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.


kokorako said...

So that's why you're looking so fit! n x

Anonymous said...

Department S reformed recently: you can catch them in Soho Thursday week, if you fancy the sweet tang of nostalgia...

Pete May said...

I take it Vic will be there…