Friday, December 30

Pottsy wants it

One good thing to emerge from our injury crisis is that we may have a player in 17-year-old Danny Potts. The lad's looked confident and solid in both games he's played and can swing in a good left foot cross. And having recovered from leukaemia he's certainly going to have his feet on the ground, realising he's lucky to be both alive and a professional footballer.

Dad Steve was always a very underrated player and a great reader of the game, rather unfairly marginalised when Harry bought Rieper and Bilic. Might Danny eventually emerge as a centre-back like his father? Wherever he plays, we might have unearthed another Academy gem.

Wednesday, December 28

Drawing drawing West Ham

Birmingham City 1 West Ham 1

Manage to catch the game at the Fox and Duck in Buntingford, accompanied by Vulcan the border terrier, (though you'd think he'd support the Terriers of Huddersfield), a packet of crisps and two pints of IPA.

Perfect start after four minutes when Piquionne flicks on and Cole pounces on a defensive mistake to fire home confidently into the corner. We have two penalty appeals, for a push on Nolan and a blatant handball after Faubert's header is blocked. At the end of the half Gustave Faubert crosses and Cole spins and shoots to produce a brilliant save from Myhill. Brum have had one free kick saved by Green and that's about it.

The second half is a disappointment. We fail to exploit the fact Spector is their right back and resort to ugly long balls aimed at Cole. Substitute Lansbury turns inside nicely and his shot is well saved, but there's no striker following up the rebound. Diop has a good game screening the back four and Potts is dependable again but we let Birmingham back into it and they equalise on 81 minutes with a header from Murphy after we fail to deal with a corner. Green is clearly furious we've no man on the post to clear it.

The referee also has a cunning plan to suspend our entire side as bookings for Nolan, Faubert and McCartney mean all three are suspended for the Derby game.

We should have won, but still, a point at Birnmingham is a reasonable result, though we're now only second on goal difference. And who will play against Derby? Could Big Sam have to make a comeback?

Monday, December 26

Boxing Day disasters

Nice of the Guardian to print a picture of West Ham losing 8-2 at home to Blackburn on Boxing Day 1963 in today's feature on Boxing Day football. My personal favourite Boxing Day debacle was a 0-2 home defeat to Orient, though I think we also lost 2-1 at home to Ipswich one year when Ipswich had no shots, scoring an own goal and a penalty.

Miraculously we managed to win 3-1at Fulham last Boxing Day so let's hope we do the same at Birmingham today. We're off to my mother-in-law's at Buntingford, where I hope to catch the game live in the Fox and Duck…

All stations to Stratford?

Interesting that Andrew Altman chief executive of the Olympic Park Legacy Company has claimed that the future of the Olympic Stadium is "not necessarily dependent on football". He's mentioned rugby, cricket and concerts as other possible ways of raising revenue. Apparently any WHU lease would be for 99 years, which is good, but there are still several problems to consider such as:

Sharing our stadium with other sports and concerts - what will this do to the playing surface?
Giving priority to athletics tournaments and having to possibly move fixtures
Renting a stadium and not owning it
The fact Spurs are now out of the race reducing the pressure on WHU to do a deal
That athletics track and how to put seats over the top

Yes, it's much better for transport links and close to Westfield if you want a right royal cockney knees-up in John Lewis. But there's still much to be discussed.

Wednesday, December 21

Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium

Anyone seeking a Christmas present for a West Ham fan could do worse than try match day announcer Jeremy Nicholas' Mr Moon Has Left the Stadium, published by Biteback. It's very funny and available via the Amazon link above or from the Newham Bookshop in Barking Road on match days. Jem is a regular in Ken's Cafe and has presided over more communal wailing than that newsreader in North Korea. He says that Mr Moon will receive a cut of the royalties once he stays in his seat all game...

Sunday, December 18

Papa's got a brand new goal

West Ham 1 Barnsley 0

The queues at Ken’s Café are stretching out into Green Street. Luckily my old pal Alison O’Brien (no relation to Joey although her sister Roz does live next to the Basildon golf course where James Tomkins plays) and 16-year-old son Scott are up from Maldon and Scott queues for egg, chips and beans two slices and a mug of tea on my behalf, restoring my faith in young people's community spirit.

Nigel and Matt arrive with the news that Nigel is ahead in the office trivia quiz and Matt has seen Dave Gilmour at an outdoor performance of Shakespeare, which presumably left the Pink Floyd man’s posterior comfortably numb. Oh and Mystic May prophesises a nervy 1-0 win.

Upton Park is full  with 34,700 fans brought in by the sensible policy of pricing tickets at £15 and £5 for kids (though if we’re in the spirit of Scrooge us season ticket holders have still paid £40 plus).

For a few minutes everyone apart from Fraser misses the fact that Danny Potts is playing at left-back. Faye has injured himself in the warm up and George McCartney has moved to centre back, with young Daniel, as Big Sam refers to him, coming in for his debut. It’s an emotional moment for Nigel, who has long maintained that Pottsy senior is the greatest player ever to grace the claret and blue.

“That’s 400 appearances for the Potts family,” says Nigel, referring to the fact that the legendary Steve Potts made only 399 appearances for the Irons, before being cruelly left on the bench by Glenn Roeder in his final game against Bolton.

We really are down to what Harry Redknapp would term the bare bones. O’Brien and Collison are suspended and Faye, Reid, Demel, Taylor, Bentley and Baldock are all still injured. John Carew who's unfitter than me and you, can hardly run with a back problem. Carlton Cole doesn’t look completely fit either.

We get the ideal start after six minutes when Papa Bouba Diop meets Mark Noble’s corner to head West Ham into the lead. It’s Papa’s first goal in English football for six years.

Barnsley look a reasonable mid-table side and with Vaz Te prominent, force Green to make a good low save, before poking a one on one wide.

But our makeshift side creates several chances, with Noble taking responsibility in midfield and Faubert dangerous on the right. Freddie Piquionne has what seems a certain penalty turned down and then Carlton Cole produces great feet in the box to beat two defenders and round the keeper before poking wide. Young Danny Potts is steady on his debut and makes a couple of decent crosses.

The best moment of the first half is when Nigel falls for my comment that Barnsley may go out of business before the return game on April 7. He needs just that one trip to Oakwell to complete his set of 92 grounds and the look of panic on his face is worth the price of admission alone.

At half-time the fact Montenegro is on the bench inspires us to try to think of other West Ham players who have countries as names. My brilliant call is  Pat Holland. For the second half Nigel has us naming the England Players named after London boroughs (Alex Stepney, Bobby Charlton, George Eastham, etc) which probably says something about our struggle to hold on for a 1-0 win.

At the start of the second half a cat runs on to loud cheers, outpacing even Alan ‘Whippet’ Taylor and disappearing into the Alpari Stand, possibly having seen a fox in the box. That’s another feline mess at West Ham. Robert Green then makes a save that is better than anything from  Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti, brilliantly getting down to his line to stop Edwards' header, which looks a certain goal.

Cole and Sears fail to shoot when well placed. Carew has to go off to be replaced by Freddie Sears and even Faubert gets injured and is replaced by Lansbury.

Danny Potts is clattered late by a Barnsley defender and Nigel nearly rushes on to the pitch in protest. Big Sam reacts in a similar fashion and is then sent off for kicking a water bottle after Freddie Sears races into the box with the speed of a kid opening his advent calendar, only to fall in the box and spark a penalty claim.

Pottsy recovers to make some good clearances to Cole and we end the game with a back four of Lansbury, McCartney, Tomkins and Potts. People will say it’s only Barnsley, but with our small squad it’s still a performance of some character to hold out for the win.

After the game we rush off to find the special bar (the Demba Bar?) open to season ticket holders that the club has emailed us about. Will David Sullivan be behind the bar serving real ale and Karren Brady leading a Christmas knees-up? We expect a private room but instead find it’s a bog standard bar in the draughty Alpari concourse selling rubbish beer with three people there. So it’s off to the Central instead.

Southampton draw the next day so we’re only one point behind the leaders. A nervy win, but in the circumstances it’s a great three points.

Saturday, December 17

Dyer straights

My pal Matt says he is "currently flat on my back having been hit with a feather". This is after hearing the news that Kieron Dyer may not play again this season. He limped off during an attempted comeback in QPR reserves and is set to have an operation on his foot on Monday. So he's played just five minutes football all season. Neil Warnock says QPR will not be activating a termination clause in Dyer's contract that is triggered in January

You have to feel sorry for Dyer as a person, but he's surely the most injury-prone player in the history of the Premiership, worse than Darren 'Sicknote' Anderton, and we wasted £6 million and 80k a week on him. He's made just 41 appearances in five seasons, most of them as a sub. Surely the time has come for Dyer to retire and move into punditry.

Wednesday, December 14

Oldly going up?

According to today's Sun we're after Crystal Palace's 19-year-old winger Wilfried Zaha, who can play on either flank. You do wonder if we're picking up so many injuries because the side is getting on a bit. Apart from youngsters Tomkins, Reid, Collison and Baldock, the side is full of players approaching or over 30, such as Diop, Taylor, Nolan, Faye, Carew, Demel, McCartney and Piquionne.

Even Cole and Faubert are both now 28. Older players are bound to pick up more knocks and a little youthful resilience and energy would surely help. It might also be a moment to give 21-year-old Freddie Sears a game, as at least he runs around a lot and was one of our best players in his last appearance against Bristol City.

Monday, December 12

Paolo goes off on one…

Our old mate Paolo di Canio wasn't too pleased after Swindon let in a late equaliser on Saturday. Imagine how he'd react if they'd lost 3-0 and had two men sent off...
"I've already asked the chairman for three players, now I want four or five otherwise I will discuss my contract," PDC told BBC Wiltshire. "With this team, and this mentality, I can't win the league. Today I didn't recognise this team as my team. After two minutes I said to Fabrizio [Piccareta, assistant manager] 'to win this game we are going to have to be lucky' because four or five players had no courage, no heart, no desire. If we play like today we deserve to be relegated. I have some experience in football. Christmas time is coming and for some of the players it's unusual for them to play over the Christmas period. 
"Maybe they would like a winter break, they're thinking about shopping, organising somewhere to go next weekend for two or three days. That is typical. Their brains are somewhere else. Maybe Rafa's [Raffaele De Vita] is already in Italy? He is one but there are others - Mehdi [Kerrouche], [Lukas] Magera, [Lander] Gabilondo. I attack Gabilondo because I know he is better than this, and I get angry as his brain is probably in Spain.
"From now on I will not treat them as men, because six or seven don't deserve to be treated as a man. We arranged a day off after next weekend. If they don't win against Morecambe we don't have a day off. They are not man enough to have two or three days off to go and celebrate before Torquay. I'm sorry for the six or seven who always give their best but when we talk about a group, everybody must pay the price."

Sunday, December 11

Reading rampant against red-card Irons

Reading 3 West Ham 0

We’re in Colchester at a boutique B & B celebrating our wedding anniversary (strangely Her Indoors wasn’t tempted by Reading away) wondering what the Romans ever did for us. Matt texts from Reading, revealing that he is in his lucky Dukla Prague away shirt accompanied by WAG Lisa. They're at Reading Art Gallery and Museum for lunch looking at a Robert Gillmor retrospective. I raise the middle class football fan stakes by revealing we’re at Tudor Dancing in the pre-Norman Trinity church made from recycled Roman bricks and stone.

Sadly that lucky Dukla Prague away shirt appears to have turned West Ham into a team of Half-Man Half Biscuit. As we’re touring Colchester Castle, built on the site of the temple sacked by Boudica, we discover that West Ham are also under siege from barbarian tribes. Matt’s text reads: “0-3 down + down to 9 men. 4 minutes left – would take a draw.”

Our cause isn’t helped by Demel going off injured after two minutes. Looking at The Football League Show, Faubert nearly sets up Collison and we almost score through Diop. In a scrappy game we look fairly comfortable at 0-0 at half-time. But the Irons suffer from Joey O’Brien stupidly getting involved in some handbags with Hunt and then lunging in on McAnuff for two quick yellow cards. From the free kick West Ham reject McAnuff finds space on the left to set up Pearce to score. The second goal sees La Fondre cross over the stranded Green and the unmarked Church head home.

Jack Collison compounds the situation by also getting red-carded. Kebe extracts the urine by miming pulling up his socks and Collison retaliates by clattering into him. He was provoked by Kebe’s showboating, but it’s a stupid reaction.

Reading score a third as Church gets ahead ofCole, on as a sub, to score with another header from a set piece.

Two defeats in a row is getting worrying, though we remain second. Our defence, so solid all season, has conceded five bad goals in two games. Cole had a really good game against Burnley, but was on the bench against Reading, which seems strange from Big Sam, while we have O’Brien and Collison suspended and Taylor, Demel and Baldock injured. Suddenly Barnsley becomes a very important game indeed.

Saturday, December 10

Fit again Irons

Good news is that Henri Lansbury is fit to return to the squad at Reading today, compensating for the possible loss of Matt Taylor again.

Meanwhile it's also pleasing to see Gary O'Neil get 45 minutes action with the development squad after a terrible ankle injury against Aston Villa last season. An unsung team player, he might, arguably, have kept us up last season had he stayed fit. He's still six weeks away from first-team action but O'Neil played in the Portsmouth side that won the Championship and may have a big say in the final 20 games of the season.

Friday, December 9

Olympian Hammerettes

The Government has controversially doubled the budget for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics to £80 million. Apparently David Cameron saw the original plans and authorised an extra £41 million. A strange decision in this age of austerity and surely a waste of money when the answer lies in E13. Couldn't we just get Jeremy Nicholas and the reformed Hammerettes to do it instead? If The Kids Are United, Bubbles and Twist and Shout would surely get the Games off to a rousing start...

Wednesday, December 7


Watched the premiere of Cass Pennant’s new documentary film Casuals at Borough High Street’s Roxy Bar last week.

It’s a fascinating piece of soccer sociology, exploring the terrace-inspired Casual look of the 1980s. At the height of Thatcherism, suddenly the terraces were full of lads with wedge cuts wearing Fila, Tacchini, Pringle, Ellesse and pre-chav Burberry.

Produced and written by Pennant, and directed by Nick Kelly, Casuals is narrated by Peter Hooton of The Farm, and has contributions from the likes of Pat Nevin and Paolo Hewitt.

Casuals begins in Brighton and looks at how the mod look was updated by the Casuals. The movement started off in Liverpool, where everyone wanted what they called  “Adeedas” (Adidas) trainers.

The Scousers would use European trips to search out and purloin ever more exclusive brands.  It was all about one-upmanship, and some lads could return from spending a week’s wages on the latest Tacchini gear only to find that another more exclusive label was in vogue. Bizarrely Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe became terrace fashion heroes as the kids bought into Fila and Ellesse tops. 

There’s interesting contributions from female casuals such as Helen Thomas from the Cardiff Soul Crew and Bev Thompson from Leicester Baby squad, as well as Asian Riaz Khan and the “Lacoste Lefties” from the Cardiff Soul Crew.

Quite a few (designer) anoraks are on display too. From the bloke who’s got 400 Adidas trainers round his gaff, to Neil Primett owner of 80s Casual Classics with his endless racks of Fila tops.

Casuals is an excellent social document of a time when football was in a different pre-Sky/Premier League age. 

Could the Casuals return? Well, my crew in the East Stand favours Dukla Prague away shirts (Matt), Somerset Maugham jackets and cigars (Fraser), AC/DC denim jackets (Nigel) and Berghaus fleeces, Craghopper trousers and DMs (me), though strangely no young Scallies have started to imitate us. Give it time though, and they’ll realise we’re style icons.

Sunday, December 4

Festive mugging

West Ham 1 Burnley 2

There’s much excitement in Ken’s Café: Matt has been on a mini-break to Aylesbury that didn’t involve going to a football match while Nigel has met Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, along with CQ dressed in purple (a Strange Kind of Woman?). He’s not looked so excited since he bought Made in Japan on vinyl. Though he does admit it might be a Black Night if West Ham lose.

Worryingly though, Nigel is so elated by his Purple encounter that he has decided to embrace positivity with West Ham too. Having declared that we’d beat Bristol City by “a cricket score” he announces, “soon the floodgates will open”. Matt, Fraser and myself know that you should never interfere with West Ham’s karma in such fashion; always assume we are going to lose.

Sure enough we dominate the first half but Taylor heads over and Nolan prods wide when surely he should score. Green has not had a shot to save. Cole is having a good game, bringing other players into the game with his knock downs and making some good runs, but you do wonder if we should have two up front at home.

Finally we make the breakthrough when Cole nods on Green's goal kick and Nolan cleverly lobs the keeper after 52 minutes. We take Taylor off for Piquionne. Nigel says it proves us Jeremiahs wrong.

Only five minutes later Burnley's Junior Stanislas (sold by Big Sam) pings over a routine cross and McCann rises above Faye and heads home with their first effort on target.

We batter the Burnley goal and completely dominate midfield. It’s actually one of our better home performances of the season. Collison hits the post and Piquionne makes a fine run but releases the ball at the wrong moment.

Green makes a fine stop from a long distance Burnley effort. Nigel says we'll score soon and that as Southampton are losing "we'll go top if we win". After 75 minutes Burnley get their first corner. Sam Vokes rises above Nolan to score with a powerful header. It’s a complete mugging.

West Ham continue to press with Carew, Cole and Piquionne up front and Faubert’s woeful header wide summing up our afternoon. Every cross seems to land on a Burnley head and we look tired and demoralised. Nigel's floodgates remain barred and triple-locked by Banham. Piquionne has a goal bound shot stopped by a defender's face and Cole shoots narrowly wide.

“There’s only one person to blame and that’s Nigel,” exclaims Matt, although Nigel feebly tries to argue that the players and manager might come into it also.

We’ve been desperately unlucky, but have been punished for bad defending and poor finishing and Nigel’s Deep Purple-inspired over-confidence.

We’ve been undone by Burnley’s Machine Head. And there could be Smoke on the Water when Nigel burns his lucky West Ham baseball cap by the Thames.

Saturday, December 3

Hayden Foxe where are you?

In yesterday's Evening Standard Sam Allardyce reveals that it's the players' Christmas party after today's game. We have a glorious tradition of misbehaviour at these events, dating back to Hayden Foxe weeing in a plant pot in 2001 and Trevor Sinclair getting into a fracas with a car in Romford in 'Arry's time.

Still, Big Sam, and Davids Sullivan and Gold will all be attending, presumably on the principle that if the headmaster's around the players will behave. Kevin Nolan is organising the bash, and as Andy Carroll's former landlord (his car got burned out while Carroll was lodger) you have to hope he knows how to deal with any miscreants.

Though if they all go on to Sugar Hut afterwards, who knows what might happen...

Tuesday, November 29

It's grin up north

Middlesbrough 0 West Ham 2

Caught the second half commentary live on BBC London and good to hear the 1,200 Hammers fans singing throughout. We seemed to be in control for most the game and sub Carlton Cole sealed it in the fourth minute of extra time rounding the keeper after a mistake by Bates.

A lively start and a five-man midfield helped achieve a very impressive win over the previously unbeaten Boro. The radio said Faubert had another impressive game too. Shame Southampton had to win but we're now six points clear of third place on 40 points. A great result among the smog monsters. Irons!

Stop the game now!

It's half-time at the Riverside. We're 1-0 up at Boro and Southampton are losing at home, which would leave us top. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything knowing West Ham.

Just looked at our scorers list and noted that 14 different players have scored for WHU this season, plus two own goals, which is encouraging. Freddie Piquionne has bagged his second of the season and appears to have regained his confidence and Demel is playing at last. Stand by for a nervous 45 minutes...

Sunday, November 27

We need to talk about Kevin's goal

West Ham 3 Derby County 1

To eat or not to eat? My daughters have free Academy member tickets for the game, so we solve the iffy kick-off time eating dilemma by purchasing two plates of chips, some bread and butter and a cheeseburger from Ken’s Cafe. Nigel, Matt and Big Joe are all there, as we learn that Southampton have lost. Nigel has just knocked off his 91st league ground and claims that “only a nuclear holocaust” will prevent him visiting Barnsley on April 7 and completing his set of all 92.

Inside Upton Park, after a bright start West Ham’s progress is hampered when the lively Baldock goes off with an injured hamstring, to be replaced by Piquionne after 20 minutes.

Our first real shot comes after 30 minutes when Fielding fails to hold Collison’s shot and Faubert just fails to get to the rebound. But Derby take the lead on 34 minutes. Ward dispossesses Collison on the half way line and the ball is played through to Priskin, The otherwise excellent Tomkins loses his man and the on-loan striker finishes crisply. 

Ten-year-old Nell contents herself by writing “stinky Derby” in her programme.

We’re wondering what the anonymous Nolan is doing as WHU continue to struggle, though the skipper does come to life to produce a low cross. Matt says his mate, who’s a Bolton fan, says he “a real Match of the Day player” player who will always make the highlights but not have done much else.

Thankfully we look livened up by the goal and when a free kick is cleared O’Brien crosses first time and Carlton Cole gets a good head on it to send the ball past a despairing defender on the line.

Half-time is spent eating isotonic Jaffa Cakes. We’re a different team in the second half as we revert to 4-3-3. Faubert plays Piquionne through with a great ball. Freddie shows great control to cushion it and shoot but Fielding makes a fine stop. The floodlights help as the crowd get behind the team with Bubbles and the Claret and Blue Army chant.

Mystic Morris and Mystic Matt are just saying what does Nolan contribute and why does he never shoot first-time as Collison lobs the ball back to him on the edge of the box. Nolan waits for the ball to drop and strikes an exquisite volley into the bottom corner. Guess that’s what we bought him for. It’s a great goal, his fifth of the season, and will hopefully increase Nolan’s confidence in home games.

We start to really dominate and play some good football on the ground. Lola looks up from her copy of Harry Potter to observe a series of corners. Faubert wins the ball on the half way line plays the ball into Collison whose first time ball releases Piquionne only for the striker to be pulled down at the edge of the box. Penalty. Mark Noble does the rest.

It’s good to see Piquionne gaining in belief too and he nearly scores a fourth when his header is cleared off the line.

Derby have long since gone home. For the five minutes of stoppage time we play keep-ball to cries of “Ole!” from the crowd. Makes a change from the normal anxiety. Gustave Faubert even gets Man of the Match instead of Scott Parker. We’re now two points behind Southampton.

“Couldn’t we always play in the Championship?” asks 13-year-old Lola, still shocked by witnessing three home wins this season.

Big Sam has clearly been irked by some the criticism he's received this season. He uses the win to tell the BBC that West Ham  played some fine football to nail "all this Allardyce long ball rubbish” and give "a proper performance getting the ball down and playing as we have done all season".

As the Newham Bookshop is shut at this late hour we retreat to Westfield and W H Smith where Lola gets Startled by His Furry Shorts by Louise Rennison to celebrate. This might be tempting fate terribly, but if we win at Middlesbrough and Saints lose on Tuesday we could go top… 

Saturday, November 26

Where's our 3pm kick-off gone?

Taking my daughters to the game today, but how do I do I feed them bearing in mind that that dodgy 5.20pm kick-off? They'll be starving by the end of the match at 7.20pm. Is it just a toasted cheese sandwich in Ken's Cafe at 4.30 or try to force a full meal down them? Is it best to resort to Jaffa Cakes at half-time? I'm trying out more new systems than Big Sam. TV has a lot to answer for.

Friday, November 25

Blatter on a platter

Latest t-shirt from the excellent Philosophy Football is this Let's Kick Kick Blatter Out of Football offering. Click on the link for details...

Wednesday, November 23

Is Paolo Di Canio's West Ham shirt no longer like a second skin?

It seems Swindon might be replacing WHU in the heart of one Paolo Di Canio. PDC's latest quote is:"With West Ham I have a special relationship. I have a tattoo of them. But Swindon are my first club. I am completely dedicated to this club. Maybe at the end of the season I will extend the tattoos on my body and get a Swindon one if we win the league. West Ham was my second home but in the last six months I've had the same feeling here and I hope this story can keep going. I hope one day that I can go back to Italy and think about Swindon as my second team."
As my pal Lisa says: "What tattoo would you get to represent Swindon? A giant roundabout?"

Julien Julien Julien....

Is Julien 'Gustave' Faubert now one of our key players? It's interesting that Faubert has now made 99 appearances for WHU, leaving him as our fourth most senior pro, behind Cole, Noble and Green.

The great French novelist come utility man certainly looks a better player this season, after being alienated by Grant. In the summer he looked certain to go with the rest of the dead wood. But he scored against Leicester and made another goal on Saturday with a cross for the winner and looks much happier under Big Sam, who preferred him to O'Brien at right-back. You could say he's no longer as sick as Faubert's Parrot.

Can't see that he was ever worth £6 million, but could Julien, at the age of 28, finally be starting to play to his potential?

Sunday, November 20

The ball came over and Fred fell over...

Coventry City 1 West Ham 2

Her Indoors has left me with the kids and I’m in a heaving Westfield exploring Chip and Fish and the Build-a-Bear shop as Matt’s texts come through from Coventry, somewhere by a car park and roundabout in the Midlands. Matt is on a hot date with WAG Lisa in his version of Sugar Hut, the Ricoh Stadium (not to mention previous romantic weekends at Doncaster, Wigan and Bolton).

We’re a goal down at half-time and Matt’s verdict is: “Worst 45 minutes I have seen this this season. Surely we must improve. Lucky Dukla Praha away shirt facing retirement.”

When we turn it round to win 2-1, my text back reads “Best second half of the season?”

He responds: “Luckiest. Piq’s goal was just bizarre and after taking lead we let them back into it.”

Mike texts similar sentiments: “Worrying game yesterday, but a couple of deflections and some reasonable defending saved the day.”

Still, it’s another good result, even if Coventry are second from bottom It could be worse than supporting the second-placed team. My pal Martin, a Coventry supporter texts, “Every bloody time.”

The Football League Show reveals that our admirable 6,500 away crew shame the sparse home crowd. We go a goal down as Collison lets a weak cross come in that rolls gently across our area before Platt turns sharply to score.

In the second half Big Sam brings on Carlton for Carew and Piquionne for Diop. It works with two goals in six minutes. From Green’s goal kick Cole wins the ball and the Coventry defence parts as if they're St Paul’s clergy confronted by a difficult decision. Carlton blasts home his fifth goal of the season via a deflection.

Then Gustave Faubert lobs over a high ball that a City defender bizarrely heads at Freddie Piquionne’s knee and the ball somehow deflects over the line. It’s the luckiest WHU goal since David Kelly scored against Derby when Peter Shilton punched the ball on to the back of his head. After a sending off and a red card for fly tipping in Essex, maybe this goal will turn the season round for Freddie.

We should make it three when Noble finds Freddie Piq, he plays in Noble who scuffs it to Collison who blazes high and wide from six yards out.

A scrappy win but some bold substitutions by Sam and part of the art of promotion is winning when you play badly. One away defeat all season is some record so far.

Friday, November 18


More hacking than Julian Dicks in his prime.
At the start of Karren Brady's court case a High Court judge has confirmed that, "At the height of the dispute about the Olympic Stadium Ms Brady's phone records were unlawfully obtained by subterfuge." He said they found their way to PKF, a firm of accountants engaged by Tottenham. The judge was told Spurs were given copies of the records, though Spurs denied that anyone at the club had received them.
Fire up the Quattro!

Sunday, November 13

Grounds for concern?

Will we move to the Olympic Stadium? Last week The Standard revealed that the athletics track will have a guaranteed 100-year-lease and that home matches would have to be moved if an international athletics tournament clashed with the football season. Now David Gold has told TalkSport of his doubts, saying:
"I have mixed feelings. The Olympic Stadium is very exciting, but we need a consultancy procedure with our fans, that is important. I am ruling out developing the Boleyn, that would be pouring money down the drain. But what we can't do is nothing. West Ham have been at the Boleyn for over 100 years. I believe we are the eighth largest supported club in the country, and yet we perform more like the 20th biggest, and that's because we are at the Boleyn. So we have to change that. The obvious change that everyone is looking at is the Olympic Stadium. But there is a doubt, there are issues unresolved."

Not sure why he blames the Boleyn for our ills, we could still redevelop it to a 40,000 plus stadium by rebuilding the East Stand. But the alternative, the Olympic Stadium is far from a done deal.

Super Scotty Parker

Watching Scotty Parker play so well for England against Spain, and hearing Spurs' fans endlessly eulogising the man who has inspired their surge up the table, you ask yourself one question. How did we ever manage to get relegated with Parker in the side?  Quite an achievement by Avram Grant and the other ten players.

Admittedly Scotty missed the crucial final games, but even so, a player of his class should have guaranteed a mid-table finish. At £5.5 million he looks one of Harry's best ever signings - which might cheer up the Spurs gaffer as he contemplates his coming date with the Inland Revenue in court.

Wednesday, November 9

West Ham meets Life on Mars

Extraordinary developments in the stadium battle. A 29-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of fraud after complaints by West Ham and the Olympic Park Legacy Company.

The arrest occurred hours after the OPLC chair, Baroness Ford, had claimed at a London Assembly committee that Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, had put all 14 members of her board "under surveillance". A Sunday Times article in August had claimed that an OPLC member had moonlighted for West Ham. The OPLC and West Ham then complained to police about possible phone and bank account hacking by private investigators.

Meanwhile Spurs issued a statement denying everything, reading: "The club did not undertake, instruct or engage any party to conduct surveillance on any member of the OPLC committee and we consider the making of this baseless accusation to be wholly inappropriate and irresponsible. We totally reject the allegation in the strongest possible terms."

Well done to Karren Brady, Sullivan and Gold for fighting back. Sounds like a case for Gene Hunt to me.

Monday, November 7

Where's your famous IVF?

Interesting story in the Mail on Sunday. One of Britain's oldest IVF (no, that's not an offshoot of the ICF) mothers Susan Tollefsen from Laindon, aged  61, has dumped her "toyboy" partner Nick Mayer, 50,  over his love for West Ham. Their IVF child Freya is now three-years-old.

"Every Saturday he wanted to go and watch them, either home or away, and some weekdays. I felt as if he didn’t want his life to change at all after Freya came along, even though mine had changed completely. I felt as if my whole world revolved round Freya and yet Nick was passionate about West Ham. I felt there was four of us in this family – me, Freya, Nick and the Hammers," she told the MoS.

You have to have some sympathy for Mr  Mayer. They keep you all up night, take over your life and cause uncontrollable mood swings and strange hormonal surges. And kids are pretty demanding too.

Sunday, November 6

Hull is for heroes

Hull City 0 West Ham 2

Another great result on the road. Looking at The Football League Show highlights, Hull kept going right to the finish and Robert Green had a fantastic game, producing a string of fine saves. But we took our chances expertly; Baldock showed sharp reactions to turn in Cole's header from a Hammers' corner after the break and a few minutes later influential substitute Carlton Cole found Collison with a great through ball and Jack did the rest.

Best moment was Green parrying the ball after a one-on-one with Matty Fryatt and Abdoulaye Faye rushing back to clear before going mental, as they say in Educating Essex, at the rest of the defence. We haven't had an organiser at the back for many a season. Baldock now has 11 goals this season if we include six for MK Dons and is starting to justify a £2 million investment, while we look better with Collison back in the side. And a nice chant of "Is there a fire drill?" from the 2,900 Hammers fans at the end too.

Say what you like about Allardyce, but we're no longer a soft touch away from  home.

Saturday, November 5

We want Pottsy on the pitch...

Nice to see Danny Potts, sone of Steve, on the bench against Hull City. Let's hope he shares the goalscoring prowess of his dad against Hull. Whenever Pottsy scored we always got seven...

Friday, November 4

Cold comfort

Wouldn't a cold lager in the Black Lion do the same job? The club website reports:

West Ham United's players are embracing the use of cryotherapy - cold therapy - to help them to recover quickly from the strains of a 46-game npower Championship season.
On Wednesday, a number of players visited the cryotherapy chamber as an alternative to jumping in an ice bath, spending three minutes at temperatures of minus 120C (minus 184F) to aid recovery in their muscles following Tuesday's draw with Bristol City.

Wednesday, November 2

The Only Way Isn't West Ham...

West Ham 0 Bristol City 0

In honour of Julien Faubert deciding he’s staying Nigel has told CQ it’s going to be a cricket score. In Ken’s Cafe Don P is discussing how to press olive oil in Italy (surely Ken's should feature in Jamie's Great Britain?) and Big Joe appears for a few minutes before heading off to the executive egg, chips and beans.

It’s down to myself, Nigel and Mike in the East Stand tonight as Matt’s at the Union Chapel watching some indie band, while Fraser arrives at half-time after a dash from a crime-show in Liverpool, but they’ll only let him in the Bobby Moore Stand. He later wishes they hadn’t.

Though after my strange omission in the Leicester report, Nigel is very keen for readers to know that Swindon Town is the only team in the League not to have any letters from the word ‘mackerel’ in its name.

Freddie Sears looks our liveliest player and may have found his best position floating behind the forwards. After 16 minutes he hits the post with a fine curling effort from the edge of the box.

Freddie Piquionne heads straight at James from Faubert’s cross but while looking the better side we don’t really create that much. City have a couple of efforts just wide and over the top on the break before half-time.

The most exciting moment is when Harry Durbidge and Amy Childs from The Only Way Is Essex appear on the pitch at half-time, only we’re in the bowels of the East Stand and miss it. It’s possible Amy believes Bristol City is a new cosmetic surgery salon in Brentwood. Harry is wearing an “I only kiss West Ham fans” t-shirt. Though Big Sam probably thinks “Shu’ up!” is Harry’s plan to see the game out.

In the second half Nolan shots too close to the keeper, Sears has a chip saved and Piquionne plants a header wide where Carew might have scored.

Amdy Faye, on for the injured Reid, makes a fantastic block after Green spills a shot and the ball rebounds to a City striker who looks certain to score.

Noble has a poor game, Nolan doesn’t contribute much either and we look strangely jaded for a side that has only played 15 games. Sam makes a strange substitution bringing on Cole for Baldock, presumably to test City’s defence with two big men, and replaces Sears with Diop. Freddie is perhaps a little tired after trick or treating the previous night.

We miss the creativity of Taylor, Collison and Lansbury and end up just lumping high balls into the box that City clear easily. Cole has a turn and blaze over the bar and that’s about it.

The only encouraging thing is that we take a point when last season we might have lost this banana-skin game. Three games in eight days appear too much for this squad. We still desperately need a playmaker that can create and beat players.

At least we’re away on Saturday. After a couple of drinks in The Central with The Gav, fresh from an evening with Brian Dear, Ronnie Boyce and Billy Jennings in Romford, we return past the players’ car park and see Harry from TOWIE leaving with a child on his shoulders and surrounded by autograph hunters.

Could Harry be the solution to our injury crisis? The lad’s only 17, wonder if he can play a decent through ball… Shu’ up!

Sunday, October 30

Baldock's cunning plan

West Ham 3 Leicester 2

In Ken’s Café Nigel is asking what is the only league club that doesn’t contain any letters of the word mackerel, while Jo enquires what is the only team whose letters you can’t colour in (it’s Hull City).  While Matt is tearing out selected pages from Time Out so he can recycle the rest in the bins by the East Stand. Middle-class football fans, eh?

At least we’re back to full strength in the East Stand, Fraser has recovered from a stomach bug, Matt’s voice is back and Nigel is over his man flu. And Robert Green is back in goal too.

We start a little tentatively. “That was terrible control from Faubert, He was awful on Monday night, and he ‘s only ever scored one goal for us…” muses Matt. “Why did Curbishley ever pay £6 million for him?”

But after 21 minutes Noble finds Carew who gets to the line and pulls back a fine cross. Baldock, manages to show a poacher’s hunger by outjumping the defence to head home.

A minute later Noble finds O’Brien with an excellent crossfield ball and the full-back pulls the ball back for Gustave Faubert to stroke into the corner. The French novelist runs to the half way line looking upwards in disbelief and possibly thanking his WAG Madam Bovary.

“Always said he was a good player,” claims Matt, as a text arrives from Lisa asking if he now takes back all the abuse he was heaping on Jules in the pub on Monday night.

“How shit must you be, we’re winning at home!” chant the Bobby Moore stand. We agree it’s time that chant ended – we’re actually a good side at this level.

The booked Carew goes off after half an hour to be replaced by Piquionne. In the last quarter of the first period Leicester show signs of a revival and just miss a couple of pull-backs in the box.

We have two chances early in the second half. Piquionne outmuscles the defence but shoots at the keeper when he could have crossed for Baldock, while Collison declines to shoot when he has a clear opening.

Leicester pull a goal back through King after some bad defending allows King to elude McCartney and Nolan to score at the far post.

Leicester have most of the game now, but Schmeichel makes a brilliant save from Baldock’s low shot after McCartney’s fine cross.

But we appear to have won the game after 75 minutes when from Green’s kick Piquionne heads on and Baldock expertly prods home. A three-touch route one goal that will surely have had Big Sam salivating.

Only this being West Ham we soon concede a goal – albeit a brilliant volley from Andy King that flies into the top corner. Not much we could do about that one.

Journeyman striker Howard causes all sorts of problems for us in the air at the back. Leicester then go agonisingly close to equalizing as Tomkins’ deflects Howard’s effort on to the bar.

Young Freddie Sears comes on and has clearly been promised extra sweets when he goes trick or treating if he keeps the ball in the corner.

Noble manages to calm things down with some cool passes out of defence and after four minutes of stoppage time we celebrate victory.

“In a perverse way it’s encouraging. We’ve taken six points from two games we could have drawn,” says Nigel, at the end of a very entertaining match. Noble has played well and appears to be coming out of Parker’s shadow, while Baldock looks a quality striker.

We retreat to the Black Lion for some soothing Maldon Gold. Bottom of the table Bristol City next and the chance to go top — what could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, October 29

Bye bye El-Hadji

Allardyce has said he won't be signing El-Hadji Diouf, having taken into account the player's lack of fitness and the hostility of the fans. Signing Diouf would have been the most expensive suicide note in history from Big Sam. Thank goodness someone has actually listened to the fans for a change...

Football with a snarl?

The Daily Telegraph's account of the Brighton victory was a bit over-the-top. Nolan didn't gesture at the home fans in a particularly provocative way and our tackling was committed but fair rather than dirty as the piece implies. And I wouldn't exactly describe Mark Noble as a "bruising  enforcer"... The Telegraph wrote:

The art of league success is in winning ugly, so the maxim goes; and it is difficult to imagine a more hideous triumph than West Ham’s last night. But it is they who left with the points, and it is they who sit second in the Championship after this textbook smash-and-grab.
Brighton certainly felt grabbed and smashed by the end...
If Sam Allardyce’s West Ham have shown at times this season that they are capable of getting the ball down and passing it, then here was a demonstration that the tactic of bombardment is still very much in the Big Sam manual. The game was a scrap, a brawl, from start to finish.
Playing just one striker in John Carew, and two bruising enforcers in Mark Noble and Papa Bouba Diop in front of the defence, West Ham set out, as many teams have done in recent weeks, to throw Brighton off their pretty passing game. That meant beefy shoulder barges, and spicy ­sliding tackles that gathered momentum on the greasy surface.
This was football with a snarl. Allardyce wore a permanent grimace on the touchline, launching verbal missiles at the heroically uncomplaining fourth official Gavin Ward. When Kevin Nolan scored, he ran straight into one of the home corners of the ground and haughtily gestured at them.

Tuesday, October 25

Brighton rocked

Brighton 0 West Ham 1

My text about being out my brain on a 5.15 train to Brighton, results in a barrage of Who references from Matt, watching the game in O'Neill's as the Lucky Pub is closed.

Who Are You? Just hope we Won’t Get Fooled Again. Looks like Freddie may be a Substitute for another Guy (Demel).”

My response is: “Will it be Happy Jack Collison? Will Sam play a Squeeze Box formation with Baldock proving to be a Pinball Wizard?”

Of course we are talking about My Generation, and younger fans may not be conversant with the Who, but though Matt Can’t Explain, we agree The Kids Are Alright.

Bubbles echoes nicely around the acoustics of Brighton station as I negotiate a huge queue and squeeze on to the tiny local trains to Falmer.

The sparkling American Express Community Stadium is a fine new ground and will eventually be extended to hold more than the current 20,000. As Fat Boy Slim might reflect, You've Come A Long Way, Baby, from Brighton's days of homelesssness and stay at the Withdean.

At the stairs to the Media Lounge I meet my Brighton-based pal Paul, a former Essex Man now here by the sea and sand in mod-land. Many thanks to Brighton webmaster Will Jago for finding Hammers in the Heart some tickets.

We’re sat right behind the gaffers and throughout the game watch Big Sam continually remonstrating with his bench and the fourth official like a curmudgeonly uncle in a play by Alan Bennett. Meanwhile Gus Poyet gyrates like a man being subjected to electric shock treatment, full of Di Canio-esque imploring to the heavens every time Brighton go close.

With seven Irons’ players injured, Allardyce opts for a five-man midfield. Brighton subject us to much early pressure as the rain pours down, but on 16 minutes Nolan dispossesses the dawdling Bridcutt and fires into the top corner of Harper’s net, running away to point at his name and do his curious clucking chicken celebration.

What’s clear is the Hammers are working tremendously hard. Winston Reid, possibly the only New Zealander not to play rugby, makes some excellent Richie McCaw-style blocks, while Amdy Faye is imposing alongside him. Diop gets his foot in and Noble looks a better player for having been dropped. Collison, Nolan and Faubert also put in decent shifts in the five-man midfield.

The crucial moment comes in first half stoppage time when Makail-Smith latches on to a Harper punt and forces Almunia to produce a great stretching save.

The half-time grub in the Media Lounge is excellent, no prawn sandwiches but real coffee, chicken curry and cupcakes.

Brighton play some good football, with Craig Noone prominent, and put us under relentless pressure in the second half. A good chance for the Seagulls is air-kicked, both side have penalty appeals, and Carew fashions a half-chance.

Allardyce responds by sending on Piquionne for Carew and 13-year-old Freddie Sears for Diop. Freddie, wearing shorts that cover his knees, runs around like he’s consumed too much Brighton Rock and makes a couple of decent forays.

The home fans make a lot of noise, while the West Ham contingent amuse themselves with the old joke about Brighton, with unreconstructed chants of, “You’re too ugly to be gay!” and “We can see you holding hands!"

O’Brien has a good game on his return to the side and it’s a gritty, workmanlike performance on a greasy pitch in the second half. Almunia makes a smart low stop and somehow and Faubert slices wide when well-placed. We hold on for eight minutes of added time, despite messing up a short-corner trying to time waste and turning it into a Brighton attack.

The side have certainly played for each other and we end up with a great three points and restored to second place.

We see Fat Boy Slim, aka Norman Cook, in the Media Lounge afterwards. He’s been on the pitch announcing two gigs at the American Express Community Stadium on June 1st and 2nd.
We resist the temptation to show him the league table and ask him to check it out now, funk soul brother.

Falmer station echoes to East End folk songs such as Twist and Shout and “He’s only got the match ball!” as a Hammers' fan holds aloft the very ball that Nolan scored with.

An ugly away win, but we never used to get any of those. With two home games coming up we have a great chance to go top.

Monday, October 24

Out of my brain on a 5.15...

At least we get a trip to Brighton this season. Heading to Victoria station soon, having watched my old VHS video of The Who's Quadrophenia as preparation. Speaking of which, Shane Barber, former editor of fanzine On A Mission, never did quite recover from the sight of the young Leslie Ash and what went on down that alleyway.

Let's hope the game is as entertaining as the film.

Not Diouf

The Daily Mirror reports that El Hadj-Diouf is training with us and Big Sam wants to give him a contract. We can cope with bad boys, but there's a difference between Di Canio (just mad), a stroppy moaner like Craig Bellamy say and Diouf, who has previous for some very nasty offences, such as spitting at fans, giving verbals to a player with a broken leg and winding up fans in an Old Firm derby. Plus he isn't that good.

Don't do it Allardyce. We want promotion - but not at any price.

Sunday, October 23

Deep Frozen Green

According to the club website: "Robert Green has been undergoing intensive treatment, including a midweek trip to a cryogenic chamber."

Does this mean he's been deep frozen and we plan to wake him up in 100 years when we finally make the Premiership?

Saturday, October 22

Are we playing long ball?

Interesting debate on LBC after the Southampton defeat, with Clive Walker and a couple of callers claiming we're playing the long-ball game.

I've been trying to look at the games objectively and not label our game long ball simply because it's Allardyce. Yes, we've lumped some long balls towards Cole and Carew, as indeed we did under Avram, but I've also seen plenty of short passing too.

Think it's more a case of just playing badly in some games such as Peterborough, Ipswich and  Southampton away, rather than a complete change in our game. Though scoring from set pieces is one Allardyce trait I'm very happy to see.

Anyone have any views on this?

Wednesday, October 19

The Saints go marching on

Southampton 1 West Ham 0

After a first half spent watching The Only Way is Essex and Made In Chelsea with my wife and teenage daughter, managed to find a radio commentary on LBC. My fellow season-ticket holder Nigel was at St Mary's and summed the game up thus via his texts:

Half-time: 1-0 Great atmosphere. Hammers fail to mark big defender. We've played ok but they have had more pressure. Our midfield are 2nd best. 
75 mins: WH playing much better but have blown several good chances, had good call for a pen. 
Full-time: Bit unlucky to lose, lots of pressure 2nd half, hit post, still lack a bit of quality.

Noble seems to have improved the side second half (maybe getting dropped is the jolt he needed). Not sure why Collison was dropped after scoring either. Big Sam agrees that we should have had a point if Nolan, Baldock and Carew had converted their chances. The Saints 17th straight home win, so no disgrace to lose, but that five point gap is worrying.

On LBC Clive Walker (who used to get a lot of grief from the North Bank) had a go at our supposed long-ball game. A couple of phone-in callers from Basildon did likewise. Can't see we're playing a long-ball game myself, and having scored four against Watford, Forest, Portsmouth and Blackpool we can't say there haven't been goals. It's an easy tag to give to an Allardyce team, but generally we've played a mixed game of short and long passing. As for scoring from set pieces, that's been a welcome change this season.

Not a good result, but if our strikers can score in the big matches then we can still get in the top two.

Tuesday, October 18

Either oar situation

Interesting piece in tonight's Evening Standard reveals that West Ham fan and Olympic Gold Medal winning rower Mark Hunter was invited to give a talk to the players before the Blackpool game.

Sam Allardyce had asked him to give the talk with the aid of a flip chart on how to achieve success and how to overcome setbacks. Hunter says, "I was amazed how responsive the players were afterwards".

Quite apt really, as we were up s**t creek without a paddle last season. Let's hope we swim rather than sink at St Mary's tonight.

Saturday, October 15

Baldock spirit

West Ham 4 Blackpool 0

Where were you when we were sick? Fraser texts to say that he has a stomach upset and can’t make the game. Nigel is hoarse and ailing after too much heavy living attending Ritchie Blackmore old English music gigs. Matt simply holds up a post-it note reading “I have lost my voice” and “the referee’s a tinker!”

It’s an interesting line-up with Noble dropped for the first time, no Cole and Carew and Baldock up front. Our nerves are calmed after 12 minutes when Gustave Faubert curls in a lovely cross for John Carew to rise above Hill and head home.

Blackpool blast a free kick hopelessly over the bar, but otherwise hardly trouble Almunia. Baldock and Carew are thwarted by good saves from Gilks.

Carew shows surprising skill on the ground for a big man, while Baldock is a nagging presence at the shoulder of the Pool defenders. Though ref Andy D’Urso seems to penalise our strikers for the slightest touch and shows no grasp of the advantage rule when Collison is clean through. Matt would be swearing at him if only he could speak. Diop gets some good tackles in and though his distribution is sometimes poor, he looks a difficult lump to get past.

Amazingly we score three goals in seven minutes after the break, Baldock calmly beats the keeper having latched on to Taylor’s header and sprung the offside trap. Four minutes later Carew causes further consternation and Baldock bundles home another poacher’s goal, and on 55 minutes Collison fires home a deflected drive after another Gilks’ parry.

“How shit must you be we’re winning at home?” comes the chant from the Bobby Moore Stand.

“Game of the century,” I text to Fraser.

Matt scrawls several illegibible messages on his post-it notes.

"Matt should have been a doctor," suggests Nigel.

We then have three further good chances in the next five minutes. Baldock has a shot saved by Gilks’ legs and Carew tries to curl one in the corner rather than pass to Baldock who is free. Good to see that Baldock has the confidence to give the experienced striker some stick for his decision.

With Blackpool’s defence looking worse than Liam Fox’s, West Ham then relax, which is a shame as goal difference might prove vital. But 4-0 without ever playing brilliantly will do me. It still seems very quiet without Matt lambasting the ref. We’re so relaxed that while looking at George McCartney, Nigel is able to joke that he hears Paul McCartney’s new marriage is in trouble as he’s noticed that he’s having to buy twice as many shoes for his new wife as he did for his last. Arf, arf.

Fraser texts back to say that the stomach bug has sent his blood pressure is up and if he’d had to have four celebratory cigars it would have been killed him.

Then it’s off to the Black Lion with Matt and Mike O’Brien for a celebratory pint of Maldon Gold. Matt even recovers his voice thanks to the rejuvenating ale. Just as well as otherwise it would be like having a pint with Marcel Marceau. We go second as well. A nice set-up for the big game at Southampton on Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 12

Bentley crocked

David Bentley is out for six months after a keyhole operation revealed he needed surgery on his knee. A blow, as his crosses could have provided the ammunition for our team of giants. But also another opportunity for Julien 'Gustave' Faubert... who has been one of our better performers of late.

Rent boys

"TAXPAYERS 0 WEST HAM 1" is the Daily Mail's take on the stadium fiasco. "Club still set to move away from Upton Park WITHOUT having to stump up £20 million."

Several papers cite Manchester City as an example of the type of deal that may take place. Their stadium is owned by the council, which receives rent and gets a cut of all revenues above 35,000 fans.

Yes, we save £20m plus on the £95 million cost of conversion if we rent and we won't need a loan from Newham Council. But the fans need to know what length the lease would be, what security we have and what happens if we get taken over by another dodgy Icelandic banker and end up Brassic and unable to pay the rent. And what happens if we are a success there and Spurs then decide to then offer more rent? And do we get retractable seats?

Meanwhile the Times suggests West Ham might still be offered a deal to buy the stadium at some future date once Upton Park has been sold and economic conditions have improved.

What is clear is that we have a strong bargaining position with the Olympic Park Legacy Company, which would struggle to organise a fake tan in a Buckhurst Hill beauty salon. If we withdraw, then the government ends up with a very costly white elephant.

The Lunacy of the Long Distance Runner

Here's something to cheer us up. BBC Sport reports:

Paolo di Canio unwittingly completed the town's half marathon after losing his bearings on the fun run course. The 43-year-old Swindon Town manager was supposed to sound the horn to start Sunday's main race before completing the two-mile short course.
But the Italian took a wrong turn and ended up finishing the full 13.1 miles in one hour 49 minutes - 36 minutes behind race winner Dave Roper.
"I couldn't stop, there was a challenge," he told BBC Wiltshire.

Tuesday, October 11

Where's our stadium gone?

Extraordinary news on the radio this morning. The deal for West Ham to own the Olympic Stadium has collapsed. The Olympic Park Legacy Company has scrapped the deal in the face of legal challenges from those litigious gits at Tottenham, Leyton Orient and a mystery Spurs or Millwall supporter who has complained to the European Commission. With all these legal challenges, seems it's unlikely a decision would be made by 2014.

So what has been the point of the last two years of negotiations? And how much money has been wasted on all this?

A new tendering process is to begin for a club to lease the stadium at £2 million a year. Security of tenure here would be the key. It would be a worrying situation indeed to sell the Boleyn Stadium and end up as renters. Though saving on the running costs might be beneficial for a club that's around £70 million in debt.

One interesting option is that as Spurs have said they won't play in a ground with a running track, we could call the bluff of the Legacy Company and  simply stay at Upton Park. That way they'd be left with a 60,000 seater athletics stadium that they would struggle to give away.

It's all about as transparent as Liam's Fox's trips abroad with his best mate. And how have Spurs been allowed to interfere in a part of London that their supporters don't want to move to? Baffling. It's tempting to do a Manu Tuilagi and jump in the River Lea.

Friday, October 7

Ten games in...

Ten games in and with a two week international break it's a good time to review progress at Upton Park. Two defeats in ten isn't too bad a record and we could have had four extra points were it not for last minute goals. Unbeaten away is some change from the side that blew a two goal lead at Wigan and made Avram Grant a Millwall legend.

Big Sam has bought or loaned 12 players, most of whom are older and experienced in the Premiership. Can Premier League players automatically transfer their class to the Championship? Not always, Michael Carrick was bypassed for much of his season among the cloggers. Though hopefully the type of players we have signed are more robust than MC.

O'Brien has probably been the pick of our signings, appearing to finally solve the right-back problem.  Nolan hasn't found top form but has still scored three goals, while McCartney looks a great loan signing at left-back. Amdy Faye has looked solid at centre-back and Henri Lansbury has shown some touches of class. Matt Taylor started really well before succumbing to injury and loss of form, while Carew will surely convert anything we sling at him in the air.

The jury is still out on Bentley, though he's shown flashes of skill, while Baldock, Diop, Montenegro and Demel have played too few games to be judged yet.

Of the old players, Rob Green has had a great season, Tomkins has been excellent and Reid much better. Noble has underperformed a little, while Collison is still playing his way into form. Carlton Cole had a good run of four in four and appears much more motivated. While poor Freddie Piquionne has been dropped, done for fly-tipping in Essex and sent off.

Lack of pace is still a worry and you do wonder if we can play all season with five in midfield - though interestingly the two games we've lost have been when Sam has played two strikers.

But ten games in, the wage bill is down, we've got rid of most of the relegation hangover and finally have some competition for places. Time for some cautious optimism, perhaps?

Monday, October 3

Paolo dogged by misfortune

Paolo di Canio appears to think he is managing a team of canines at Swindon. His latest rant after a defeat ran:

"With some players, if he has a chihuahua character I can't make a chihuahua into a rottweiler. He could be a proud chihuahua but he remains a chihuahua. So many of the players at the moment are chihuahuas away from home - this is the truth."

Sounds like he needs a modern version of Martin 'Mad Dog' Allen.

Sunday, October 2

Carew gatecrashes Palace party

Crystal Palace 2 West Ham 2

Left it too late to get tickets for this one, so reduced to watching it on the web while walking Vulcan the dog around Hampstead Heath (no, we don't live there). Matt texts “I hate WHU” at 2-1, but I have a feeling the Irons will salvage a point, as we ultimately do.

A good point, considering we were without the injured Green, O’Brien, Noble, Taylor and Reid. Nolan (twice) and Carew had chances to win it too.

The Football League Show highlights at some ungodly hour reveal that Big Sam arrives off the coach in shades, looking like a villain from Reservoir Dogs.

We’re undone by two bad goals There’s a route one goalkeeper’s punt followed by terrible marking for Ambrose’s opener, while we allow Murray too much space on the edge of the box for the second.

On the positive side McCartney made both goals with fine crosses, Cole setting up Nolan for the first. Then ten minutes from time sub Carew rises like a great lump of Norwegian Wood to power home a header after McCartney had given Sam’s Band on the Run some Wings.

Big Sam praised Papa Bouba Diop in particular after the game, so perhaps we’ll be using him more regularly after the international break (in place of Noble maybe?). Ten games in and unbeaten away — so far Big Sam has made good on his promise to make us difficult to beat away from home.

Friday, September 30

Que? Hammers sign Manuel

We've signed Manuel Almunia on an emergency loan deal as Robert Green is out for six weeks with a knee cartilage operation. Not sure how Green injured himself, but it' a huge blow as he's been inspirational this season.

But Almunia is a decent keeper and though maybe not the top drawer keeper Arsenal needed to challenge for the title, he'll do for us. We've done well to get such an experienced keeper so quickly - nice work from Big Sam.

Carlos whisper

Today's Sun claims that West Ham have approached Manchester City about bringing back Carlos Tevez on loan. Sounds like paper talk to me. Can't see Tevez's ego would tolerate playing in the Championship and I don't think it's East London that he claims to be homesick for.

What he did at Bayern Munich was despicable, but you have to say that on the pitch he's never less than committed. And presumably if it did happen we wouldn't put him on the bench this time, as Pards and Curbs did.

Wonder if Swindon might be in the market for a loan deal too. I'd pay a lot of money to watch Tevez managed by Di Canio and the explosions that might ensue should he refuse to warm-up.

Thursday, September 29

Nice one, Boris

Boris Johnson has intervened to give Spurs a "take it ir leave it" ultimatum over £17 million of cash from City Hall and Haringey council towards a new stadium at Northumberland Park.

He's also very clear that Spurs should drop their pursuit of the Olympic Stadium and states that: "Tottenham Hotspur has long been an integral part of its community" and that by "staying true to its roots" it can help regenerate the area. "Last month's riots were a telling reminder of just how important it is for Spurs to press ahead with the development," adds Boris.

In other words: "Oi! Levy! No!!"

We need to talk about Kevin

Kevin Nolan admits he's going through a spell of poor form in yesterday's Standard and hints at homesickness. He says: "I'm not happy with my own form, but it's been quite difficult. I've moved to a city where I never thought I'd live and I have my family."

Maybe the lads should introduce him to the TOWIE-style delights of Sheesh and the King William IV in in Chigwell to help our Scouser captain settle in down south. He scored 16 goals for Newcastle when they went up so it's vital we get him contributing again. He's never going to be another Scott Parker, but he endured a difficult early spell at Newcastle before coming good.

Our midfield still lacks a creator. Could it be time to drop Noble and bring in Collison? Or maybe even return Gustave Faubert to the wing where he had a fine game against Forest and almost made the winner - had Bentley not missed - against Millwall. And then there's Diop and Demel to consider... If we're going to play five across the middle it's vital we get the balance right,

Wednesday, September 28

Rolled over by the Tractor Boys

West Ham 0 Ipswich 1

“I am sure we will only get better and better,” announces Big Sam in the programme. At which point I can see Fortune being tied up in claret and blue ribbons and held hostage by Somalian pirates.

It’s down to Fraser, Lisa and myself tonight as Matt and Nigel are in Liverpool admiring Ed Balls' dribbling skills.

The game starts in a similar fashion to Saturday’s, with Green giving to make another fantastic reaction save to deny Chopra. Paul Jewell’s Ipswich play some fine passing football in the middle, orchestrated by the deep-lying Jimmy Bullard.

“Lee Bowyer is bound to score against us,” I tell Fraser with the ingrained pessimism of the Upton Park regular.

Bowyer has a lobbed shot tipped on to the post by Green and another volley from Leadbitter goes just over.

We never really get going. Baldock has a scuffed half-chance and Lansbury fires wide, but for all our work we fail to create chances and overhit crosses. Nolan is not scoring and generally we lack spark.

The Irons improve in a more evenly-contested second half. Bentley has a lot of the ball and strikes up a decent understanding with McCartney, but too few of his crosses find a man. A great low cross from O’Brien flies across the goal with no one at the back post. We come closest when Bentley’s cross is almost met by Nolan, only to be thwarted by a great defensive interception. Cole has one of those games where the ball deflects from his head at every angle but the right one. Tomkins’ legs give way with cramp as he tries to make a header in the opposition box.

The big screen announces 20 per cent off season tickets. “It will be 25 per cent in five minutes time,” suggests Lisa.

Baldock shows great space in one run down the wing and does some nice inter-linking with Carew, who has replaced Carlton. But the team desperately needs someone who can dribble past defences and play a through ball, a Berkovic or Benayoun figure.

Her Indoors texts to tell me that the dog has eaten the butter and we need more Earl Gray tea.

Maybe we’re missing Matt’s swearing at the ref, we muse as the second half drifts on. Green has to make a good save from Leadbitter’s free kick. At least the defence has looked solid with Faye having another good game. And a point is better than nothing.

Only it’s the 89th minute and Ipswich press. Jimmy Bullard’s corner hits the post and our old friend from Canning Town Lee Bowyer, fires home hard and low from the rebound. Another sodding late goal.

“One nil to the Tractor Boys!” holler the yokel heroes in the away end.

Substitute Jack Collison at least tests Stockdale before the whistle blows. Jeremy Nicholas plays Since You’ve Been Gone, possibly as a lament for Scott Parker

“I thought Big Sam said he’d identified the reason we keep losing at Upton Park,” says Lisa.

“Only he’s forgotten to tell the players,” I suggest.

We need a drink, possibly absinthe. “The Central will struggle with absinthe, they can’t even find real ale,” suggests Fraser.

So we visit the Black Lion for some Kew Gold in memory of absent Kew Gardens’ Iron Nigel. Some bloke called Tevez has refused to come on as a sub for Man City in something called the Champions League, claims Sky Sports News.

We would have gone top had we won, but this team is not good enough yet.

Allardyce has a point in that other sides have had longer to gel, but we have to improve at Palace. We’ve missed Taylor’s early season crosses and we desperately need a playmaker and Cole or Carew to start scoring regularly. It could be a long season.

Tuesday, September 27

Big Brother at the Palace

The Crystal Palace away game is sold out and any fans trying to get tickets through Palace should beware. My mate Gav, who lives in Charlton, phoned up and booked two tickets. An hour later he was phoned back and told that his purchase had been refunded as he was on record as having bought tickets at West Ham.

Now Gav is a football connoisseur in his late 40s - and a very unlikely member of the ICF. Surely there should be some method of differentiating between fans who want to see the game and can help out Palace's finances, and those with convictions for hooliganism?

And what about floating fans? Buy a ticket at one ground and it seems you're forever banned from several others.

Sunday, September 25

Noble Irons see off a nice bit of Posh

West Ham 1 Peterborough 0

“We’ve never lost to Peterborough in two matches,” says Matt in Ken’s Café. “There’s always a first time!’ suggests someone in the queue.

It’s a good turnout in Ken’s soccer salon. My daughters are with me as it’s a free Academy members' game (well, not really free as you pay £25 for membership, as the astute Nell points out), plus Nigel, Iain, Jo and her double burger-eating grandson, Big Jo and Big Phill.

Early doors Peterborough almost catch the Hammers cold from a corner, as Green produces a fine reaction save from Rowe’s header.

West Ham take the lead after 10 minutes when Lansbury is pushed in the back by Lee Frecklington. Noble strokes home the penalty. Nigel speaks of “a cricket score” and how CQ is so confident of the result she doesn’t need to check it.

But still we look laboured in the first half, with Nolan and Taylor hardly involved as Peterborough play some nice stuff in the middle. Cole curls one effort a foot wide, Gustav Faubert is busy and after a nice backheel from the Frenchman, Lansbury curls one just over.

After the break Cole heads wide but then Borough dominate the midfield through Boyd and our old-boy Grant McCann. “He played in the 7-1 defeat at Blackburn,” says Matt of McCann’s short Hammers career.

Tomlin should have done better but slices a shot as the Posh slice through our midfield. You wonder why we have to play one striker at home against Peterborough. And why Baldock is on the bench. Mercifully Big Sam brings on Carew for Cole, to the delight of the Norwegian contingent behind us who say he’s bigger then me and you, and Bentley for Faubert.

The lime-booted Carew makes a difference, and is certainly difficult to shake off the ball. Bentley has one fine moment when he cuts inside a defender and produces a fine full-stretch save from Paul Jones.

The one positive is that Amdy Faye, in for the injured Tomkins, marshalls the defence well and makes a great sliding tackle on the left to deny a Posh break. Big Sam later approvingly describes him as “a man mountain”.

We wonder if Scott Parker will win man of the match. Ah, no it’s the unimaginative choice of Mark Noble, when it should have gone to Faye or Reid.

Matt has to leave early to catch the train to Liverpool. In the four added minutes we gain a series of corners and play keep-ball rather than go for a second.

“I know the result is important but it’s embarrassing to be keeping it in the corners against Peterborough,” suggests Nigel. “Still, Pardew’s initial team might have lost this.”

Allardyce even brings on Tomkins for Taylor to reinforce the defence.

We survive one final free kick and mercifully it’s over. A good result, but an unconvincing performance.

We amuse ourselves by texting part-time Matt with “Typical West Ham” and “Big Sam out”. This cunning ruse has him believing we’ve conceded an equaliser all the way to Euston.

Still, we go up to fourth, and are unbeaten in seven matches, but we’ll need to play much better against Ipswich. The defence was pleasingly solid, but this side still looks like it needs some pace and a natural finisher.

Saturday, September 24

It's raining goals

One interesting statistic from this season is that so far we've had eleven different scorers — ten from WHU players and two own goals.

Three of the back four – O'Brien, Tomkins and Reid — have made the old onion sack bulge. We've also had goals from midfielders Nolan, Lansbury, Parker and Noble. This compensates somewhat for the fact that Carlton Cole is our only striker to score.

With players such as Bentley, Collison, Faubert, Piquionne and Carew also waiting to open their accounts it's looking like we might, for once, have goals in all the areas of the team. Which probably means we'll lose 1-0 to Peterborough today....

Thursday, September 22

Dave's dosh

Reading Karren Brady's column in the Portsmouth programme, I'm not sure about some of the figures. She writes: "This summer alone David Sullivan and David Gold have put an extra £13.5 million in to the club. In addition they will inject £2.5m to £3m every month of the season to make up the £40 million required over the 12-month period."

Let's assume the initial £13.5 million was for the Tevez debts, etc. If they then put in £3m a month for a year then that means they'll have put in £36 million. Yet the parachute payment for the first year of relegation is now £16 million, meaning we have a shortfall of £24 million after relegation, not £40 million. Yes, we're all grateful they're putting the money in, but these figures don't seem to add up. Our wage bill should also be down after the summer departure of Dyer, Upson, Parker and co. Can anyone explain this?

Monday, September 19

Supporters Advisory Panel Report

Michelle Gabriel reports on the SAP(!) meeting:

As a member of the Supporter Advisory Board I was invited to last night's Fan Forum, with David Gold. It looked like over 100 fans were present.

I found David Gold to be very open and likeable, even when, after describing his recent near-terminal illness, he was asked about his succession plan for his share of the club! He even answered that question by saying that his daughters are his pride and joy, and that the wellbeing of the football club is secured in his will.

He was asked to compare his own communication style with other chairmen, and the most memorable part of his response was to suggest that if a cardboard cutout were to represent Terry Brown no one would notice the difference. His views on Duxbury and the Icelandics bordered on the obscene. DG mentioned that Jack Sullivan is his preferred source of information regarding transfer targets!

A big theme of the evening was the appointment of Big Sam and the subsequent support shown to him by the chairmen in signing players. All the fans were positive about and appreciative of this. The departure of Scotty to Sp***s was mentioned; reading between the lines I think DG shares my view, which is that Scotty mentally left the club some time ago. DG was very excited about Henri Lansbury and felt that if he is a big part of our promotion this season he might still want to sign for us in order to play regularly. DG hinted that Zavon and Junior had not really made the grade, but that the club is very hopeful that some of the younger Academy players will shine at the highest level.

DG was very open about the mistake made in appointing Avram; he said that it was done in good faith and Avram was the best candidate in a poor shortlist. DG was uncomfortable about having tried to replace him behind his back, both because this was a personal deception and because if it failed the club would still have him as manager. After the close of the transfer window it was impossible to replace him, as no one would want to take on someone else's players.

The other major theme was the Olympic Stadium. DG was asked about the latest Sp***s challenge and his answer, roughly translated, was that he can't say too much but nudge nudge, wink wink, there is room to negotiate to a successful outcome for us. DG showed an endearing dislike of Barry Hearn ("he's after money") and Daniel Levy.

DG mentioned that he is still hoping that another investor will buy the remaining third of club and run it for the good of the club together with him and DS. This would cost around £30m to the banks and £20 for players etc., in case anyone on the list has £50m to spare.