs the chance with a weak left-footed shot wide of the target.

Green makes a good save from Fellaini’s header, the Scousers have a goal correctly disallowed and that’s about it. Boa looks knackered by the end, but let’s give Radoslav Kovac some credit, who at Fulham and again today has held things together, making some good interceptions alongside Parker.

We’d take a point against a good Everton side considering we have a writer and record producer as full backs in Faubert and Spector, plus numerous injuries.

At the finish Jeremy Nicholas plays Highway to Hell — let’s hope it’s not Hull next season. A decent festive return. We are unbeaten for three games and surely Wolves and Wigan will lose tomorrow against Liverpool and Arsenal.

Now all we have to do to escape the bottom three is win the next SOS game against Wolves on Saturday.

Wednesday, December 29

Oh what fun it is to see West Ham win away!

Fulham 1 West Ham 3

You do fear that 12-year-old Freddie Sears might be full of E-numbers after the festive break. Young Fred has been recalled from Scunthorpe and in the latest erratic selection from Grant has gone straight into the side at Fulham in a wide right midfield role.

“Bet he asked Father Christmas for a start!” texts Matt.

A Boxing day tube strike and a trip to my mother-in-law’s gaff in Buntingford mean I’m watching the match in the Fox and Duck.

I’m with my sister-in-law’s Uncle Angus who is a Fulham fan and an English teacher at a top public school, which rather confirms the stereotype that Fulham fans are a little more upmarket than us Irons.

Does he only drink white wine? No, he prefers the Fox and Duck’s red Merlot as they bring us the finest wines known to humanity and some cheese and onion crisps.

Carlton Cole fires across goal early on, but after 11 minutes my worst fears are confirmed. A corner is only half-cleared and Davies crosses for an unmarked Aaron Hughes — who hasn’t scored since 2004 — to head home. A terrible goal to give away.

Andy Johnson should make it two but scuffs his shot. Surely it can’t be like Reading away in 2006?

My only consolation is that Angus says Fulham can’t finish teams off without Zamora and that Salcido gets caught out of position at left back.

Sure enough, on 37 minutes Freddie Sears hits in a terrible cross and Etuhu deflects it into the path of Cole who turns sharply to prod home.

Cole goes close again in added time as Schwarzer saves, but from the corner Parker crosses and a completely unmarked Piquionne ghosts through the offside trap to volley home. Two-one at half-time and could this be the turning point of our season? It’s IPA and red wine all round. My daughter Lola joins us for the second half.

Green foils Johnson in a one-on-one in the second half but Cole is growing in confidence, holds the ball up well and is starting to look like the player of a year ago. A neat back-heel allows Sears to turn and shoot just wide.

Uncle Angus nips out to the gents and inevitably it’s a goal. On 73 minutes Gabbidon punts the ball upfield, Hughes misheads it to Cole and he turns to sweep the ball home in one movement. Lola and myself dance in the pubs of Buntingford. It’s a great goal and as Mark Lawrenson points out later on Match of the Day, you wonder what CC’s been doing for the rest of the season.

Of course you fear we’ll throw it away, but Ben Haim has a decent game at right back, Upson and Tomkins stay solid and Green produces a brilliant tip over to deny Johnson.

We actually look quite comfortable by the final whistle and for a moment Avram Grant looks a little less like Toad of Toad Hall after a motoring conviction and breaks into a smile, having presumably saved his job. Uncle Angus takes it like a gentleman, and I wish him luck for Fulham's game at Stoke, where he's staying overnight for the match on the way to Edinburgh.

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all he way! Oh what fun it is to see West Ham first win away for the first time since the opening match of last season at Wolves. Thank goodness Freddie Sears wrote that letter to Santa.

Thursday, December 23

Not crocked

Interesting statement from the club today:

"Contrary to a report in today's Daily Mirror, the club categorically deny that Carlton Cole, Kieron Dyer, Herita Ilunga, Danny Gabbidon and Luis Boa Morte can only train two days a week; they train every day they are requested to without fail. The players and the club are seeking legal advice on the matter."

Tuesday, December 21

Oh Adebayor…

Apparently we've had a loan bid for Emmanuel Adebayor at 100k a week turned down by the player. Great player but he's been trouble at both Arsenal and City and would we want a player who thinks he's too good for us? This sort of showboating signing has the mark of the chairmen on it and was probably never really a goer anyway.

We've also been linked with Steve Sidwell of Villa who is a good player, but you have to hope he's going to play alongside Parker rather than instead of Parker. Robbie Keane keeps cropping up too. He's the sort of player who will always try, and though past his best, would be a good bet to score the goals to keep us up.

We shall see come Jan 1.

Monday, December 20

There's only one Ruud Boffin!

Blackburn 1 West Ham 1

I’m Christmas shopping at the Angel as Matt’s half-time text arrives. The Blackburn game is on despite the snow and he’s taken Lisa on a romantic mini-break to Ewood Park (could this be how Shane Warne pulled Liz Hurley?).

He texts: “Two poor teams. We had two best chances but struggling to defend and the Sweary Prof looking shaky. Dyer having one of worst games anyone has ever had for anyone!”

His verdict on the final score of 1-1 is: “Mixed feelings about that they were there for the taking but Dyer, Barrera, Boa Morte and Benni so bad it was amazing we got anything.”

It’s probably a decent away point as Green misses his first game since 2007 and fourth choice Ruud Boffin plays in goal, while Behrami manages to injure himself in the warm up. It’s another strange selection from Grant, with Dyer playing and Cole on the bench even though Victor’s got a bruised leg and can’t play.

Match of the Day has extended highlights because there are only two games. Ruud Boy catches a Pedersen free kick and inspires a chant of “There’s only one Ruud Boffin!” Another famous Belgian. Boa Morte has our best chance in the first half, forcing Robinson to save with his legs after a good through ball from Piquionne.

Nelson’s goal early in the second half comes after a great save from Boffin, only the ball bounces on to Nelson’s thigh and into the net. It’s the result of another corner we haven’t cleared effectively and a cross that could have been stopped.

Still, we come back into it inspired as ever by Parker. Mattie Upson hits the outside of the post with a fine snap volley. The equaliser comes from a great run from Scotty, the ball breaking kindly for Junior Stanislas to, as they say, finish with some aplomb.

We could almost have won it as Piquionne sends a free header over, Benni air kicks from Parker’s astute ball and a knackered Parker overhits his cross when w have players in the box. Against that Dunn has a goal disallowed for an iffy infringement.

Alan Hansen make an interesting point afterwards, comparing the time it takes Parker to get up from a knock and the eternity it takes Ben Haim to recover.

We’re two points behind Wolves now and bottom for Christmas. Grant says he knows nothing of an ultimatum that he has to get one win out of three games. The first has been drawn. Not a bad point, but up against a managerless team was surely our chance to finally win an away match. Avram’s job may now be saved by postponements over the festive season.

Will we play the wild Rovers no more? At least their sacking of Big Sam means they might eventually be dragged down into the morass.

Merry Christmas everyone from Ruud Boffin the red-nosed goalkeeper. Here’s to staying up with the Christmas decorations and making the Carling Cup Final. Or have I been sipping too much claret?

Tuesday, December 14

Sam's town?

Horrible rumour on goal.com that we are considering sacking Avram Grant and replacing him with Sam Allardyce. Chris Hughton maybe... but not Big Sam. Never can a club and manager have been less suited...

Meanwhile today's Sun claims that Grant will "be read the riot act" by Sullivan, Gold and Brady and that the trio are unhappy with his "laid-back attitude". They can't be too happy either that he's asked for £10 million for new players having spent £6 million on Reid and Barrera.

We now have four games we should be capable of getting some points from in Blackburn and Fulham away and Everton and Wolves at home. If we keep losing though then surely Avram will be gone...

Sent down?

West Ham 1 Manchester City 3

Strangely Her Indoors doesn’t want to celebrate our wedding anniversary at Upton Park, so instead we take a mini-break in Cambridge where our hotel overlooks Jesus Green and the River Cam. Is it worth taking a punt on West Ham? Evidently not.

After an amble around the artfully arranged pebbles and St Ives school paintings in Kettle’s House the final result of 1-3 comes through from Nigel, with the comment “MC hardly had to break sweat. Our 1st corner was on 65 mins!”.

“In Cambridge, West Ham failed to graduate?” I text to Matt.

He answers: “Well, we go a First in the 88th minute and they got a Third in the 65th!”

Yes, and we'll be lucky to get a 2:2 at Blackburn.

Indeed, Matt has bought Lisa a ticket as a surprise birthday present. He certainly knows how to show a girl a bad time.

Thankfully I can offer Her Indoors a romantic chance to watch Match of the Day in bed on Sunday morning, complete with coffee making facilities.

Spector fails to close Toure down for the first, which is admittedly a great strike. We have a mini-revival at the start of the second and Freddie just fails to get on the end of an Obinna cross.

But then Tomkins is done by Toure for pace and strength for the second as Upson fails to cover and Johnson springs our feeble offside trap for the third. The unmarked Tomkins scores with a good header for our consolation.

We’re bottom still, Wolves win and we’re looking doomed. We stroll past the colleges and end up drinking mulled wine in the Eagle where Watson and Crick discovered DNA (or was it IPA?).

They wouldn’t be able to crack West Ham though. Does Grant know what his best side is? Why is it Dyer and Boa Morte on the flanks one week and Stanislas and Barrera the next? Is Spector the answer in midfield? Is Cole interested? Why has Jacobsen disappeared to be replaced by Gustave Flaubert?

It will take all the dons in Cambridge to work this one out.

Wednesday, December 8

Pards on the Tyne?

Rumour is that Pards could be taking over at Newcastle. Good manager, rubbish chairman. And we all know how they love cockneys on Tyneside...

If Andy Carroll leaves or gets banged up could it end up with a scenario where West Ham are fighting it out with Newcastle to survive on Salvation Sunday?

Tuesday, December 7

Normal service resumed

Sunderland 1 West Ham 0

Rejoice! We’re off the bottom for 24 hours thanks to Wolves losing 3-0 at Blackburn. At least until we visit the Stadium of Shite.

I manage to get into the Bank of Friendship to watch the second half after the school winter fair. Matt isn’t too impressed to judge by his text of “ This isn’t the Hammers of last Tuesday — woeful! Scotty nowhere near being fit Carlton back to being useless – less presence on the left than the coalition government plus no keeper on the bench – typical WHU!”

Kieron Dyer is a strange choice, as he’s not featured in either of the week’s wins, unlike Barrera who played in both, while Jacobsen appears to be injured and so Ben Haim is at right back. Grant has opted for Cole and Obinna and relegated Piquionne to the bench.

Sunderland are a goal ahead through a fine finish from Jordan Henderson. Gyan has sprung our offside trap on the right and delivered a rapid cross for Henderson to open his body up and sidefoot into the top corner. Sadly there’s no runner with him so even the other Jordan might have scored given the freedom of the box.

Boa Morte has been booked early on when he could have been red-carded and Gyan has hit the bar with a clever lob. Our only chance has been an Obinna free kick straight at the keeper until Jonathan Spector suddenly metamorphosises into Lionel Messi again, beating two Sunderland players with a clever stepover running into the box and shooting just wide.

Matt is perhaps overdoing the pessimism a bit on the evidence of the second half. Sunderland haven’t lost at home in the league all season and we start the second half with Obinna finding Cole who turns on the edge of the box and sends a low shot narrowly wide.

Green makes a decent stop from Gyan’s drive but our defence looks reasonably solid. Piquionne and Hines come on in an attempt to save the game. Our best effort comes when Obinna fires in a left foot shot that strikes the outside of the post.

One positive is that James Tomkins has another excellent game. Late on Green fumbles and he makes a fantastic block to deny a certain goal.

But in a cagey game Sunderland play out time to gain another three points. “So predictable,” texts Nigel.

We haven’t played that badly, but we still haven’t won away from home since the first day of last season at Wolves. Grant needs to decide what his best side is and now we have to aim for three points at Blackburn and Fulham.

We’re bottom again as Wolves have scored more goals. Oh dear, I should never have baited all those Man United fans. Normal service has been resumed.

Friday, December 3

Reasons to be cheerful?

Well, now that the euphoria has died down a little what can we take from Tuesday night apart from the fact that Fergie in a red hat looks like a garden gnome?

1. Spector could be a decent midfielder. He looked a completely different player in the Lionel Messi role...

2. Obinna is erratic but on his day can cause trouble to top defences. He has huge potential. And perhaps he's a creator as much as a scorer.

3. Ben Haim, though chronically right-footed, might be a good alternative to Gabbidon or Ilunga at left back.

4. Carlton Cole can still be a decent striker when he's in the mood. But he needs either a cuddle from the likes of Zola or a Tony Pulis-type on his case every game.

5. Wally Downes seems to have made a difference to the defence - and particularly Upson - by a) shouting and b) simply telling them if in doubt boot it into Row Z. Note also Tomkins's fine intervention to save a goal from the rebound after Obertan hit a post.

6. Even Kovac dovetailed quite well alongside Specs.

7. We'll probably get thrashed at Sunderland now...

Wednesday, December 1

Spector at the feast


West Ham 4 Man United 0 (Carling Cup)

There’s despair in Ken’s Café as the team comes through — Faubert, Kovac, Spector, Ben Haim… “All the players you don’t want to see,” someone suggests.

Still, there’s a good atmosphere in a sold-out snowswept Upton Park and the pressure for league points is off. Manchester United play Fletcher and Anderson plus nine squad players, but it’s still a strong side with the likes of the £7 million Hernandez, £10 million Chris Smalling, Ryan Giggs, Jonny Evans, John O’Shea and Rafael da Silva playing.

Early on Green makes a great save to push Obertan’s shot on to the post and the same player drives wide a few minutes later.

But we quickly start to get into our passing game and amazingly the Hammers look more up for it than United.

Spector is neat and incisive in the holding role but suddenly runs at the melting United defence. He’s blocked and the ball falls to Obinna who whacks it home via a deflection.

“West Ham’s first goal was scored by Victor Obinaaaaa!” hollers announcer Jeremy Nicholas. But after the United players protest, the bullied Mark Clattenberg consults his linesman and rules that Specs was offside. Maybe it’s going to be night of ‘what ifs”.

But still we surge forward with Obinna teasing Rafael, Boa constricting the midfield and even Kovac looking good.

On 22 minutes Obinna lofts the ball into the box and there’s Specs with a diving header t put us ahead. We frantically consult our mental databases and realise that’s his first ever goal for West Ham in 128 games.

“United should never have sold Specs!” I declare.

“We’ve founds Specs’ position!” adds Lisa. No wonder he was a bit rubbish at left back when he’s actually a rampaging playmaker. What tactical genius from Grant. How will Scotty Parker ever get back in the team?

And what’s this? After 37 minutes Spector surges through the United midfield like a reincarnated Trevor Brooking, finds Victor whose shot is blocked, the ball rebounds to the Yankee superhero and he rounds the keeper to slam the ball into the net and run to the adoring crowd.

Blimey. Get on to Roberto Mancini right away and he’ll surely buy Specs for £24 million.

On the way to the game I’ve been reading the chapter on the Total Football of the 1970s Dutch side in Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid. Only we’re seeing Total Football recreated by West Ham with Jonathan Spector in the Johan Cruyff role.

Something must be wrong here. As Scotty on Star Trek said, “Ye cannae change the laws of physics” — apart from at Upton Park. The morning Guardian has published ten questions that science still has to answer, like what existed before the big bang. The one they’ve omitted though is how did Jonathan Spector become a creative genius.

We go into half time 2-0 up and disbelieving as we shelter in multi-layers in the bowels of the East Stand.

“United just can’t cope with our strength in depth…” I suggest.

Although we know that United will be given the hairdryer and surely play better in the second half.

But no, 11 minutes after the break Victor Obinna is absolutely terrorizing Rafael Da Silva. He gives the full back more twisted blood as he produces a perfect cross for a suddenly hungry Carlton Cole to beat Evans in the air and powerfully head home.

Surely this can’t be happening. It can’t get any better, can it? It can, on 66 minutes it’s Vic there again, tormenting Rafael’s brother Fabio Da Silva this time, and finding Carlton, who turns Evans with embarrassing ease and slides the ball home. Just after we were saying that he’s never scored two goals in a match in his career.

“I’ve seen two bits of West Ham history!” declares a disbelieving Lisa.

“Let’s go f**king mental!” chant the snowy legions in the Bobby Moore Stand.

There’s a premature “We’re all going to Wem-ber-lee!” but who cares. It’s followed by “Your support is f**king shit!” aimed at the diminishing ranks of United fans and “Can we play you every week?” and “You only live next door!”

At 4-0 I’m suddenly overwhelmed by a surge of fear. There’s 24 minutes left plus added time. What if we blow it and United produce one of their greatest ever comebacks to draw 4-4 and win it on penalties?

It’s still all the Irons though. Sub Zavon Hines is pushed over in the box and Mr Clattenberg denies us a blatant penalty.

But with ten minutes to go I start to believe that we might at least draw. Just as lomg as we don't bring Manny Omoynimni on. With five minutes to go I’m confident enough to text my daughter Lola the score. And with three minutes to go it’s time to tell the others that we’ve saved our season. Again.

The crowd roars out "Fergie, Fergie what's the score?" and Bubbles as the whistle blows and it’s Hi Ho Silver Lining on the tannoy. We never doubted you Avram. Or Jonathan or Radoslav or Julien. The dejected Alex Ferguson looks like a garden gnome in his red hat while someone has put a West Ham scarf around Avram Grant’s neck. He looks marginally less moribund than usual as the records tumble. United's first defeat of the season. United’s biggest defeat since 2001. Our first League Cup semi-final since 1990. Our biggest win over United since 1930. Our finest League Cup win since beating Liverpool 4-1 in 1989 (best not mention we went down that season too).

It’s a shame the game won’t count for Nigel as he’s arrived too late to get a programme. We find the Central is closed due to its proximity to the United coaches so head to the Castle, while Nigel desperately tracks down a programme, possibly through steaming into the United coach and mugging an elderly Mancunian.

My inbox has gone crazy. “Unbelievable… oh my God!… Roz is in bar with Frank McAvennie and Tony Cottee, she’s a bit drunk… wow amazing!…wahoo!…are you in heaven?…our reserves are more magnificent than their reserves… winners! back of the net!… how did West Ham manage that?…wow brilliant…”

We take off our layers in the Castle and sit in stunned disbelief. A;though thee is a rumour that Fergie has decided to have the game postponed retrospectively. As we discover that we’ve actually won because Fraser has trimmed his beard and is wearing his lucky red shoes.

“Imagine what we would have done to them if we’d played our first team,” says Nigel. “Of course it’s a given we’ll lose at Sunderland…”

But frankly who cares. We’ve humiliated a Manchester United side. Let’s go f**king mental. Or at least stick around for a second pint. The cold outside can’t touch us because we’re walking in a Spector wonderland.

Tuesday, November 30

Sending out an SOS


West Ham 3 Wigan 1

We’re in Ken’s Café for the board’s designated “Save Our Season” match. Yes, we’re sending out an SOS, Abba style.

Match day announcer Jeremy Nicholas is preparing professionally over a fry up and reveals that Junior Stanislas is in the side and Wigan are bringing 152 fans, who presumably came in a taxi.

My lucky mascot daughters Lola and Nell are with me enjoying the chips and beans. My old school friend Alison and her 15-year-old son Scott are up from Maldon, wondering if Ken’s serves Maldon sea salt. Still, Scott seems happy enough with a huge special breakfast.

An interesting discussion ensues with Alison and Matt about whether the Upton Park crowd are partly to blame for the club’s demise. Alison suggests we’ve tried changing everything apart from the crowd and that ever since she’s been coming there’s been abuse of certain players. Matt agrees that we are a hard crowd to please and certainly in the early Pardew days the crowd would get on the team’s back if they’d gone a goal behind early on.

But conversely we’re also fantastic fans when we get behind the team. Although I do also wonder if we’re a bit like victims of domestic violence, blaming ourselves for our sufferings. West Ham… we were asking for it. An interesting topic, which shall be aired in the blog at greater length.

Inside the ground we learn that Tomkins in at centre back and Ilunga has been dropped. It feels more like a West Ham side with two Academy lads and two wingers in Barrera and Stanislas and Parker and Behrami in the middle. Carlton Cole has been dropped, presumably for saying we’re rubbish (which we were at Liverpool) in the Newham Recorder.

It’s cagey stuff early on, with Cleverley going close for Wigan. Nell asks why West Ham can’t score, and I explain how lack of confidence can affect a football side. But when Parker launches into two buccaneering tackles in the style of Billy Bonds we start to get going.

Lola picks out Behrami and Barrera as our best performers in the first half an hour and wonders why some of the fans give Barrera a hard time. Tomkins is playing well too, doing what a centre half should, nipping in to take the ball early off the Wigan forwards and tackling sharply.

In the 34th minute Jacobsen’s lobbed centre is headed on by Piquionne and Behrami nips between two dawdling defenders to score and run to the corner flag like a Swiss David Beckham.

“We’ve scored!” cheer Lola and Nell, jumping up and down and wearing the expressions of kids who’ve just seen Father Christmas arrive early. After enduring the Blackpool game they’d simply assumed that it was impossible we’d ever score again.

Nigel wonders if taking the lead so early was the worst thing that could possibly happen.

We start to play with belief. Stanislas has a great long distance shot tipped away by Al Habsi and from the corner the keeper produces a world class save from Piquionne’s header. It’s looking good, suddenly we have belief and a winger who shoots.

At half time we discover that Alison was in the loo when Behrami scored. “Can you go again in the second half?” ask Lola and Nell.

It’s interesting that they don’t see taking the lead as a potential problem, unlike their worn down seniors. So young and full of optimism.

Piquionne misses from eight yards early in the second half and you wonder if that will prove costly. But no. Mystic Matt and Mystic Morris are just saying that Obinna has had more shots than any other Premiership player (47) without scoring when Freddie Piquionne twists and turns in the Wigan box, finds Obinna on the left who takes a clever touch to shoot home off the post from an acute angle. Two-nil in our Cup Final.

Yes, it’s Vic there! He looks so startled that he forgets to do his triple somersault, but after the mob of celebrating players has cleared he points two fingers upwards as if thanking God for being an Iron.

Only this being West Ham we concede a penalty as Gabbidon trips the impressive Cleverley. Bizarrely, Wigan allow sub Boselli to take the penalty with his first kick of the game.

“You won’t beat England’s number 16 from there!” I declare. And sure enough Green makes a relatively easy save with his legs from a weak penalty. The crowd erupt.

We’re inspired by that and first to the loose balls. On 75 minutes Parker wins the ball in his own half, runs into the Wigan box, plays in Obinna and sprints for the return to fire into the net from close range. He runs to the Bobby Moore Stand clutching his shirt and shouting superhero things. It’s a great goal, cutting through the defence with the alacrity of a student scarpering from a police kettling operation.

“Daddy, we’ve got confidence!” says a disbelieving Nell.

“Our season is saved!” I declare.

“Don’t say that!” cry the others.

Sure enough just as we’re dreaming of a roasting (in the old fashioned sense), N’Zogbia cuts inside Gabbidon and another defender to find Cleverley, who curls a great shot into the top corner. There are five minutes left. Surely we can’t blow this?

“It’s your fault!” chorus Matt, Nigel and Fraser. I feel like sending out an SOS myself.

We look jittery. In stoppage time Obinna slices the ball, a Wigan player knocks it on and it falls to Moses who scores. But Mike Halsey’s disallowed it for offside, wrongly as it turns out looking at it on Match of the Day. Always said he was a great ref.

We play it in the corners and hold out. Our season is saved! Only it isn’t it seems, as Wolves have won and we’re still bottom. But to have lost would have left us way adrift. And for 85 minutes we’ve played well.

A perfect day is rounded of by a visit to the Who Shop on Barking Road with the girls and an after hours tour of the Who Museum, viewing the Tardis console, cybermats, cybermen, Yeti, Daleks and Tom Baker’s claret jacket. Perhaps it’s the Doctor who’s saved our souls. And I do think Avram Grant might one day have a role in the series…

We travel home on the tube dreaming of unusual things like goals, wingers, shots and victories. Not quite Escape to Victory, but if we treat every game as a Save Our Season match we might even stay up.

Thursday, November 25

Always believe in Carlton Cole?

Hardly an endorsement of our tactics and management from Carlton Cole in today's Daily Mirror.

Carlton says: "It was diabolical... we didn't even turn up for this game, In the first ten minutes we had lost the game - psychologically at least.

"I think I had just one cross. Apart from that I had nothing and as a striker that's starvation. The game plan was for me to play as the furthest person away from everyone else and hit me on the diagonal or something, but we weren't even doing that. So that went out of the window and we didn't have a plan B.

"We didn't have anyone driving forward. You can't fit a circle into a square hole so how can you try? I just don't understand that. I'm deflated, I'm not happy and I hope something can happen ASAP."

One bit sounds familiar: "I can only remember one time the ball came to me and I sort of miscontrolled it,but we still retained possession. then I looked to my left and there was no one attacking."

Meanwhile the Gullivan Brothers have branded Wigan as the "Save our season" match, which will only add to the pressure on our players and means if we lose they'll give up. Oh and Noble's out for a month after damaging a hamstring.

Nurse, the screens.

Pet out: another Wally in

So Petrovic has been fired two days after the Sun piece appeared citing player unrest. It's hardly an endorsement of the man who appointed him, Avram Grant, by the Sullivan/Gold/Brady axis. You suspect that the trio can't afford to lose face by sacking Grant so are tinkering around the edges.

Petrovic's departure confirms that something is seriously wrong with the morale of the players as we could all see from the capitulation at Anfield.

Pet clearly wasn't too impressed with our players. He left with the diplomatic statement: "The Premier League is a crap league, it is nothing. In truth the level is shocking. Every team has just three good players. If you take those players out of the teams then there are only players left who would not be playing in the bottom team in Holland. The Bundesliga is far better."

Meanwhile we've appointed Wally Downes as defensive coach. The question is was he Grant's choice or the Chairman's?

Wally once took on Neil Warnock which has to be in his favour and was Steve Coppell's number two at Reading when they were in the Premiership, so he has a proven record. He and Coppell made Shorey an England international. Although is a former Wimbledon man the right man for our genteel Academy? Still, if a gal from mining stock can marry a Prince then anything is possible.

Another factor that might be in Downes' favour is that he was an original mermber of the Wimbledon Crazy Gang before they reached Division One and is apparently a bit of a joker.

Could it be that our poor banter is the reason we're bottom? If Wally can't improve things then we'll have to send for Jimmy Walker.

Monday, November 22

Pet hate?

Today's Sun claims there's a rift between the players and Avram Grant's No 2 Zeljko Petrovic.

An "insider" told the Sun of Petrovic's "arrogance" and basic training methods: "I think to a man the players don't like him. They think he is full of himself for someone with so little experience of football over here."

This may be mischief-making but to judge by the lack of passion at Anfield they're not playing for the current regime and have no organisation at the back. Something isn't right, that's for sure.

Sunday, November 21

That's why we're going down?

Liverpool 3 West Ham 0

Thankfully my local is showing Ireland versus the All Blacks so I’m spared watching this. And also I have to prepare for a dinner party in Crouch End with Spurs fans’ sipping champagne after winning at Arsenal.

Yes, like half the team, I’m not fit to wear the shirt as I sob into the spinach and wild mushroom bake.

It sounds dire on BBCsport.com’s live scores and the texts on my mobile at 3-0 confirm it’s abject, possibly one of the worst performances ever seen from a West Ham side. Without Parker we go from poor to pathetic.

“Grant out! This is embarrassing. If we keep it to six we will be lucky,” texts Matt.

“Grant’s last game,” adds Nigel.

Somehow we keep the score down in the second half, simply because Liverpool settle for three and Rob Green does a great double save.

Match of the Day reveals a complete failure to close Johnson down as he chests the ball and fires home the opener, a stupid handball from Gabbidon for the penalty and Obinna losing the ball on the edge of our box before Maxi has the freedom of our area to head the third. Our defence looks as safe as the Irish banks.

The away fans amuse themselves with chants of “That’s why we’re going down!” when Obinna slices wide and “Paolo Di Canio!” and “You’re getting sacked in the morning!” at Grant.

Our one near chance in the second half comes when sub Barrera crosses for Piquionne to miscue his header.

The Observer writes that “A butterfly possesses stronger wings than West Ham's left flank of Obinna and Ilunga, and more heart.” While Hamish Mackay of Over Land And Sea says: “This was the most shocking, gutless and incompetent display I have ever witnessed from a West Ham team.”

I don’t like sacking managers but it’s getting impossible to defend Avram Grant. It’s the lack of passion and basic closing down that is most worrying. At least a Curbishley or Pardew figure would shuffle the squad and restore some defensive nous. Is his morose style likely to inspire the players? He looks like a man who’s just placed his mortgage on Kieron Dyer playing 38 games a season.

And to cite injuries and claim that he will “take the second half performance” is stretching credulity to its limits since the second half was played at training pace and Gerrard was out for Liverpool.

From day one he’s placed far too much faith in injury prone players past their best such as Boa Morte, Dyer and Gabbidon and signed unconvincing players in Reid, Obinna and Barrera.

At my Crouch End dinner party at least DC has an anecdote about the Stranglers’ Jean Jacques Burnel writing a verse for his band during a soundcheck.

Indeed, as the Men in Black once sang: Something Better Change.

Tuesday, November 16

Grant maintained?

Karren Brady has given Avram Grant a sort of vote of confidence saying: "We haven't even had the discussion about whether Avram is going to be here or not. Weak-minded people press the panic button, but at the same time we didn't want to just survive this season."

Meanwhile Avram seems to be in denial, maintaining that in all three of our last games we've been the better side. This isn't so. We were the better side at Birmingham until they played direct football, and then they scored twice and hit the post. We created little but got some breaks against WBA with a wonder goal and penalty but then forgot to mark their centre back. While against Blackpool they missed as many chances as us and had a goal wrongly disallowed. A draw was just about a fair result, although like every Iron I'd have hoped to scrape a win.

If we're keeping Grant then we need some honesty about our performances. We haven't been unlucky all season. The truth is we can't defend, the signings of Barrera and Reid haven't as yet worked and Obinna and Cole haven't scored the goals their reputations suggest they should.

It's not bad luck: every player bar Parker and Noble needs to look at their own performances and the board needs to realise that new signings are needed in January.

Sunday, November 14

Do I not like orange


West Ham 0 Blackpool 0

Should you use your children as hostages to footballing misfortune? Lola (20 games, won 11, drawn 7, lost 2) and Nell (13 games, won 6, drawn 6, lost 1), have impressive records at Upton Park. Taking them worked for the Wigan game last season, so why not today… even though Nell has returned from a sleepover at the Science Museum. Things are desperate.

After luncheon in Kenneth’s Café we leave the home of salt, vinegar and ketchup for the Newham Bookshop. Not only is Penguin’s Tony Lacey perusing his literary salon of choice, there’s also Danny Dyer.

“Where’s your famous Danny Dyer?” sang the Man United fans last season. Well, he’s here in the Newham Bookshop. Fans were queuing from 8am for his signing session and Vivian has sold 110 books. As the girls browse the children’s books we hear Danny imparting nuggets of geezerdom, but thankfully no dodgy agony uncle advice. Then it’s on to the stadium.

Good news is that Mark Noble makes a shock return 11 days after having his appendix out. Kieron Dyer starts after playing 90 minutes against WBA, but surprisingly enough, has to go off after 15 minutes with a dodgy hamstring, and is replaced by Pablo Barrera.

Barrera makes a speedy impact, having a penalty claim turned down. He shoots wide when well placed and has one shot blocked for a corner, even though the ref says it’s a goal kick.

Obinna volleys for goal after Barrera’s back header and the ball is blocked by a defender’s hand. The ref ignores our claims and is regaled with a chorus of “The referee’s a wanker!”

Vaughan shoots wide for Blackpool and Green makes a decent save by his post.

We’re at least trying to play some football, but we need a win. The second half begins with Kingston on in goal for Blackpool and Charlie Adam nearly catching Green off his line with a shot from just inside our half.

Phillips comes on for Pool and causes big problems for Ilunga on the right. The Tangerines look increasingly confident. Sub Marlon Harwood receives a great reception from the home crowd and scores from Vaughan’s blocked volley, only to be wrongly ruled offside.

We have a good spell after Grant belatedly brings on Cole to test the new keeper — why wait so long Avram?

Superman Scotty Parker crosses for Barrera to shoot weakly at the keeper and then Obinna finds Barrera on the left and a decent cross is knocked on to the inside of the post by Cole.

“We’re struggling to score against a side who were favourites for relegation from the Championship last season,” sighs Nigel, shaking his head with the air of a man who’s just been asked to dance by Anne Widdecombe.

Then it’s a wall of orange. Harewood breaks swiftly and from Phillips’ cross Taylor-Fletcher misses from seven yards.

Nell and Lola try to whip up some sustained kinetic energy by banging their hands together and eating wine gums.

Kingston produces a fantastic tip away from Noble’s clever chip. Green palms away a corner and the ball is then blocked on our line. It’s a really entertaining goalless draw but we need sodding three points in our must-win game.

“This is the best trip I’ve ever been on!” sing the Blackpool fans.

“And this is worst trip I’ve ever been on,” I suggest.

There’s still time for Harewood to miss from three yards. Feed the Hare and he will miss. And for Barrera to try and shoot when he should pass to the unmarked Cole, and Nell to take 20p for the swear box when she hears her dad say “bloody”.

“It s amazing you held out this long,” says Matt.

It's our first game against Blackpool since 1971 and it seems it will take us another 39 years to score against them. We only need four points from the trip to Liverpool to meet Sullivan’s target of seven points from four games.

Not even a trip to the Who shop afterwards and the purchase of a rather nice pen with the Seal of Rassillon on it can alleviate the disappointment.

On the tube home I ask Nell what West Ham need to do to win a match.

“The West Ham players need to go to bed earlier,” she suggests.

Yes, that could be it. Our players have been doing too many sleepovers.

Thursday, November 11

Will we ever win again?

West Ham 2 WBA 2

Could this be a good omen? Ken’s Café is on fine form, producing eggs chips and beans and two slices plus tea in five minutes at 7.15pm. There’s no sign of DC but Matt and Lisa, Matt’s Baggie mate Kirk, Mike and Phill are all hoping for signs of impending victory in the ketchup patterns and tea leaves.

Surely we’ll win under the lights? Behrami is out injured and Obinna dropped to the bench.

There's a group of teenybopper schoolgirls behind us who scream every time any time anyone touches the ball.

"It's not as if Dani is playing," says Matt.

"Or Iain Dowie," adds Fraser
.
We don’t play well in the first half, although WBA are restricted to one shot at Green. Barrera can’t get into the game and looks lightweight, Boa Morte doesn’t really look like a central midfield player, Cole can’t control the ball and he and Piquionne struggle to get a rapport. Only Parker is, as ever, giving an eight out of ten performance.

In the 38th minute WBA win a corner and Mike Dean awards a soft penalty to Albion after some routine tugging in the box by Boa Morte. Technically correct. But every game would see 20 penalties if all these were given. Still, they won’t beat England’s number 16 from the spot. Oh, Odemwinjie has.

It’s looking bleak until the 42nd minute. Cole’s strength causes a few problems, the ball breaks to Scotty Parker and he fires home an arrow into the top corner. A fantastic goal and we reflect that were it not for Super Scotty we might not have gained a point all season.

Nigel’s in China and we wonder if our texts will get through without being censored. So at half-time Matt sends a detailed text on how Scotty got us out of jail with a finely executed goal after some signs of dissidence in the home crowd. We are waiting for the great leap forwards under the guidance of Chairman Dave. When Nigel’s detained we plan to start a campaign to free the Kew Gardens One.

Early in the second half Dyer weaves into the box and is brought down, and Dean points to the spot again. Freddie Piquionne dispatches and the fans are fired up and we are surely on course for three points.

The key moment comes when Barrera does some good work and plays the ball in to Cole who finds Piquionne free on the right, only instead of scoring he drags the ball wide.

After that we seem unsure what to do, Kovac replaces Boa Morte and we become increasingly disjointed. Gabbidon, Upson and a hobbling Ilunga look as uneasy as Tory HQ workers being besieged by students.

The ball pings around our area and falls to Chris Brunt on the left who sends over a routine cross. Centre back Pablo is completely unmarked and heads game. “Boing boing Baggies!” chant the away fans.

It’s West Brom who win four corners in added time and go for the winner. The only positive is that Dyer has played fairly well and completed his first 90 minutes for the Hammers.

Yes, it’s another point but it feels like a defeat. Three games in a row we’ve capitulated from points-winning situations.

Will Grant survive if we don’t beat Blackpool? Sullivan has set a target of seven points from four games and so far we have two.

As usual Grant comes across all Dr Pangloss after the game. But it’s frankly pretty patronizing to insist that ”we played well” . We didn’t. A fit Noble, Behrami, Collison, Da Costa and Hitzlsperger will improve things, but we need points now and a manager who can coach the team in how to defend.

We’re also looking an old side. Boa Morte, Gabbidon, Green, Cole, Dyer, Ilunga and Upson are all, arguably, past their best.

Upton Park staion is closed due to safety concerns. It's not the only case of points failure tonight.

Walking to the Black Lion we overhear the comment: “We could bring back Curbs. The football would be just as bad but we’d grind out some points.” Staying tenth every week now seems like a golden era.

Blackpool will come without fear and we all know Marlon Harewood will score to put pier pressure on WHU.

We have to win or it might be the game that will send the lights out on our season.

Tuesday, November 9

Amy dreamers


There may be trouble ahead. Amy on The Only Way is Essex has seen a tarot card reader who's predicted that she will meet a West Ham footballer.

At least she has plenty of WAG qualifications, ie a boob job and being geographically challenged. Amy has recently asked if Pakistan is the capital of India and "Where's north London?" before wondering if Essex is in south London.

Frank McAvennie would have loved her.

Kick up the Brum

Birmingham City 2 West Ham 2

We’re at Matthew Whambam-Smith’s flat warming party in Whitechapel when the text arrives from Nigel reading “v frustrating”. It’s one of those Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads moments. Nigel’s text implies we threw away a lead – but for a draw or another defeat?

Matthew gets out his laptop while his Brazilian missus Anna shows my awe-struck daughters her iPad. He lets me scroll up the BBC’s live scores. Two-nil up then the inevitable pegging back to 2-2. I’m sure Birmingham must get a winner but mercifully there are no more yellow goal symbols. We needed a win, but then again not many teams get a point at Birmingham and I’d have been happy with it at 3pm. But even so, it’s reminiscent of the leads thrown away at Sunderland and Hull last season. We need to learn how to defend.

The evidence on Match of the Day proves we should have won. The first half is enlivened by the sprinklers coming on and soaking both sides. A right shower, indeed. Cole seems certain to have scored when he prods at Behrami’s header from Obinna’s cross. Ben Foster somehow tips the ball on top the post for what he later describes as the best save of his career.

Second half we go two up. Boa Morte plays a precise through ball to Freddie Piquionne who scores. Then Parker intercepts in midfield, Carlton Cole crosses and the onrushing Behrami who sweeps it home after 58 minutes.

It’s looking good. Behrami appears to be thriving in Noble’s central role, and our three strikers are causing plenty of trouble, with Cole looking like a decent target man again.

Obinna cuts inside to shoot against the bar, although Cole is flagged offside, so it wouldn’t have stood.

Green punches away one Larrson free kick and escapes, before a long ball finds the head of the giant Zigic, who rises above Upson and heads down for Jerome to beat Gabbidon to the ball and pull one back on 64 minutes.

Nine minutes later Parker is harshly adjudged to have fouled on the edge of the box and again Green can’t hold Larsson’s free kick, his punch goes straight to our old Academy player Liam Ridgewell who scores. Green should have done better.


It almost gets worse. Gabbidon deflects Jerome’s strike on to the angle of bar and crossbar.

In the 88th minute there’s still time for West Ham to be denied a blatant penalty when Jacobsen has his shirt tugged in the area with the referee in a clear position to see. Grant gets as angry as a wannabe undertaker can and describes it as “farcical”.

We’re still bottom but a point closer to Wolves, Wigan and Blackburn. Fact is though we’ve only won out of 11 and today was surely the chance to change our season.

Still, on the positive side Dave Sullivan has used his legendary diplomatic skills to smooth things over with Carson Yeung and is meeting him for dinner. Forget that bloke in the China — the Nobel Peace Prize will soon be arriving in Chigwell.

Friday, November 5

You're barred, mate

What a build up it's proving for the Birmingham game.

Birmingham have now barred David Gold from St Andrew's for Saturday's game.

This is after Gold alleged the Blues withdrew an offer for him to stay as chairman after he sold them and called vice-chairman Peter Pannu "disgusting" - claims the club says are "false and untrue".

All very puerile after Gold, Sullivan and Brady left the club in a much better state than they found it.

We should retaliate by banning the Birmingham directors from both our stadium and Ken's Cafe for the game at Upton Park.

Meanwhile David Sullivan will be allowed in the Director's Box at Birmingham so we'll be relying on his legendary diplomatic skills to resolve the situation. Should be more entertaining than the match…

We've got Di Canio?

"Hammers line up shock move for Di Canio," reads the back page of tonight's Standard.

There's less to this than meets the eye, as in the paper's interview with David Sullivan the WHU joint chairman doesn't mention Di Canio by name, although he does say: "If Avram wants help we'll bring it in. It might be that we bring in a new striking coach to help the manager, a former player."

Which is enough for the Standard to print a picture of Paolo with its sensationalist headline. Strange.

Still, as an admirer of Mussolini Paolo would surely get the training running on time.

Although talking of Italian coaches, it's ironic that the only person who's got the best out of Carlton Cole was one Gianfranco Zola. Maybe we should offer him a job.

Always cheating

In today's Daily Telegraph David Gold says:

"I look back at the things in my life that have driven me. Getting out of poverty was a big driving force. Discovering that my father, my wife and my best friend all cheated on me on the same day, that became a driving force. I wanted revenge, by being successful. Now in sport, the driving force is the adrenalin rush. Another is sweet revenge against Peter Pannu (of Birmingham)."

Blimey. Cheated on by your wife, father and best friend? Has he ever thought of writing plots for EastEnders?

Noble out

One thing we've not had is luck this season. Freddie Piquionne has hit the bar three times, our name signing Tomas Hitzlsperger is out until February and now Mark Noble is out for a month having had his appendix removed.

Noble was starting to form a good partnership with Parker. Now we're reduced to Kovac, who still doesn't look a Premiership player. We already lack creativity in midfield with Boa Morte and Behrami playing alongside Parker and Nobes at Arsenal.

Perhaps now is the time to recall Barrera or Stanislas to inject some flair and crossing ability into the side? And I'm still not sure why we sold Diamanti when he offered something different as a game-changing sub. He was selfish, yes, but then so is Obinna.

And long term we have to hope Jack Collison returns to offer a goal threat from midfield.

Tuesday, November 2

One-nil to the Arsenal

Arsenal 1 West Ham 0

Got my book, bookmark and library card so it’s all set for a trip to the Emirates. Having forgotten to apply in time for the away section, my contacts have come up with a Gooner’s season ticket.

From the Upper Tier of the Library there’s a fine view of the Finsbury Park environs. It’s as middle-class as expected, vegetable wraps on sale and no need to hide your copy of the Guardian Sport section. Next to my seat are two Yanks who ask me how much a seat usually costs as they’ve been given their tickets. During the game one Gooner exclaims “Referee, I think you’ve been conned!” in tones reminiscent of Stephen Fry.

So that’s why the announcer only introduces the Arsenal stars by their first names. After he says “Cesc!” the crowd are supposed to exclaim “Fabregas!” except there’s only a faint pantomime style murmur. It’s quiet indeed in the Library, as the WHU fans are already singing.

The first half is encouraging. Parker and Noble are abrasive in midfield and the defence looks more rugged with Pedersen getting stuck in, Ilunga looking more like the player of two years ago and Gabbidon and Da Costa getting heads and legs in where it matters. Even Behrami is improved from last week

When Arsenal do get through, Green makes a great tip round the post from Fabregas’ snap shot and then fingertips Squillaci’s header over the bar.

Bu the end of the half we’re looking the better side.
Noble fires a free kick over the wall that Fabianski punches away and Piquionne dallies when well placed to cross in the area.And just before the break Nobes’ robs Denilson to surge into the area and shoot into Fabianski’s body/

“Your support is f***ing s**t!… It’s quiet in the libareeee!” sing the West Ham fans as the half ends.

But after the break Arsenal crate more chances. Nasri fires a fantastic free kick smack against our crossbar.

Theo Walcott comes on and immediately outpaces our defence to hit the ball against Green’s post. Phew.

West Ham win a corner and Fabianski clutches Da Costa’s header, as sub Carlton Cole narrowly fails to get a touch into the net.

The Irons’ custodian makes further great saves from Walcott’s deflected shot and Fabregas’s close range drive. You start to think that Green is going to repeat the heroics of three seasons ago. Could we even nick a win? What a triumph it would be for England’s number 16.

Parker gets a ball in the face defending in the box and the determination of the side is admirable. The Gooners around me are getting agitated and Arshavin is resorting to diving in the box.

With three minutes left Grant brings on Faubert in place of Piquionne, presumably to waste some more time. It backfires as Faubert fails to close down Clichy quickly enough and his cross into the box eludes the West Ham defence and Green is helpless as Song stoops to head home in the 88th minute. Bugger. It’s not the despair I can’t take… etc, etc.

Luckily the Arsenal fans don’t notice my bleak expression as they leap around singing “We’ve only got one Song!” otherwise they might attack me with a rolled up copy of GQ.

It would have been less cruel if we’d just lost 5-0. As I walk down Gillespie Road the Arsenal fans are saying that West Ham did a good job frustrating the home side. “We should buy Green, he always plays well here,” says one of them.

We played as a unit and showed something that smells like team spirit against a side that has been hammering opposition in the Champions League, but as Grant says, it’s still “zero points”. And with Wolves losing we’re three points adrift at the bottom. It's hard to take the positives, apart from the fact that in his all black gear Avram won't have to dress up for Halloween.

An encouraging performance overall, but it makes the next three home games against WBA, Blackpool and Wigan even more crucial.

Thursday, October 28

Noble fight back

West Ham 3 Stoke City 1 (aet) Carling Cup

"I can't believe we're fighting to get into West Ham!" exclaims a fan in the melee outside the East Stand.

Someone at WHU has had the great idea of not opening all the turnstiles. It ends up with the operators just letting everyone in to avoid a major crushing incident. So we've lost cash thanks to a false economy. If this was the Apprentice someone would be fired.

We get in after five minutes just in time to see Kenwyn Jones score with a free header from Pennant's corner. Terrible defending again and Da Costa was nowhere near him. Thereafter Kovac hoofs into touch and the anonymous Benni McCarthy air kicks when well placed.

At half time Matt confesses to seeing Krapp's Last Tape by Beckett the previous evening. "So it's been Krapp for two nights running," he quips.

Meanwhile Fraser sports a beard and we wonder if he's refusing to shave until we score more than two goals in a league game. He'll look like ZZ Top by the end of the season.

Tomkins heads wide when Stoke's keeper fumbles in the second half. But things only improve when Grant finally makes three changes, bringing on Obinna, Behrami and Noble. Victor has a shot well saved by Begovic, but then shoots another 99 times when he should be playing the simple ball. Stoke mystifyingly take off Jones.

At least the 25,000 fans are magnificent in the second half, doing all they can to rouse the slumbering side.

We start speculating that Pards, Curbs, Roeder, Macari and Brooking are all available to replace Grant should we lose. But the previously disappointing Barrera looks better on the left and finally whips in a decent cross for Parker to head home at the near post and disappear into the Bobby Moore Stand. Yes!

Suddenly the momentum is with the Irons. At the final whistle Jeremy Nicholas plays Whole Lotta Love and a bit of Led Zep seems to inspire the lads.

Faubert has a good penalty claim denied by Howard Webb. Noble makes a fantastic run down the left to cut the ball back to Da Costa who fires home. We wonder if he'll be celebrating in Faces.

Then Nobes plays a great through ball for the enigmatic Obinna to score with some elan and then produce a triple summersault - a feat that would have given Frank Lampard Senior a double hernia.

The evening is rounded off by the Central having real ale - or at least bottles of Old Speckled Hen. They apologise for them not being cold and then offer ice in the glass. Clearly not CAMRA members then, although Malcolm Allison did once drink red wine in the Central, claims Matt.

We needed that. Three points at the Emirates and we'll be off the bottom. Although maybe that's the Old Speckled Hen talking. But we have seen the goal celebration of the season. Eamonn Dolan eat your heart out.

Giving goals to Newcastle

West Ham 1 Newcastle 2

It’s hard not to look back in Ongar when you support West Ham. We’re on our way to Bishops Stortford via the surprisingly rural-looking Chipping Ongar, with its ancient church and whitboarded or black beamed cottages, driving past a pink sunset over a flat expanse of fields that could almost be Norfolk (with the odd golf club and tanning salon thrown in). Only my sense of well-being is ruined by turning on the car radio.

It’s 1-1 at Upton Park and although Carlton Cole has scored early doors tapping in Piquionne’s mishit shot after Noble’s great through ball, the commentator claims that WHU have faded alarmingly, allowing Nolan to equalise when he latched on to Carroll’s knock down.

We stop at the Prince of Wales in Tye Green to watch the second half. My pint of Hadham Gold is better than the game.

We’re outnumbered in midfield and don’t have a shot on target, Behrami looks way off the pace and Upson goes off with a muscle twinge.

There’s no urgency, Grant does little to change things and it’s inevitable that Newcastle score the winner. Barton plays in a fine cross, Da Costa loses his man and Andy Carroll has enough time to drink ten pints in his torched motor before heading home.

For the rest of the game the commentator endlessly repeats the mantra that “West Ham have not scored more than one goal all season.”

Nigel’s text sums it up: “Dire. Didn’t have a chance after first 15 minutes. Parker 6 most of the rest 5 or 4 out of ten, Behrami 2.”

A thoroughly dispiriting performance. On this form we’re going down.

Saturday, October 23

Middle-class Iron outed

It's time to out myself. I'm missing the Newcastle game today to attend my brother-in-law Drew's 40th birthday dinner party in Westland Green, Herts.

Strangely, Drew failed to consult the football fixtures. This is after all, a man who got married on FA Cup Final day and wondered why that was the only week the church was free.

He has an Aga and a labrador and there will be chaps present who prefer fly fishing to football. It doesn't get any more upper middle-class than this. Never again wilI I be able to call out my number in Ken's Cafe without feeling like Sebastian Flyte. The shame…

Friday, October 22

Da Costa nicked

Just what we need. Manuel da Costa was nicked by police after a nighyclub incident in Ilford on Sunday.

BBCsport.com reports: "The 24-year-old Portuguese defender was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of sexual assault and common assault. He was bailed to return to the police station in early December pending further inquiries. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said allegations had been made by a woman in her early 20s at an east London police station."

Footballers and nightclubs — when will they ever learn?

Wayne's world

So it looks as if we're signing Wayne Rooney then. We should have everything he needs. The Olympic Stadium, Sugar Hut nightclub in Brentwood, Essex Girls (and grans), lots of tanning salons for Coleen and a chairman who can slip him a free copy of the Daily Sport. Sorted.

No, it's isn't. He's just signed a new five-year contract with Man United when we thought he was on his way to Sugar Hut to meet the Gullivan brothers over cocktails.

Missed chances with Wolves

Wolves 1 West Ham 1

Like a reincarnated Dexys Midnight Runners, the team that meets in pubs has assembled in the Clarendon on Chapel Ash.

Nigel’s feeling a little emotional having seen Y&T last night in Birmingham, “the home of heavy metal”. He’s with his mate Adrian who never misses a Wolves match despite living in Lyme Regis. Matt and Lisa have stayed in her sister’s boutique spare bedroom in Birmingham, while I’ve arrived on the 11.23 from Euston, and Big Joe is lost to the prawn sandwich brigade.

The Clarendon’s bar staff take even longer to serve customers than in the Central, although the Banks’s Mild is a pleasant surprise.

We proceed to Molineux (as famously misspelt on the sleeve notes of Billy Bragg’s Don’t Try This at Home album when he reproduced the lyrics of God’s Footballer). It’s not a bad ground, with it’s yellow branding, although the corners need filling in.

Upson’s out with a pain in the neck so Ben Haim comes in at left back. We have a good opening five minutes when Dyer looks lively. Then it’s all Wolves in the first half and we’re lucky not to be 3-0 down. On ten minutes Green punches a cross much too weakly and Jarvis volleys home. Green is then serenaded with chants of “If Green can play for England so can I!”

He makes up for his aberration with a great tip round the post and a brave scramble to save in the box. We’re strangely lethargic and nothing like the side that beat Spurs.

At half time Matt is so dispirited that he seeks comfort in a falafel and hummus wrap — possibly the most middle class snack ever seen at Molineux.

We’ve been terrible and at the start of the second half, after Green nearly gives another goal away with a poor punch, the away fans begin a desperate chance of “We are West Ham’s claret and blue army!’

It works as Obinna makes a foray into Wolves’ box and is brought down for a soft penalty. It’s the luck we need. Noble blasts it home. We’re drawing without having had a shot on target.

Suddenly the game is transformed. A great though ball from the previously anonymous Boa Morte sends in Piquionne to thump the ball against the bar. Parkers starts to dominate the midfield and Wolves’ belief crumbles.

Carlton Cole comes on to form a three-pronged attack and nearly scores after weaving his way through the box, only to scuff his shot.

Kieron Dyer makes a couple of fantastic dribbles into the box only to live up to his Newcastle nickname of “Jigsaw” (goes to pieces in the box).

It’s turned into a great chance for our first away victory in the league since we won at Wolves in August 2009. Even Ben Haim is looking good and making runs into their box.

We’re in added time. “Look lively Piquionne!” exclaims Mystic Morris as Piquionne dribbles into the box, chests the ball and pokes home what should be the winner. The referee blows for handball, although the TV replays prove him wrong.

Still, a draw keeps our unbeaten run of six games going and is a relief after our terrible first half performance. Wolves, facing the Big Four next, are surely in more trouble than us.

On the train from Wolverhampton we’re endlessly told that “there are no refreshments on this train”, lest we batter the opposition fans with sugar sachets. The police come home with us and announce that no West Ham fans can get off at Birmingham as they’ve had intelligence of “pre-arranged disorder” between West Ham and Chelsea fans. Or maybe they’ve just heard that Nigel is driving through Spaghetti Junction.

The rest of the journey passes without a bundle or liquid refreshment. Still, at least we have the chance to reflect upon 90 minutes of pre-arranged disorder on the pitch, firstly from West Ham and then Wolves. We’re still bottom, but if we beat Newcastle then our season might turn.

Wednesday, October 13

Notes from Underground

The Chilean miners are slowly emerging from the underground tomb where they've been trapped for two months.

The first man up, possibly a close relative of Javier Margas, was rumoured to have asked "Have West Ham got a point yet?"

When he was told they had five he broke down and hugged his family as the crowd began to cheer wildly... although then someone had to break the news that we're still bottom.

Hammer blow

Good to see that UK Athletics is backing WHU's bid for the Olympic Stadium. The fact that we're committed to keeping the running track and are supported by Newham all adds to the the overwhelming East London legacy arguments.

Maybe we should thank Spurs for giving us a nightmare vision of the Totts getting 60,000 in Stratford. It will be sad to leave Upton Park, but if we don't some other chancers like Spurs will get it...

Wednesday, October 6

I predict a riot

David Sullivan has predicted there will be "civil unrest" in East London if Spurs win the bid for the Olympic stadium.

Quite right too. I predict a major insurrection with mass burnings of Chas and Dave records and every portion of lasagne in Stratford being chucked into the River Lea.

And how would Harry live with himself, becoming a cuckoo in our East London nest?

Still, it's quite possible EU human rights legislation might save us; we are, after all, an indigenous species being forced out of our homeland by an evil corporation. A Greenpeace flotilla on the Lea is a distinct possibility — and if it comes to direct action we could always chain Jonathan Spector and Julien Faubert to the stadium roof in protest.

Tuesday, October 5

England's England's number three!

Good news that Robert Green is back in the England squad. His call-up is fully deserved after some great saves against Spurs and Bolton.

He was treated somewhat shabbily by Capello after the USA game and deserved a match to redeem himself after his blooper. Had he come in for the Algeria game and kept a clean sheet his confidence would have been restored, while if he'd made any more errors Capello would still have had the option of dropping him.

Meanwhile Matty Upson and Carlton Cole are out and Danny Gabbidon's retired from Wales without bothering to ring Bryan Flynn…

Only one F in Fulham

West Ham 1 Fulham 1

What’s this? Upton Park tube station is open... The surreal atmosphere created by a functioning London Underground station is accentuated by another seismic shock on Green Street. Ken’s Café is closed due to a family wedding.

The Incas must have felt the same when their gods and human sacrifices failed to deliver them from the Spanish invaders. All the old certainties have vanished. The centre fails to hold, things fall apart. Ken’s is never closed on a match day.

This tealess Iron walks to the Newham Bookshop for a chat with John. Sad news is the passing of Gilda O’Neil, the writer of My East End and several novels. She was always a friendly presence at Newham Bookshop events and a proper old Eastender.

At least the regular contingent is back in the stadium. Fraser’s recovering from a trapped nerve in his neck — possibly from watching Robert Green pick the ball out of West Ham’s net 12 times in the first four games.

Dyer's out with a week-long case of the runs, so Barrera plays on the right wing. We start off reasonably well, with Noble having another fine game and Da Costa looking sharp at the back. But as the game progresses we slip into a strange lethargy. Sours gave us space to play, but against a Fulham side that keeps its shape, we struggle. Balls skid away on a wet surface and after last week’s fine performance we look disjointed again.

Piquionne has a header cleared off the line, but Obinna and Piquionne don’t look as mobile as they did against Spurs. The referee turns down what looks a good penalty appeal by Fulham when Pederson nudges Johnson in the box.

On 33 minutes Fulham take the lead. Davies’ pass takes a lucky deflection into the path of Dempsey, who has lost Upson and chips expertly over Green. Oh well, at least Robert wasn’t at fault this time.

Early in the second half Dempsey strikes the bar. It’s a let off and two minutes later we equalise. Hangeland passes out of defence straight to Boa Morte, who plays in Obinna on the left. Victor crosses and Piquionne scores with a confident header.

We should be going for the winner now, but instead the Hammers fade. The crowd gets frustrated with the ref and chant “Who’s the wanker in the blue?”, but really we can’t blame the ref.

Fulham should win it. Green saves well at Dempsey’s feet and then gets down brilliantly to parry Etuhu’s header.

Barrera shoots wildly when well placed for us, but Gabbidon is starting to look out of position at left back and we can’t get our passing game going at all. Cole comes on for Barrera, immediately shooting wide, and we play with a three-pronged attack

“I’ll be happy with a point out of this,” says Nigel."It's like under Curbishley when we'd score and then get worse."

It’s too much for the Vicar’s Son next to us: “Why can’t they stand up?… What is f•••ing happening? What is wrong with Gabbidon?… What’s the point of having Ilunga on the bench? It’s like watching Zola not doing anything until they score… What is the point of bringing on Stanislas with three minutes to go?’

We hold on to keep our unbeaten run of four games going, although we’re now bottom again on goal difference.

After the final whistle Grant is surprisingly upbeat after the game, saying he’s surprised by the speed of our improvement and in a piece of Panglossian spin claiming we almost won the game.

Still, with five points we’re certainly better off than a fortnight ago. There’s a fortnight’s international break and then winnable games against Wolves, Newcastle, Birmingham, West Brom and Blackpool to come.

By December we should know if we’re in for a relegation struggle or not.

Friday, October 1

Political football

Carlton Cole, Mark Noble and Scott Parker, sporting a natty Don Draper-style side parting, were at Downing Street on Thursday to present the club's joint bid to run the 2012 Olympic Stadium. Sure they had a lot to say about Keynesian economics and fiscal stimulus versus deficit-cutting... Carlton confessed to feeling a little out of his depth — don't worry CC that never stopped Nick Clegg becoming deputy PM.

And Spurs have responded to their defeat on Saturday by sneakingly putting in their own bid for the Olympic Stadium. Bunch of chancers...

Meanwhile we seem to be taking the bid seriously by ingratiating ourselves with top athletes. Robert Green is using Olympic coach Ayo Falola to improve his performances according to the Sun, while Matthew Upson is dating 800-metre hopeful Ellie Darby.

Monday, September 27

Lasagne is a dish best served cold


West Ham 1 Tottenham 0

Where’s our tube trains gone? Having walked nine miles on the Coledale Horseshoe in the Lake District the previous day, it seems like a light ramble compared to getting to a WHU game. Still, in recent weeks we’ve seen the “Temple of Sewage” Victorian waterworks and Abbey Mills on the Greenway from Stratford, our new Olympic stadium, the best sari shops on Green Street, and the lovely roundabout at Canning Town.

After an hour’s walk Sir Rannulph Fiennes emerges in Ken’s Café to find a fit and toned Gav, alongside Nigel, Jo and Iain, all looking svelte enough to take up fell running. We now have the fittest fans in football.

Nigel and Matt are wondering Jeremy Nicholas will announce the Labour leadership contest over the tannoy in the second half. And they say that Robert Green has been to see the chaplain to discover how Jesus Saves.

The lasagne eaters are playing Bassong and Corluka at the back, which is hopeful for us, while we’ve dropped Cole. Matt says that Spurs have played four teams in a row beginning with W, which is very interesting.

From the kick-off we’re up for it, with Freddie finding Victor, who drags the ball wide. Dyer has a shot deflected just wide and Da Costa heads wide from a corner. the two front men Obinna and Piquionne are mobile and seemingly everywhere. In fact Obinna has given us the audacity of hope. Cole may not get back in on this form.

We’re looking sharp and inventive with Da Costa winning headers at the back, Noble and Parker closing everything down in midfield, Dyer having his best game for club on the flank and Boa Morte steaming in.

Spus come back into the game though, with Jenas and Van der Vaart (“wasn’t he a detective?” asks Matt) having shots tipped away by Green.

After half an hour a Dyer run wins a corner. “We’ve really got to start making something of these corners,” says Mystic Matt.

Piquionne dutifully rises above Corluka and sends a towering header into the far corner before running to the corner. We deserve it too.

Spurs have the quality to come back though and after a Lennon cross is half cleared, Modric volleys towards goal only for Green to shoos turn it on to the bar. It’s what Hansen and Lawrenson would term "a wonder save" and could mark the turning point of Robert's season. A minute later he makes another great stop frpom Van dr Vaart with his legs.

Sadly Dyer departs after 40 minutes suffering from “dizziness” according to Grant. We’re pretty dizzy in the East Stand too.

In the second half it carries on being a great end-to-end game. Huddlestone rounds Green, but pushed wide by the rejuvenated keeper can only poke the ball hopelessly wide.

With half an hour left the crowd sense that West Ham can win and really get behind the side with “Claret and Blue Army” and “Come on you Irons!” chants.

Boa Morte plays in Obinna who has a fine snap half-volley pushed away by Cudicini. Never thought I’d say this, but Boa has been really good; playing in good balls to the front two and really getting stuck in. And Gabbidon starts to dribble at left back. Blimey.

Noble strikes a fantastic shot for the top corner that Cudicini brilliantly tips over. Substitute Barrera crosses causing the mother of all melees in the goalmouth but we can’t poke it in.

“Even under Curbishley when we finished tenth we never played this well…’ declares Nigel. “And we don’t look fragile…” He’s not looked this happy since the last AC/DC album came out.

“Why is it time goes so slowly when you’re winning?” asks Matt.

“Stephen Hawking never covered it on A Brief History of Time… possibly all the laws of physics are relative,’ I answer.

The whistle blows and Spurs are beaten. Redknapp’s first loss as a manager against the Irons. Robert Green applauds in front of the Spurs fans ands then makes an "up yours" gesture towards the press box. And why not? He’s won the game for us.

“We can still make the Europa League!” I declare.

The long trek to West Ham doesn’t seem so bad now. We could probably do a marathon not a sprint. The Labour leadership results have come through too.

“Ed Milliband should make the second item on the news after us,” I suggest.

Nigel walks down Corporation Road in a daze muttering “We won… Ed Miliband won… we won… Ed Miliband won…” All the old certainties have gone. If he were a computer he might overload.

If you were choosing man of the match it would be hard to choose between Parker, Noble, Piquionne, Obinna and Green, which has to be a good sign.

We looked like a football team. This might be the end of our new labours and the start of the Grant era.

Sunday, September 26

That Marriott menu in full


Lasagne (a dish best served cold)

Stuffed Hotspurs lightly roasted, down to the bare bones and done up like a kipper

All meals served with spring Greens, White Whines and Sour Grapes

Dry Bones

Interesting confession from Carlton Cole in the latest issue of Claret and Blue. He says he's tried swimming "but I sink, they say my bones are too heavy".

Can one person's bones be any heavier than another person's? And is that why he's not scored this season?

It's Vic there…

Sunderland 1 West Ham 2 (Carling Cup)

A great win at the Stadium of Shite and all while resting the likes of Green, Upson, Gabbidon, Noble and Cole and without the cup-tied Jacobsen. Sunderland were below strength too of course, but had a good side with Gyan and Bent up front.

Looking at the highlights Piquionne and Obinna seem to be forming a vibrant partnership and combined superbly for Freddie’s opener. Piquionne rounded the keeper to apply an expert finish — it’s just headers under the bar he has problems with.

It was a sloppy to concede Gyan’s equaliser from a corner, but again we produced a fine move for the Hammers' winner, with Parker and Barrera combining on the right to cross. Is Vic there? He was indeed.

Credit too to Stech for securing the win with a late save with his feet.

Nigel says he’s on or a Cup Final breakfast in Kew. Not that we’re getting carried away, but if Avram Grant can be photographed smiling then anything is possible.

Monday, September 20

Drawing drawing West Ham!

Stoke City 1 West Ham 1

It’s an early start on the Virgin Pendolino to Stoke, accompanied by the back page of the Sun claiming that we’re already in Dyer Straights. The paper claims Kieron Dyer has walked out after only being named as a sub today — although Dyer’s agent swiftly denies this. Matt texts to say, possibly with some irony, that "Kieron is just the sort of tough tackling pitbull type you need at Stoke".

On arrival it’s a swift walk to Hanley past the sign proclaiming ‘University Quarter’ and then a tour of Stoke’s “Cultural Quarter’ (it’s got a museum and theatre alongside many boarded up pubs and shops). Indeed it’s so cultured that I purchase a 94p packet of oatcakes for Her Indoors from Wrights bakers.

Then it’s on to the Gardners Arms with Terry, my second cousin once removed on my mum’s side, now living in Crewe, and his son David, an exiled Stokie in York. The Pedigree’s decent when you can finally get served and everyone’s impressed by Tony Pulis turning up at half time against Aston Villa on the day his mum died. Although the City fans still don’t understand why he plays four centre backs.

I fear my couple of pints will be necessary to ameliorate another Hammers debacle as we pass the incinerator and walk across post-industrial wasteland to the Britannia. I’m in the Boothen End with the Stokies.

An interesting selection by the absent Avram. Da Costa’s in for Ben Haim and Ilunga is dropped for Gabbidon, while Piquionne floats alongside Obinna and Cole.

Stoke look pedestrian in midfield as Noble and Parker pass it around nicely. For once we don’t concede early on and the side looks better balanced with Jacobsen efficient at right back and Da Costa winning aerial balls.

Pennant threatens to skin the put of position Gabbidon a few times, but you can see Grant’s thinking in playing another centre back, as Gabbidon’s height proves useful when Delap launches his long throws.

Stoke’s only threat is from a free kick, when Green appears to find the ball covered in extra virgin virgin olive oil and it squirms away to Huth, who hits a post.

“Dodgy keeper!” chant the Boothen End, and “Nice one Robert, nice one son!”

We’re playing controlled football and Obinna and Piquionne are causing problems with their speed on the break. Collins fouls Behrami and from Obinna’s free-kick Parker bundles the ball home after it rebounds in the box. The unthinkable has happened, we’ve taken the lead for the first time this season… I can’t cheer but I can quietly clench a fist in celebration.

“You can stick your f***ing bubbles up your arse!” chant the home fans, along with a few cries of “cockney c••ts” and “get stuck in to these southern pansies!”

Then Piquionne picks up the ball in midfield and fires a thirty-yarder against the bar. We go in at the interval deservedly leading.

Stoke come out fired up for the second half. City’s best player, Jermain Pennant, fires in a fantastic cross that eludes Green and Jones dives in front of Da Costa to score a classic centre-forward’s goal.

Defeat appears to be looming as City fans sing a bizarre song about “Etherington, Etherington, running down the wing!” to the tune of Robin Hood. Jones muscles his way past Upson and Green makes a fantastic fingertip save to push his shot on to the post.

We survive ten minutes of panic, and Kovac, on for the injured Behrami, does a good job breaking down attacks and calming things down.

We nearly score when Obinna has a shot palmed past the post by Sorenson and then the keeper makes a great stop from Da Costa’s header from the corner.

Fuller heads a Delap long-throw in to the ground and it bounces on to Green’s bar. Phew.

The last five minutes are agony but somehow we hold on for our first point of the season. Green even manages to catch a long throw, which will do his confidence good. If we’d lost five in a row it would have looked terminal. "We've got a point, we've got a point, we've got one… West Ham's got a point!"

An encouraging performance; we didn’t let three in for once, the defence was more solid, the three-pronged attack showed promise and we showed an ability to dig in for a result. Now let’s bring on the Lasagne-Eaters.

Friday, September 17

Holy Stoke

At least Avram Grant will miss the game at Stoke, whereas I'm stuck with it. The fear is that we'll be done up like a Yom Kippur by the rampaging Kenwyne Jones and, of course, you can bet on Matty Etherington to score.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement, which seems rather apt for Hammers fans. It's accompanied by 25 hours of fasting and repentance — pretty similar to how most of us feel after West Ham games.

Grant lost several family members in the Holocaust and takes his faith very seriously,so it would be a little churlish to criticise him for observing this one day. And he'd receive serious flak in Isreal too if he worked on Yom Kippur.

Interestingly though, the Daily Mail did come up with one possible solution:

"If Grant were to arrive in Stoke before nightfall on Friday, attend a synagogue service in the area, return there on Saturday morning and then walk to to the stadium, without coming into contact with his players, it might be considered acceptable.

Particularly if he then returned to a synagogue after the match, although again he would be expected to walk - and not in leather shoes."

Although the nearest synagogue to Stoke is four miles away in Newcastle-under-Lyme. And would anyone really want to walk four miles through Stoke?

Monday, September 13

"Crisis Club West Ham"


West Ham 1 Chelsea 3


Another week and another football game has taken TfL by surprise. It’s September 11 of all days and we’re playing Chelsea, who have their share of nasty away fans, so let’s ensure everyone has two miles to walk to the ground…

One day you fear this is going to lead to a “serious incident”, possibly against Spurs in the next home game, as more tube closures are planned.

After a Sir Ernest Shackleton-style trek from West Ham, it’s a cup of tea in a sweaty Ken’s and a walk to the East Stand.

“We’ve never lost the opening four games in our history,” opines Fraser.

“We’d never lost our first three until last week,” says Nigel.

The team looks better on paper, with Behrami back in midfield, Jacobsen and Ben Haim coming in to defence and Obinna partnering Cole up front.

Only our game plan of not conceding a goal in the first 90 seconds is soon ruined. A Chelsea corner sees Essien rise above a tentative challenge to head home, via Carlton Cole whose diving header can only help the ball into the net. How many Premiership teams concede a goal from a simple corner?

We recover reasonably well. Jacobsen looks better than Spector or Faubert, Parker and Noble look up for the game in midfield and Victor Obinna has a scuffed chance drift into Cech’s arms.

“Who were the one-hit wonders who did Is Vic There?” I ask.

“It was by Department S, they had a singer called Vaughan Toulouse, whereas we were just born to lose,” suggests Matt.

On 17 minutes the inexplicable happens. Poor Robert Green spills an innocuous Drogba free kick, the ball spins out to Matthew Upson who surely must clear, but he boots the ball straight at Kalou’s heel and — in a moment that would cause Professor Stephen Hawking to question most of his established theories in A Brief History of Time and establish that there is no Grand Design — the ball loops agonizingly over Green and into the net.

As comedy goals go it’s one of West Ham’s all time-greats — a moment to rival Steve Walford’s own goal against Southampton many seasons ago. Green’s confidence is shot after the World Cup and Upson is contributing his own share of calamities too.

“England England’s number one!” chant the Chelsea fans.

You can’t just give two goals to Chelsea. Oh dear. It’s going to be ten. But bizarrely, we aren’t playing that badly. Cole chips in to Barack Obinna, only for the new striker to shoot wide when he should score. The orange-booted Vic then cuts in from the left and fizzes a shot just wide of the post. His energy is at least causing Chelsea a few problems. Mikel hits the bar with a languid shot and we go in 2-0 down at half time.

Dyer comes on for Boa Morte and has a few promising runs. We bring on Piquionne for Behrami later to make it three up front. We perform better in the second half, although Chelsea take it at training game pace. Green, to his credit, makes a smart save from Drogba.

But it’s all over after 85 minutes when Chelsea cross from the right for Essien to easily outjump Ben Haim and head home. Should Green have come for the ball? Meanwhile Ben Haim has played some good balls and looked reasonably composed, but he’s about as tall as Barbara Windsor, which seems a bit of a problem for a centre back.

At least we keep going. Two minutes later Cech punches to the edge of box and Parker scores with a delightful lob, silencing the away fans’ chants of “Chelsea reject!”

And then Obinna crosses for Cole to glance on and the onrushing Piquionne somehow contrives to head on to the bar from the goal line.

And that’s it 3-1, bottom of the league, played four, points nil, for 2, against 12. No wonder Grant is wearing an all-black outfit.

“These special merchandise offers, do they include a Robert Green piggy bank for people who don’t really want to save?” asks Fraser in a desperate attempt to make the blog as we file out of the East Stand.

How do we solve a problem like the WHU defence? Should Green, undoubtedly a great shotstopper on his day, and Upson be rested to restore their confidence? Or give the new line-up a chance to bed-in? Or just close down the Boleyn Stadium every fortnight for planned engineering works?

Still, at West Ham we’ll never walk alone — mainly because there’s no bloody tubes. We trek down Green Street and then Romford Road to finally find a real ale-free bar near Stratford that combines the worst aspects of both a disco and pub. Burnley versus Preston is on the TV to remind us what Championship football looks like.

But at least the four of us are getting to know Canning Town, West Ham and Stratford very well and West Ham will soon have the slimmest fans in football. We might even get a place in our defence.

Picking up the West Ham pieces


Interesting article in Saturday’s Guardian by Jamie Jackson, headlined “Grant forced to lower ambitions as he picks up West Ham pieces”.

Reads like he has a few inside sources and it claims that Grant was shocked to discover a lopsided squad with no right back, one forward and no holding midfielder apart from the unconvincing Kovac. Grant sees Parker and Noble as basically attacking players.

It also claims that even Championship clubs passed on Spector and Da Costa and that Behrami’s summer move to Roma failed because the Italians refused to pay a fee for him.

Jackson’s article says of the Gullivan Brothers, “privately they would now happily accept a 17th place finish”.

And there's also Grant saying he wishes he had as much money as Stoke…

Tuesday, September 7

Wayne plays away


Ah, but did Wayne Rooney ever share a twin bedroom with William Hague?

Even with the weight of the News of the World on his shoulders Rooney still managed to score a penalty against WHU.

Meanwhile young entrepreneur Jenny Thompson has apparently slept with several other Premiership footballers according to the ever-reliable Daily Star.Let's hope none of our lads are implicated. Although I suspect they might make too many passes before failing to hit the target, while leaving their £1,200 with that nice Icelandic chap at the bar...

Red Konch

Who'd have thought Paul Konchesky would end up at Liverpool? Always thought he was a decent player (though probably not England class) as well as being a West Ham fan. He was rather unfairly treated by Curbs, but a good manager in Roy Hodgson got the best out of him. And, of course, but for Scaloni's clearance to Gerrard, he'd have scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final.

Looking back at that 2006 FA Cup Final it's interesting to see how quickly teams change and how many players moved on to supposedly bigger clubs. The side was Hislop, Scaloni, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Fletcher, Etherington; Harewood, Ashton. Subs: Zamora, Sheringham, Dailly.

Reo-Coker and Harewood were not worth the money Aston Villa paid, while Ferdinand has struggled to get in the Sunderland side. But Konchesky and Zamora have done well at Fulham, as has Etherington at Stoke, and Benayoun has been a qualified success at Liverpool and now Chelsea.

As ever with West Ham, it's a case of "what if?". Without Dean Ashton's injury, managerial upheavals, Tevezgate and the Icelandic bankers, that side might have achieved a lot more.

Thursday, September 2

Window of opportunity?

Well, today's Guardian reckons we missed out on Yakubu and Pompey's Marc Wilson as we're skint.

But we can't really complain too much. We've kept Parker and Cole, and spent £8 million, recruiting eight new players — Hitzlsperger, Barrera, Piquionne, Reid, Ben Haim, Obinna, Jacobsen and the memorably-named reserve keeper Ruud Boffin — while raising £2 million through the sales of Diamanti and Daprela. Which isn't too bad for a club that's £100 million in debt.

Maybe not ideal, as Barrera, Obinna and Reid are untried at Premier League level, but we might soon be fielding a side of:

GREEN; JACOBSEN, REID, UPSON, ILUNGA; BARRERA, HITZLSPERGER, PARKER; PIQUIONNE, COLE, OBINNA.

That would be six changes from the Old Trafford side and surely must be some kind of improvement. We hope.

Wednesday, September 1

A right back!

It seems we've signed a right back at last, Lars Jacobsen from Blackburn. He's also played for Everton and has 35 caps for Denmark. From what I remember, he likes to get stuck in and must surely be an improvement on Spector and Faubert.

Mind you, this being West Ham we've done it so late on deadline day that it's all subject to Premier League approval. Please let it go through...

Monday, August 30

There must be an answer, Avram G...

Manchester United 3 West Ham 0

Managed to find a Hobgoblin pub in Gloucester Road, Bristol, after the Rovers game to witness the demise of the Hammers. The jukebox was playing rolling Beatles songs, starting off with, appropriately enough, Don't Let Me Down, followed by Get Back (hopefully not to the Championship).

It's another bizarre team selection from Grant. Hitzlsperger is injured and Obinna has presumably signed too late to play, but he still ignores new signings Barrera, Piquionne, Ben Haim and Reid. What's the point of buying £8 million worth of talent and not playing them?

Spector, Faubert, Dyer, Boa Morte and even Danny Gabbidon have all been found wanting through poor form and injury, yet Igor the Butler seems to be trying to build a team around them.

Cole is completely isolated up front and looks despondent throughout. Faubert gets a few crosses in to the feet of Man United players and Dyer hits the side netting. We hold out for half an hour and Robert Green makes a great save to tip Nani's shot onto the post. But then 90-year-old Ryan Giggs strolls past Spector and is brought down by the haplass Specs for a penalty. Rooney sends Green the wrong way for 1-0. Mystic Matt sends a text reading: "Spector utterly useless wherever and whenever he plays".

It's over early in the second half when Nani cuts inside to score a second. The juke box plays The Long and Winding Road, possibly referring to our season, and then Let It Be.

Grant does nothing when he should have made substitutions at half time. We're not going to get anything from the game without scoring so why not bring on another striker? We always lose when we set out to keep the score down so what is the point with persisting with such tactics? Let's adhere to the West Ham tradition and at least have a go.

All I can do is drink another pint of Hobgoblin and despair as Bristolian Mancs cheer on the Red Devils. It's not until 75 minutes that Grant brings on Barrera and finally Piquionne, way too late. Dyer clips the outside of a post as United ease off a little, but Berbatov finishes the game with a gymnastic volley while unmarked in the box. We almost score a consolation, but Parker skews wide.

The only good thing to come out of the game is that Gabbidon and Upson have decent games in defence, Ilunga looks better and Green makes several fine saves. The rest of the side looks a relegation waiting to happen.

Finally the jukebox stops playing Beatles songs and instead we have the White Stripes' I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself. How true.

We need changes for the Chelsea game and some ambition up front and, as ever, a right-back. There must be an answer Avram G, please don't let it be.