Monday, April 26

Beam us up Scotty

West Ham 3 Wigan 2

Ken’s Café is full of the extended West Ham family, united in suffering; Matt, Nigel, Jo, Mike, Michelle, Phill, Big Joe and even an unnaturally early DC, although the Gav is repairing a puncture somewhere on the motorway.

My old Essex school pal Alison is there with her son Scott, who has a cool touch phone that my kids admire and are soon demanding Daddy purchase. Al and Scott went to Everton in the home end and said the Scouse fans are just like us; moaning a lot and saying the away side were much better.

After a three-year exile in Spain Alison famously rerurned to London and described visiting West Ham in 1988 as “like walking into a room full of really angry men” and I fear she might be in for a further shock today, particularly if she sees the Vicar’s Son getting irate.

Eleven-year-old Lola sensibly prepares for the next day’s three-mile mini-marathon with Ken’s isotonic egg, chips and beans with white bread and sugared tea.

Us fans have done everything we can. I’m taking my daughters — even at £17 a ticket— because they have only seen West Ham lose three times out of a combined 33 games. Matt’s wearing his lucky red England World Cup shirt and Nigel’s brought CQ, his talismanic missus.

We leave young Scott trying to demolish a big breakfast with five minutes to kick off and head in to the Boleyn Stadium.

We concede a corner early doors. The Bobby Moore Stand howl to the referee that Ben Watson has put the ball outside the D but he ignores them. Ginger Watson proceeds to whip in a straightforward corner and Jonathan Spector inexplicably heads the ball into his own net after just three minutes. All going to plan. Erm, you head it away from the goal, Specs.

I wonder what I’ve done taking letting my kids witness this. Nell looks like she’s going to cry and I’ve lost out packet of Starbursts too.

Wigan look much the better passing team. We misplace simple passes and the tension is evident. But we should equalise when Cole capitalises on a lapse by the Wigan back four to round Kirkland and stroke the ball towards goal only for Caldwell to block at the last.

The Wigan keeper has been accidentally caught by Cole’s trailing foot and needs stitches on the pitch.

“What would happen if we broke all the Wigan players’ legs?” asks Lola.

Gently I suggest that this might not be quite the Corinthian spirit that I’ve tried to instill in my children.

Upson looks completely out of form in defence while Behrami and Faubert misplace endless passes. It nearly gets worse when McCarthy hits a 30-yarder that Robert Green brilliantly tips on to a post.

“That could be the turning point of our season,” says Matt. Although so could Cole’s miss.

The crowd are still behind the Irons, willing the side on and chanting “Your support is F***ing s**t!” at the small band of Wigan fans, along with what the kids believe to be a chorus of “Dirty northern custards!”

Then comes a breakthrough. On half an hour Ilan cleverly finds Cole, who drifts wide beats a hesitant Melchiot and crosses for Ilan to score another excellent poacher’s goal. Yes! Even a point would be something.

On half time we’re awarded a free kick after Cole is bundled over on the edge of the box.

“Haven’t we got any players who can take free kicks?” asks Lola.

“Noble can’t. The only player who can is on the bench,” Matt says sagely.

The curse of Mystic Matt works superbly, Noble bends a brilliant free kick over the wall, Kirkland can only punch it up in the air and Kovac heads into the empty net. Two-one in our cup final. And Hull are losing at home to Sunderland too. And to emphasise that fortune is no longer hiding I find the missing Starbursts under our seats.

As the half-time talk turns to the election I wonder if we could decide relegation through a TV debate. Zola would be much more telegenic than Iain Dowie and has a nice smile to impress the floating voters.

“Only Dowie’s a rocket scientist, so he might win,” points out the pragmatic Nigel.

We look even more nervous when we’re winning than we do when we’re losing. Sure enough, five minutes into the second half we’re undone by another simple corner. Watson again doesn’t place the ball inside the D, we lose a flicked header and Rodallega pushes it in with his midriff — although our embarrassed defence claims for hands.

“Wigan are poohy dogs! No, I like dogs, Wigan are poohy crocodiles!” says Nell. “Boo Wigan!”

Wigan really start to look impressive with their quick passing game. Only Da Costa and some great tackles from Parker keep us in it.

A crude foul by Spector stops a fine dribble by N’Zogbia on the edge of the box. Green gets down well to palm away the free kick.

We launch endless high balls at Carlton Cole, who is carrying an injury and now resembles the player of two years ago as the ball cannons off him in a Dowie-esque array of angles.

But we’re still fighting. A Kovac header from a corner skims along the bar. On 77 minutes another long punt is headed on by substitute Franco to Parker, who has time on the edge of the box to fire home an unstoppable shot into the far corner.

It's a fantastic goal. The normally reserved Scotty runs to the crowd with an expression not seen since Ray Winstone hit that bloke with the pool balls and announced “I’m the f***ing Daddy now!” in Scum.

The fired-up Hammer shouts at the crowd and then runs to embrace Zola on the touchline in a not-so-coded message to the Club Landlord.

The next 13 minutes are an excruciating mess of whistling and worry as “Super Scotty Parker!” rings round the ground.

We take the ball into the corners, lose it, concede free kicks and waste some time bringing on Daprela in the third minute of added time. Lola and Nell are as tense as everyone else and I’m pleased to se it, but sure we’re going to concede a Gerrard-like shot late on.

And finally the whistle blows. Jeremy Nicholas announces that Hull have lost and plays Bubbles followed by Hi Ho Silver Lining. Upton Park erupts in exhausted celebration as a 33,000 fans wonder if Burnley can win three games or Hull make up a minus 23 goal difference. No, even we can’t mess this up, surely?

A text arrives from my mate Nick, whom I’d informed of the "we’re desperate so I’ll take the lucky kids ploy” reading “It worked!” I text Her Indoors the news. We celebrate at the Who Shop (newly moved to Barking Road) by buying the girls a Doctor Who comic and novel and nipping into the Tardis with Amy Pond to move forward five years to see us win the Premier League at the Olympic Stadium.

We even get home in time to see the Weeping Angels (Hull City fans maybe?) on Doctor Who. It’s one of the most emotionally exhausting games I’ve ever been to but now we can dream of survival. As long as we don’t lose 24-0 to Fulham that is.


North Bank Norman said...

How do you spell 'relief'? S-C-O-T-T-Y-P-A-R-K-E-R!
Couldn't breath for most of the second half, and all of injury time. Wish I could have been at Upton Park though, and at Ken's with all of the old crowd.

Come on you Irons!

Pete May said...

We heard you cheering across the Atlantic.

At some point we'll have to analyse the season and what it means for Zola, but right now I'll just enjoy the relief.

Scotty should go to the World Cup - although Upson and Cole may have played their way out of the squad.

At least we'll have some direction next season, sounder finances and perhaps even some full backs and fit strikers.


Nicholas Clee said...

Have you bought Lola and Nell's season tickets yet?

Matt said...

I watched The Weeping Angels as well, and while I couldn't really work out what was going on, I was quite scared. So it was a lot like watching West Ham this season.

Pete May said...

Yes, it might have to be season tickets for the girls as they do bring us luck. It was worth the small fortune spent on programmes, sweets, three lunches at Ken's and goodies at the Who Shop to secure Premier League status.

As for the Weeping Angels, they are certainly more mobile than our defence and very good at masking runs on the blind side...

matt said...

Don't Blink - or Jonathan Spector will score another own goal