Thursday, May 27

Hurry up Avvy!

And still the mystifying wait for Avram continues, even though we've bid £5 million for Yakubu according to today's Daily Mail.
Perhaps we're waiting for references to prove that Grant really did work at Chelsea and has five O levels and a CSE grade one in woodwork. Or a landlord is refusing to verify where he was living five years ago?

Monday, May 24

Waiting for Avram

It's the longest appointment in history. Avram Grant has resigned from Portsmouth and is apparently on his way to West Ham, despite, according to the Daily Mail, Roman Abramovich trying to lure him back to Chelsea as Director of Football.

Meanwhile, today's Mail claims that Grant could sign four of his old players from Pompey in Belhadj (a left back!), O'Hara, Boateng and Ben Haim. I'd take the first three, although not too sure about Ben Haim, who has declined since his days at Bolton.

Meanwhile it's said that Sullivan has bid for 75k a week for 32-year-old Thierry Henry. Shades of the Van Nistelrooy saga here, a showboating signing that is never going to happen. And when was the last ex-Arsenal player to succeed at Upton Park? Stewart Robson, Ian Wright, Davor Suker, Freddie Ljungberg … all failed through injury, being too old or not being bothered.

Wednesday, May 19

Pledge of reason?

The ten-point pledge from the Club Landlords makes for good PR but you do wonder about this:

6. Build the status and image of the club
Our standing at home and abroad is rightly built on our proud history and our commitment to young talent. The values of the Academy of Football developed since the days of Bobby Moore define what we are all about. With the world's spotlight set to shine on this part of London, the time is right to spread the word further.

Does this square with accusing Zola of gross misconduct and according to press reports putting Sam Allardyce and his long-ball game on a short-list of prospective managers?

Monday, May 17

We've not got Di Canio…

Paolo Di Canio has ruled himself out of the West Ham job. A shame, as the prospect of him working for Sullivan and Gold would have been, erm, intriguing.

You wonder how Paolo might have reacted to critical programme notes from the Club Landlord. You suspect there might be some proper "gross misconduct". Suffice to say that in his autobiography PDC has a marvellous argument with Fabio Capello, in which Capello rants "Get the f**k out my sight. Get back to the f**king hotel!" and Paolo retorts "You're not going to tell me what to do… I'm not going to hang around here and look at your ugly penis face any longer!"

You sense he might not be quite the applicant the Club Landlords are looking for…

Wednesday, May 12

Media bias

Did anyone notice that Zola's sacking was largely ignored by the media yesterday? Most of the hacks acted as if one Prime Minister resigning and another being appointed via a visit to the Queen was of more importance than football. Even Sky Sports News had a ticker-tape of the news that Gordon Brown had resigned.

Why was Hugh Edwards not outside Upton Park? It's a disgrace.

Grant-maintained football club?

Avram Grant is the bookies’ favourite for the Upton Park job. And you have to say that, facially, his Addams Family demeanour might suit the West Ham job.

Yes. he has more experience than Zola, as manager of Israel and in England as manager of Chelsea and Portsmouth., and is used to dealing with demanding oligarchs.

In his season at Chelsea they came second in the league, were runners up in the Carling Cup and only lost the Champions League Final on penalties after John Terry slipped. He inherited a fine squad, but this was some achievement following on from Mourinho.

He’s also done well to maintain morale at Portsmouth and, incredibly, reach the FA Cup Final while in administration.

However, my major reservation about Grant is that he lacks experience in buying and selling players. At Chelsea he bought Anelka – an easy signing to make if you have pots of dosh — but no-one else. And at Portsmouth the person who did a brilliant job assembling a side of bargains and misfits in two weeks was the sacked Paul Hart, not Grant.

The team massages should improve though.

And talking of massages, another scary name mentioned was Glenn Hoddle. Spurs and West Ham should never mix, but at least we might get Eileen Drewery and the chance for the Bobby Moore Stand to revive Dexys Midnight Runners’ Come on Eileen.

Lack of class

Zola was sacked for “gross misconduct” according to today’s papers. This means he receives no compensation from the club and the case will now be in the hands of Franco’s lawyers.

This is a particularly shoddy way of treating the nicest man in football — a man who even made coffee for the reporters outside his house yesterday.

Apparently Zola’s gross misconduct is the extremely mild comments he made after Sullivan announced to the press that the whole squad was up for sale minus Scott Parker. Zola said that Mark Noble or Valon Behrami would not be very happy reading this.

Yes, there were some sound footballing reasons for sacking Zola. But if so, be honest about it and give him some compensation for breaching his contract.

The whole episode betrays a lack of class, as does the fact that Sullivan and Gold got Karren Brady to do the sacking rather than appear themselves.

Worse still, it’s surely an unfair dismissal case we’ll lose. Any manager in the country would have responded to the comments Sullivan made behind their back. Even if we save a few bob, is it worth the damage to the club’s reputation?

What has happened to the club that gave us John Lyall, Ron Greenwood and high principles? One thing West Ham fans appreciate is a sense of fair play.

This lot would probably dismiss Trevor Brooking as a troublemaker.

Tuesday, May 11

Capello's Squad

Good news that Green, Scotty Parker and Upson are in Capello's 30-man squad, but Carlton is out.

Cole would surely have made it on his form in the first half of the season, but ever since the Burnley game he's been playing while injured and not able to sprint at full pace.

Whoever is spin doctor at West Ham is clearly doing a good job. Sacking Franco on the day the England squad is announced and we might get a new government is surely a case of burying bad news...

Zola out

Gianfranco Zola has been sacked says a terse statement on the West Ham website. No word on the future of Clarke, so presumably the cheaper option for the board is to keep him on as the new man’s assistant.

It’s tough on Zola, who has behaved with dignity throughout the season despite much interference from The Club Landlord. The style of football he wanted was right for West Ham, but once Nani went his position became untenable.

Franco wants to be a coach and is unproven in the transfer market, when what we need is someone who can work the market like Roy Hodgson has and improve undervalued players.

We have underachieved with the squad we’ve got, and big errors have been made in the transfer market, such as selling Collins and not recruiting a right back. These might have been down to Nani, but we have to assume he was working in liaison with Zola and Clarke.

You have to admire Zola’s sporting behaviour and his refusal to criticize referees. The players clearly liked him and I hope he’s a success as a coach, perhaps in Italy.

But this is the chance to recruit someone with more experience and hopefully the strength of character to stand up to the owners.

The good news is that Gordon Brown has made himself available.

Monday, May 10


The latest leaked WHU salary list arrives at Hammers in the Heart Mansions via my very own Deep Throat. They seem plausible to judge by the complaints Sullivan has already made about overpaid players - although the club says it's not genuine.

You can see where Sullivan and Gold might be making considerable savings: according to these figures Zola and Clarke earn a combined salary of £3 million a season.

They'll also be saving 70k a week on the out of contract Boa Morte and 20k a week on Spector, who is also said to be out of contract, and 20k a week each on the on-loan Franco and Ilan.

And you imagine the contracted players they'll try to shift include Dyer on 70k a week, Upson on 70k a week, Gabbidon on 50k, Faubert on 30k and, unfortunately, Diamanti on 30k.

The leaked figures — which might be completely wrong — also suggest that the Academy lads like Tomkins (4k a week), Collison (2k) and Stanislas (£400 a week) are underpaid compared to the big signings.

Still, at least Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling should be available soon to sort it out.

Boa selector

West Ham 1 Manchester City 1

“Tevez is a Hammer!” chant the Irons contingent at the City fans being escorted down Green Street.

After a trip to the stadium store to purchase a Tony Carr testimonial programme, it’s in to Ken’s CafĂ© for the season’s final waft of kitchen heat and odour of fried luncheons. Sadly, even the fact that I’ve mentioned Ken’s in the Observer’s end of season summaries doesn’t result in a free cup of tea.

Part-time Nigel is busy with something called an election. Matt says that our manager is still in power this weekend despite long and complex negotiations with two different leaders.

The word is that Zola’s going on Tuesday according to a mate of Big Joe’s pub landlady’s son, so it must be true. David Sullivan’s programme notes are hardly reassuring. He writes: "The current management and team know that what they have delivered was below the expectations at the start of the season.”

Jo, Big Joe, Matt and Lisa discuss who’s going to be our next manager. We come up with Bilic, Pards, Curbs, Roeder and Avram Grant, whose name causes many ribald suggestions about recommendations of East End massage parlours.

Strangely DC is late, perhaps refining his offer of a DM/East Stand pact for next season, and The Gav is left as ever, waiting for his ticket.

Tevez is only a sub, while we play Daprela at last and give Luis Boa Morte a game.

We go ahead after a clever back heel from Diamanti finds Boa Morte who strokes the ball into the corner with unexpected panache. It’s a fine moment for the previously constricted Boa in what will surely be his final game for the club as his contract expires this season. Luis runs to the fans, whips his shirt off and reveals a tattooed torso. He’s immediately booked and you wonder if he’s after a red card just for old time’s sake. Matt sends a text to Nigel reading "Boa selector!".

Our lead doesn’t last long. The dangerous Johnson crosses to the far post and Sean Wright Phillips climbs above Faubert and Parker to head home.

“He’s the shortest player on the pitch!” exclaims a disbelieving Matt.

After that it’s a fairly even game. Upson makes a great tackle to deny Johnson in the box, Green saves well from Adebayor and Diamanti turns inside to hit the post with a right-foot shot. Sullivan might dislike him, but it would be a mistake to let Allesandro go, as he’s the one player who can produce the unexpected.

In the second half Stanislas and Franco come on. Daprela does well against Johnson, but Cole looks increasingly injured and is mercifully benched. If Carlton needs rest then why play him in meaningless end of season fixtures?

“Is Stanislas wearing Spector’s boots?” queries Matt, as the sub gets it wrong again. Franco makes more of a difference, holding the ball up well to break free from Toure and fire at Fulop. A surging run by Parker sees Ilan have a toe poke saved by the City keeper’s foot.

There’s a huge chant of “There’s only one Carlos Tevez!” as the City sub comes on to adulation from the whole stadium, including the three blokes in dresses in the Bobby Moore Stand.

“Paul Ince went to Man United and he doesn’t get this kind of reception,” I muse.

Tevez then pokes the ball over the bar a Green rushes out. West Ham reject!

The game ends in a diplomatic draw. Tevez salutes the City fans while wearing Franco’s number 10 shirt over his City shirt. Clearly he’s after a move back to East London.

“We’ll know Tevez really does want to play for us if he comes out on our lap of honour,” says Matt.

Before the players return there’s a video of the highlights of the season on the big screen. These seem to include the players standing in the tunnel, the players shaking hands, the Hammerettes, and two Scotty Parker goals.

“It’s been a funny old season,” says Jeremy Nicholas, showing great potential as a spin doctor. He announces the most improved youngster (Christian Montana), the young Hammer of the Tear (Zavon Hines), the runner-up Hammer of the Year (Diamanti, in a fans’ message to the board not to sell him) and then the bombshell that Scott Parker is indeed our Hammer of the Year.

The lads proceed on a trudge of honour around the stadium, Their kids have their dads’ names on their back (thankfully no Terrys) and in a kick about at the end fight among themselves, follow the ball into the corner and then shoot wide – they’ll go far at West Ham.

Jeremy gives us Twist and Shout, Hi Ho Silver Lining and Heroes, which is perhaps stretching it a bit.

“It only says we could be heroes…” points out Fraser.

We retreat to the Central with The Gav. It’s tremendously chilly in the revamped beer garden, which is now being renovated in a fetching distressed concrete Mad Max post-apocalyptic theme.

“It will be better next season,” predicts Matt with undue boldness, who is also considering betting £50 on an October election. “In any other year we’d have gone down on 35 points but we’ve got away with it.”

Although there are also certain, ahem, creative tensions within the squad to reconcile. After the match Luis Boa Morte, speaking with the freedom of a man out of contract, lays into the Club Landlord: “Mr Sullivan should have a bit more composure when he talks to the press to hammer the players, it's not helping anyone. The fact you have money doesn't mean you can say and do whatever you want.”

Meanwhile Zola announces that on Tuesday he will have “a long and interesting chat” with the owners and the season ticket blurb promises “New season, New Era. New Heroes.”

We shall see.

Hit the road Jack

Sad news that Jack Collison is out until next January. It's another problem with his knee and a big blow for next season. Let's hope that after the death of his father and his long-term injury problem he come back as the player who at times looked like the next Michael Carrick.

Friday, May 7

Jermain preaches loyalty…

Interesting column from soon-to-be Champions League star Jermain Defoe in the Daily Mirror last week. JD wrote that it would be a mistake to sell Carlton Cole:

"Worse still, they could end up replacing Carlton Cole with the type of player who does not have the same affinity for the Hammers that he has. West Ham are a family club with fantastic fans who pay good money and appreciate it when you work hard. That's why they have taken the young plyers such as Jack Collison, James Tomkins and Mark Noble to their hearts. They love the club, they understand the culture and the supporters. They have come through the ranks and they will be gutted to leave if that ends up being the case."

Could this by any chance be the same Defoe who handed in a transfer request within 24 hours of the Hammers being relegated in 2003?

Thursday, May 6

Tony Carr's claret and blue army

A great turnout of 15,000 for the Tony Carr Testimonial last night. This seemed to take the club by surprise as the programmes were sold out and there were huge queues at the box office to pick up tickets that hadn’t been posted as promised.Thankfully the kick-off was postponed until 8pm because of the backlog of fans.

Numerous ex-Academy stars appeared. The Chelsea lads were not permitted to play but came on before the game. John Terry and Joe Cole were cheered while even Frank Lampard in a Hammers shirt received more cheers than jeers.

Our current side beat he Academy X1 5-1 with Paolo Di Canio turning out for both sides after subbing himself (maybe that’s what he was trying to do against Bradford). Both his West Ham shirts were like a second skin, but sadly he couldn’t score.

When he did nearly get the ball in the net it was nicked off his toe by youngster Christian Montano. However Paolo made one with a stepover and received a rousing tribute from all three sides of the ground (the East Stand was shut).

Star of the night was Gianfranco Zola who came on as a WHU sub, scored with a sublime chip, and looked more than fit to lace Mido’s boots.

Anton Ferdinand and Kieron Richardson travelled all the way from Sunderland and Rio was allowed 25 minutes by Fergie. We also got to see Birmingham’s Liam Ridgewell in a Hammers shirt and the return of Stuart Slater.

It was interesting to see how the Academy has contributed to the football pyramid beyond the Premiership. There was Lee Hodges from AFC Hornchurch, Coventry’s Elliot Ward and Freddie Eastwood and Adam Newton from Luton Town.

And at half time we got see Pottsy (why wasn’t the WHU legend on the pitch?), TC, George Parris, Alan Dickens, Bobby Barnes, Paul Allen and Everald La Ronde (remember him?).

A fitting tribute to the man who’s made the club £100 million and discovered most of the England side.

Wednesday, May 5

Picture this

The stress of the Wigan game is neatly encapsulated in these pictures of three young(ish) and handsome fans before and after the final whistle. Thanks to CQ for the photography...

Wages of sin

The West Ham club website has been quick to denounce the salaries published in today's Daily Star as a fake. Just as well as it said Boa Morte was on 70k a week... Most of them seemed fairly accurate ballpark figures though, particularly since Sullivan has already denounced Dyer's 60k a week...

Monday, May 3

You only drink white wine…

Fulham 3 West Ham 2

The Cottage pub is closed for renovation, a bit like West Ham. So Fraser, Nigel and myself drift down Munster Road to the Durrell Arms, where the Doombar ale makes a welcome change from the Central.

We walk the rainswept streets to Craven Cottage, noting the enhanced ambience compared to Upton Park. Oh West London is full of yoga studios, basement conversions and garden centres.

Nigel is sitting in Row Z of the Neutral Section, so he’s relieved to discover that Zamora is nursing an injury. Fraser and myself are right behind Rob Green in Row C and get to see our lack of width in horrific detail. How does the keeper cope?

Fulham have made seven changes from the side that beat Hamburg to reach the Europa League Final. We discover that David ‘Diddy’ Hamilton is still alive and DJing for the Cottagers and the game kicks off.

The home crowd seems positively sedate for a side that’s just achieved the impossible. Does your butler know you’re here?

It’s end of season fare from both sides. Lots of practice match style pinging the ball round with no fouls and no penetration. The away fans are so bored they recite a jukebox of chants hits: “Oh Christian Dailly you are the love of my life!”, "My name is Ludek Miklosko”, “Paolo Di Canio!” and even a Bobby Moore chant.

We discuss whether Paul Konchesky might make the England squad, until Fraser points out that his two England appearances so far involved getting beaten 3-1 by Australia and then given the run around by Argentina.

Things liven up a little on the half hour when Dempsey hits our bar with a chip that has Green beaten, and then Noble turns swiftly and fires in a shot that Schwarzer does well to parry. Da Costa fires in a rocket from 35 yards that the Fulham keeper turns round the post.

But our porcelain jaw is exposed right on half time as Dempsey plays a one-two with Davis and unmarked shoots into the corner of the net. It’s freezing, we're losing and it's all looking like a pretty poor investment of 49 quid.

“Still, they’ll struggle to get another 23.” I tell Fraser.

The West Ham fans are magnificent, as ever. At the start of the second half we repeat the constant claret and blue army mantra for a nothing at stake game. It inspires our lads a little and we up the tempo.

Only then we fail to clear and Baird shots at Cole, who unluckily deflects the ball into his own net.

Franco and Diamanti come on at last, just as Noble flights a free kick and Cole back heads into the Fulham net.

We press some more, but then Spector loses the ball on the left when he should have hit Row Zamora, and Okaka converts a tap in. Apart from Burnley and Hull, we must have the worst back four in the division.

In stoppage time Parker and Noble combine to set up Franco, still wearing his snood, for a well-worked consolation.

At least we still have a 22-goal superior goal difference to Hull, which is about the best that can be said for it. And David Hamilton is playing the Christian Daily song as we leave, starting another tribute to the iconic Scotsman.

Someone spots Phill Jupitus, our answer to Hugh Grant, in the departing crowd and quips “Did you see the humour in that then?” You suspect he might not have.

A strange game. It shouldn’t take the fans to motivate the players into a sense of urgency. Roll on the end of the season.

When push comes to shove…

Zola has finally lost all patience with Sullivan. The News of the World quotes him as saying:

"I should have a say in players coming in or going out. Of course I should. I am the one who has to coach the players and I need to know who I am coaching. It is incorrect to think I didn't want to be involved in player transfers.

"I did say to the chairman that I don't want to get involved in the financial part of transfers because the money is not my problem. But I want to know if people are coming, I need to know who I'm dealing with. Jesus Christ, I think that's normal."

The man actually used a (mild) expletive. That's worth 57 F words from Peter Reid or Neil Warnock.

For all his faults this season, Zola is right. Sullivan's handling of this is shambolic. Meanwhile the NOTW predicts we're after Slaven Bilic as a replacement

Saturday, May 1

Bidding war

Is this any way to run a football club? Gianfranco Zola has admitted that he knew nothing about West Ham's bid for WBA's Dorrans.

"I just found out in the newspapers. It was quite a surprise," he said. "I know he [Dorrans] is a good player and had a very good season but I didn't know the club was interested in him. He is a good player but I am not prepared to say at the moment whether he would be in my interests for next year.

Zola also remarked about the Club Landlord's latest announcement that everyone's up for sale bar Parker:

"If I was Mark Noble or Robert Green or Valon Behrami I wouldn't be very pleased to hear that [they had been put up for sale]. I didn't know. It is not pleasant. You don't like it but this is the way it goes. I have been surprised so many times this year – so I am not surprised that I am surprised."

The behaviour of the joint chairmen is growing ever more bizarre: Gold saying nice things about Zola and Sullivan undermining him.

If we're getting rid of Zola then do it. And let's have an honest declaration from Sullivan abut whether he wants to be the first chairman in English football to buy and sell players without the aid of a manager.