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.