Wednesday, February 24

Wayne's world

Manchester United 3 West Ham 0

It’s a toss-up between Charlie Nicholas on Sky Sports News or 5 Live. Eventually I settle for the radio on the TV, while Her Indoors does her sewing and says she doesn’t want to listen to West Ham how about Mad Men on catch-up TV – all accompanied by our yapping border terrier Vulcan who can hear a fox (in the box?) outside and is running around like Mad Martin Allen in the mating season.

Sounds like we are quite bright early on with Behrami going close and Diamanti’s shot spilled on the line by Foster. And you can hear Bubbles on the radio every time we get a corner. Must be Big Joe, who’s in attendance.

Inevitably I miss the first goal while saying goodnight to the kids and it’s game over. (A fine header from Rooney after a first time cross from Berabatov). Park hits the bar at the start of the second half and then Rooney bags a second header while I’m upstairs joining a Facebook group. What a part-timer.

Owen adds the inevitable third - another player whose season we’ve resurrected. Maybe Don Draper would be better viewing? His suits do look cool. Oh, and someone called Kieron Dyer has come on to the pitch for 15 minutes – no, that can’t be true, must be Virgin’s bad reception or a jarred scart lead.

Never expected much tonight and United are always dangerous after a defeat. Zola was clearly right to rest Parker so he couldn’t be booked and suspended for our next game — yet another cup final against Bolton.

Tuesday, February 23

Jedward the second

Thanks to Dadly Don for pointing out that in Behrami and Kovac we now have Jedward in midfield, perhaps accounting for our recent improved form and X Factor at Upton Park.

Jedward's barnets carry on a fine Hammers tradition of iffy coiffeur — remember Julian Dicks' Forrest Gump look, Frank McAvenie's Jason Donovan mullet, Trevor Morley's Hawaii 5-0 'tache, Gary Strodder's Guantanamo Bay Guard crop and David James' Simba from The Lion King-style braids?

Nurse, the screens.

Sunday, February 21

London 3 Hull 0

West Ham 3 Hull City 0

The economies at West Ham are clearly biting; Match day announcer Jeremy Nicholas is sitting having his lunch in Ken’s Café. And no, I don’t think Carol takes credit cards.

I’m with my daughter nine-year-old Nell and her friend Fernanda, who wants to know if Ken’s has free-range meat. Hmm. I suggest the egg, chips and beans.

Nigel arrives with his mate Michael, as Matt is in South Africa thanks to a competition won by his WAG Lisa. Matt reports from SA that there are pictures of Benni McCarthy everywhere, although Nelson Mandela hasn’t as yet asked for a personal update on the Hammers’ fortunes.

“Why do adults always talk about boring stuff like money?” Nell asks Nigel. Clearly she’s heard too many interviews with Gold and Sullivan. “And why don’t they have toys?”

In the stadium Jeremy Nicholas announces our side individually but doesn’t read out the Hull City team. Is this a bizarre plot by the new regime to throw Hull into existential crisis? Will they think they don’t exist if they’re not named?

“No, Sullivan just wants to sell more programmes,” suggests the pragmatic Fraser.

It’s Bubbles time and it’s always a thrill to see a young kid experience the most romantic of football songs for the first time. Nell's pal looks amazed at the effect of 33,000 voices. She might live behind the Emirates but we’ll soon make her a Hammer.

We start well, attacking immediately. In the third minute Kovac dispossesses young Cairney plays the ball to Behrami, who finds Franco. Franco miscontrols it but the ball falls nicely for Valon to poke into the net.

Behrami nearly gets a hat-trick. Myhill tips aside one shot and then produces a brilliant save from a header from Diamanti’s cross.

The recalled Franco is holding play up well and we look much more confident against a side that frequently hacks at our heels. Hull come into it briefly with a couple of crosses from Fagan and some muscular work from Zaki but it’s not until the 45th minute that Boateng produces a fine tip-over from Green.

At the beginning of the second half things go our way. Fagan tries to pick Diamanti pocket with a shirt tug and is red carded for a second booking. Annoying little Stephen Hunt protests and is serenaded with “Where’s your caravan?”

Then on 59 minutes Faubert plays a fantastic through ball past a statuesque Hull defence and Carlton Cole races through to finish neatly. Two-nil in our cup final. They’ll be dancing in the streets of Cape Town.

There’s a wonderful moment when Diamanti sees Myhill off his line and almost scores from the half-way line, Pele-style. Diamanti gets his own song to the old “Nigel Reo-Coker!” tune. It’s just like watching Brazil (playing Hull). Tomkins is mopping up everything at the back and the Hull defence just can’t handle Cole.

Fortified by Haribos and chocolate Nell and Fernanda shout “Come on Hammers!” and “Boo Hull!”. Promising — as long as we can play Hull every week.

Hapless Hull bring on three subs and then go down to nine men when Gardener is injured. Surely even we can hold out against nine men?

“I think we’ll get a least a point,” says Nigel.

In stoppage time Faubert, fortified by a massage from Madam Bovary, breaks inside from the right and thumps a screamer into the top corner of the net. I start to feel more confident.

“Julien! Julien!” salutes the Bobby Moore Stand as the tattooed and recently much-improved full back leaps into the crowd. Since the death of his mother and his decision to play against Blackburn he seems to really appreciate the support from the Irons fans. A great time to score his first ever Hammers goal.

A clean sheet and two successive wins for the first time this season. That’ll do me.

Saturday, February 20

A Personal Statement

This season I have had relationships with 11 men in East London. Recently I have associated with pornographers, purveyors of saucy underwear and a woman who says in her Sun column that Avram Grant’s face “looks world-weary enough to have been beaten all day with heavy-duty dildos”.

What I did was unacceptable. I hurt my wife, my kids, my wife's family, my friends, my foundation and kids all around the world who admired me.

I am the only person to blame. I knew my actions were wrong but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply and that West Ham were too good to go down. I never thought about who I was hurting, instead I thought only about myself.

I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me, even at £48 for an away trip to Arsenal. I felt I was entitled, and thanks to the District line, I didn't have to go far to find them.

I was wrong and I was foolish.

I've had a lot of time to think about what I've done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I've never wanted to before. It's now up to me to make amends. And that starts by never repeating the mistakes I've made.

It's up to me to start living a life of integrity. It's hard to admit that I need help but I do.

For 45 days from the end of December to early February I was in in-patient therapy receiving guidance for the West Ham issues I'm facing. I have a long way to go. I have taken my first steps in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 17

Mind games

So self-effacing David Sullivan has claimed the credit for the win against Birmingham claiming that his press outburst about cutting wages was "the last resort. I had to say something to galvanise people into action because our results and displays just hadn't been good enough… If it was so the players could stick two fingers up at me on behalf of the manager then great. At least we keep on winning… laying things on the line is a tactic I've used before at Birmingham."

Meanwhile we monopolised last Friday's Sun witn a a full-page Karren Brady column and a feature by Steven Howard blaming Curbs for the crisis, citing five "Curbs calamities" — Ljungberg, Dyer, Boa Morte, Quashie and Davenport. Howard also asks, not unreasonably: "Surely it was Curbishley's first duty to tell the greenhorns running the club that they were being taken for a ride? That the transfer fees and salaries were a joke?"

Strangely we've had five days off the back pages since then… some kind of record since Sullivan and Gold stepped in.

Friday, February 12

Zola power

West Ham 2 Birmingham 0

These are desperate times. It’s on with the lucky claret-hooped away kit that I’ve had since Fortune’s Always Hiding days. It worked in the play-off final so it’s worth a try.

We look doomed if we lose tonight. Although quite what the Vicar’s Son’s mum thinks of Armageddon being announced by David Sullivan on horseback via the Sun we don’t as yet have a theological opinion on.

In Ken’s Café it’s like a post-modern Waiting for Godot as The Gav sits in front of his bacon sausage and chips in his perpetual wait for DC to arrive with his ticket. Matt’s chips and beans arrive at 7.40 so I leave them to it, not wanting to miss our first three goals.

There’s a great atmosphere in the stadium, although we’re not sure about advocating a 25 per cent pay cut and undermining the manager is a great idea from the Club Manager.

“Well, we got plenty of publicity through it,” I say.

“Perhaps he’s just trying to get bums on seats like an old style fight promoter,” suggests Nigel.

Zola is apparently determined to show he is not the next Ossie Ardiles by making tough decisions. Out go Collison and Noble and in come Kovac and Diamanti. Ilunga is back too, but is soon injured again and replace by the ever-willing Spector. We look better balanced tonight and Kovac adds some physical presence to midfield.

Our defence has a few ropey moments but generally we look up for it. Diamanti, playing wide on the left, has a shot tipped away and Phillips has an effort palmed over by Green and Jerome shoots wide when well placed, but generally it’s a game of few chances. Mido puts himself about alongside Cole (you do hope Mido won’t have to have his £1000 a week cut to £750) and Diamanti whizzes in crosses all night, but the Brum defence remains resolute.

In added time at the end of the first half Parker is hacked down on the edge of the box and Diamanti curls home an absolutely superb free kick. The deranged Diamanti Geezer then runs into the arms of Zola shouting, “This is for you!” in Italian. Zola is mobbed by half the team in a clear message the new owners.

“I just hope we can hold on to half-time,” I quip. Thankfully there’s only five seconds left and we go in 1-0 up.

In the second half it’s more of the same. Birmingham look like they might have settled for survival like the Charlton of old. But we survive a clear penalty appeal when Upson handballs in the area.

On 67 minutes Cole finds Behrami who plays in Faubert on the right. The flying Madame Bovary apologist races to the line and plays in a great cross that Carlton bravely dives to head into the net. Yes! We are staying up!

Hmm. Maybe advocating a 25 per cent pay cut and undermining the manager works after all.

We’re almost comfortable for the rest of the night as Lee Bowyer is subbed and Birmingham blast the odd shot wide. Fraser looks at his lucky black leather gloves in a state of high karma and amid the faint hearts remarks that we still won the Burnley home game even if we did let three in after being 5-0 up.

The best aspect of the night is that Behrami is up and down the field like he used to. It’s his best game of the season and he gets stronger as the game goes on. Only three minutes added time and we’ve won!

For once we can celebrate in the Central (what still no microbrewery?) from the giddy heights of 14th place. Irons!

Wednesday, February 10

Big mouth strikes again?

Perhaps Sullivan should keep quiet about the debts. He’s made his point and surely talk of a wage cuts would be better done in the close season.

Zola has said David Sullivan’s Radio 5 musings about a 25 per cent pay cut for the players was badly timed. Yesterday Sullivan’s comments were all over the likes of the Sun and Daily Mail warning us that the club face "Armageddon" if relegated.

Zola responded: "It would have been better to maybe talk to us before talking to a newspaper.” For Nice Guy Zola this is unprecedented and indicates relationships are already strained.

Zola won't like Sullivan ruminating in print about whether his manager is "too nice" or possibly the next Ossie Ardiles. It's a fair question to ask in private or after the manager's gone, but there's little point in doing it now.

The players aren’t going to be happy either hearing about possible pay cuts and Zola and Clarke must also be annoyed to hear all the comments about their salaries being too high in the press. It’s probably true, but not their fault if the Icelanders were spending money like Lottery winners. (And it’s a sobering thought that we’d only owe £80 million and not £110 million if we’d never signed Dyer.)

Meanwhile Sullivan seems to be backtracking. He’s told Radio 5
the pay-cut plea was merely a way of focusing attention on the need to cut costs. "If we can cut our salaries by 25%, that would solve our problems. But it's not something that you are actually going to go out and do."

We get knocked down…

Burnley 2 West Ham 1

If Portsmouth go out of business and we lose the four points we’ve won against them, we’re bottom of the league. The Saturday papers aren’t very reassuring as we travel from Euston to Preston. Our away crew consists of Mike, Jo and 15-year old Isabelle who’s doing her maths GCSE homework — lots of complicated stuff about dividing Kieron Dyer’s appearances by his salary and transfer fee.

We agree broadly with the Davids’ cost cutting, although Jo suggests that Sullivan and Gold “look like they should be fronting a country and western tribute group”.

Matt and Lisa are staying at an eco-hotel in Hebden Bridge and have been looking at vegan shoe shops and then Sylvia Plath’s grave to get in the mood for West Ham away. That Ted Hughes was the John Terry of his day according to many feminists, playing away from home but never stripped of his poet laureate title. Matt texts to wonder if Plath’s novel The Bell Jar might have been an oblique reference to Craig Bellamy and Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man might have been about Billy Bonds.

We manage to meet Shropshire Iron Big Joe at Preston and make the local train to Burnley Manchester Road. We follow the crowd from the station towards the ground. "Hey lads, there’s a really friendly pub round the corner where there’s no problem for away fans. Have a good game!” says a chirpy Burnley fan. What, friendly away fans? Having seen Green Street you do wonder if the pub might be full of Burnley’s equivalent to the ICF about to set about us with clogs.

But no, the Ministry of Ale is full of the finest ales known to humanity and rival fans chat at the bar. It’s even got its own micro-brewery. Matt and Lisa find it too and we think that CAMRA member Gavin, if he were here, would surely never leave.

We take our wooden seats in the David Fishwick Stand. It’s a nice compact ground and you can see hills and terraced streets outside. The Clarets and the Irons emerge accompanied by I Get Knocked Down and I Get Up Again.

We start slowly and Burnley are closing down fast in midfield. Bikey is putting himself about and only Parker is having a decent game in midfield. “There’s only three of you singing!” chant the Burnley fans, who are then serenaded with a chorus of “Cos I’m a Northern Bastard!”.

Then on 14 minutes Upson misses a routine punt upfield by Fox and Nugent nips in to lob Robert Green and do a strange clucking chicken dance in front of the Burnley fans.

Slowly we improve. Faubert has several crosses that come to nothing and McCarthy puts a chance wide. Then Parker makes a fine run and plays in McCarthy whose shot is heading for the net until Cort clears off the line.

It’s like pre-Hillsborough days at half-time in the heaving concourse below the stand, as too many fans surge towards the one loo and others grope for plastic bottles of Carlsberg and northern pies and gruel.

We look much more purposeful after the restart with Mido on for the injured McCarthy. Collison is having a bad time though and stupidly gives away a foul on the edge of our area. Burnley’s new signing Fox curls the goal of a lifetime into the top corner and runs into the embrace of Brian Laws. The PA plays an annoying burst of Tom Hark.

At least we respond. The players seem angry and we batter their goal for the rest of the second half.

Parker drives the side forward from midfield and capitalizing on Carlton Cole’s layoff looks certain to score only for Jensen to pull off a fantastic save. Mido then blasts narrowly wide. Carlton Cole has a goal disallowed when he pokes home from near the goalline.

Stanislas comes on for Collison and on 77 minutes Ilan replaces Noble.Faubert has the beating of Fox and plays in a couple of brilliant crosses. Spector is playing well too, and Stanislas is a real threat on the left wing, even if he does have to keep crossing on his right foot. Mido (he only earns one grand) puts himself about well and looks hungrier than a footballer at a French lingerie models’ convention.

“We deserve something from this,” mutters Big Joe, who won’t be dancing in the streets of Shrewsbury tonight. “How many saves has Green had to make?”

We are playing with three strikers and it’s refreshing to see options and competition up front. Stanislas hits the post with an almost identical free kick to the one from which Fox scored. Spector makes a great run down the left to play the ball into the middle, Mido hits the ball against the keeper and Ilan, on for just three minutes slots the rebound into the top corner. Ilan then has a header saved by Jensen after a flurry of WHU corners.

And then in the last minute Stanislas crosses and Mido pokes the ball against the post, Ilan misses the rebound and the Egyptian has his head in his hands and we’ve sodding lost.

The whistle blows and we walk along the ring roads to the station. On the local line there isn’t a train until 5.57. It’s too much for one geezer in a white hoodie and sporting more rings than J R Tolkein. “I’m stuck in a f**king shithole, we’ve lost to a f**king shithole team, waiting for a f**king shithole train… f**king toytown f**king Noddy trains!” he rages in a Taurete syndrome cameo surely destined to one day be played by Steven Berkoff.

“That’s your review sorted out!” suggests Big Joe.

“I detect a sense of irony that the industrial revolution started here,” reflects Jo.

Meanwhile two middle-aged Burnley ladies stand in front of us muttering that “I'm only three rows from that Alistair Campbell with his Gola trainers and his big black coat…”

Finally the Toy Town train arrives and we stock up with sandwiches and crisps and Snickers bars at Preston and head back to London. A text arrives from Matt and Lisa saying that they are still in the Ministry Of Ale. We’ve been knocked down but we get up again. They have a lager drink they have a cider drink. When they return to Hebden Bridge they should at least be inspired to write some mournful poetry.

We’re back at Euston by 9.30 where several Fulham fans have had a sniff of the barmaid’s apron and are repeatedly singing “Fulham boys are on the piss again!” Odd what a 0-0 draw at Bolton can do.

I return home and tell Her Indoors that there were a lot of positives to be taken and that sometimes unlucky away defeats can offer a strange kind of hope.

“That’s what Napoleon said,” she answers. Short man in military jacket seeks to prevent the inevitable Waterloo… No, absolutely no parallels there at all. The way we played in the second half I still think we’ll be all right. Although if we don't beat Brum, Hull or Bolton then do please whack me round the head with a copy of the Daily Sport.

Tuesday, February 2

Sign on with hope in your heart…

You wait for one striker and then three come along…

Benni McCarthy looks like a good signing to me. As Allardyce says, he might not have the legs he used to, but we have enough hard workers as it is. The important thing is McCarthy knows where the net is. He scored every other game for Porto and scored 18 league goals in his first season at Blackburn in 2006-07, then eight the following season and ten (including four pens) last season. The World Cup is a huge motivation for him too.

Mido clearly has ability — I saw him score a cracking goal against us at White Hart Lane in a League Cup tie. But he also seems to come with an attitude problem and an expanding waistline and not too many Boro or Spurs fans seem to like him.

However, he made a big impact when he first joined Spurs scoring 11 goals in 27 games in 2005-06. He got four in 13 games for Middlesboro last season and two goals in 12 games on loan at Wigan.

If he really is on only £1000 a week then he’s worth a punt. He clearly wants to play and might respond to careful handling by Zola. He’s done it in the Premier League, which is more than Savio had. And it gives Jeremy Nicholas an excuse to play Walk Like An Egyptian.

As for Ilan, he’s an unknown quantity, but is on a free and does have a championship medal in Brazil. Maybe he’ll fly in by helicopter with Pele.

Biggest gripe is no new right back, leaving us with Spector and Faubert, who have admittedly both improved in the last three games. It’s a mystery why we didn’t go for Hutton or Naughton at Spurs, both of whom have been loaned out.

But as it is, it’s a huge plus not to have sold any star players and the extra strikers and competition for places up front should hopefully ensure we stay up. Just as long as we can keep John Terry away from the lads' mock-Tudor mansions in Chigwell.

Monday, February 1

Shirts hit the fans

West Ham 0 Blackburn 0

“Home at Last” declares the front cover of the programme, as Gold and Sullivan look out over Upton Park. I’m taking my daughter Lola and her friend Renee to witness the homecoming of our porn again owners.

After egg and chips in Ken’s Café —and many discussions about John Terry’s latest indiscretions — it’s on to the Newham Bookshop where there’s talk of Karren Brady’s sackings and Neil Humphreys is signing copies of his new novel Match Fixer, published by Marshall Cavendish. It’s about a fictitious West Ham striker who is transferred to Singapore and encounters some dodgy types fixing matches. Nothing like real life at all. Tony Cottee has a quote on the cover and it will be reviewed on this blog in due course.

Neil’s a Dagenham lad made good in Singapore and then Australia, and a former football correspondent for the national Singapore press. We have a quick chat. He’s over from Australia for two weeks and hoping it’s worth a 12,000-mile trip to see the Hammers. Surely we’ll turn it on for Neil and the Davids?

There’s a sensible low key welcome for the Club Landlords in the stadium as we join Matt, Nigel and Fraser and discuss Sullivan's revelation that we have 20,000 unsold replica shirts.

Nigel is still slightly miffed that his super-injunction has failed to stop the publication of my Aston Villa away match blog report. Thankfully the Judges ruled that it was in the public interest to know that he and his missus were spotted with pampering products from Neal’s Yard, even if he’ll never be able to go to a Status Quo or Motorhead concert again.

Nothing much happens in the first half. It’s a dire struggle. Faubert has a cross put behind for a corner, Diamanti has a shot on target and Pedersen hits the bar from a free kick for them. Our passing game never gets going and Nouble is outnumbered all alone up front. And Spector is just about our best player.

“Did those 20,000 unsold shirts all have the name Kovac on the back?” I ask as the blonde midfielder puts another pass off target.

“No, they had several thousand Dyers and quite a lot of Ashtons,” suggests Matt.

“Not to mention a job lot of Quashies in the lock-up.”

There’s a melee for the East Stand hot dogs at half-time which at least warms us up. Only the Davids’ cost-cutting seems to have extended to hot dogs as they have none and Renee gets the last burger. Must have been taken surprise by 33,000 people suddenly turning up on a quiet Saturday afternoon. Give that contract to Ken’s Café at once Mr Sullivan.

The second half gets worse, and I have to tell Lola’s friend “Don’t walk away, Renee”. It’s her first game and should put her off for life. Like many of Sullivan and Gold's early business enterprises it's not fit for minors.

Blackburn look likely to nick it. Green produces a flying save from Olsson and then an even better one when substitute Roberts muscles aside Tomkins far too easily. Sub Carlton Cole clears off the line after Noble has handled but thankfully the ref misses it.

“Our defence is worse than Tony Blair’s at the Iraq Inquiry,” I sigh. “And our attack about as penetrating as the questions he faced.”

“We fooled the world into believing we had weapons of mass destruction…” muses Matt.

Our best moment comes when Diamanti’s excellent free kick is tipped over by Robinson and when sub Scott Parker breaks down the left only for no-pone to be on the end of his rolled cross across the six-yard box.

It’s all Rovers now and it's 0-0 and we’re grateful for a point. At least Cole and Parker should stat the next game. Luckily the other results have gone for us and we move up a place.

In Ken’s Café Da Don suggests that the new owners may not put up with Zola for much longer if we play like that. We can’t get in the club shop afterwards as there’s a huge queue for the 20,000 replica shirts at a tenner. Finally something connected with West Ham has managed to hit the (sales) target.

New Chelsea song?

"Chelsea, wherever you may be, don't trust your wife with John Terry!"