Saturday, May 28

Sam's town?

Big Sam Allardyce is today's rumour for the WHU hot seat. You fear it will be like Roy Hodgson and Liverpool and Avram Grant for West Ham - wrong manager for the wrong club.

The key question would be could Allardyce change his style of play? Tony Cottee is in favour and appears to believe he wouldn't be silly enough to play route one football at Upton Park.

In Allardyce's favour we might at last be able to defend set pieces and score from them. Allardyce has a track record, more gravitas than Dave Jones and would be able to stand up to the owners. He's also big on fitness and sports science, two areas we are sorely lacking in.

But even so, as Hammers fan Phil Whelan said in the gym today, you fear he'll try to build a team around new signings Karl Henry and Kevin Davies.

Chris Hughton might at least unite the fans. Do we really want a manager who will be controversial from the off?

Friday, May 27

Supporters Advisory Panel Report

Here is Michelle Gabriel's report back from the first meeting of the WHU Supporters Advisory Panel (SAP!)… some interesting stuff here:

My question was the first to DS, so I had my 15 seconds of fame last night. There wasn't really scope for me to ask follow-up questions. My question was not intended to find out names, but more to find out what the criteria were for the new manager. This is what I gleaned from the rather rambling response:

automatic promotion is their aim
they have always achieved automatic promotion in the past
the manager must have a proven track record [in getting automatic promotion]
the manager must have been involved in the game within the recent past - ruling out Hoddle et al
they are looking for a British manager but DS mentioned that they would consider a foreign manager of the right calibre (Ancelotti was mentioned) and had ruled out PDC because he currently doesn't have experience

DS said that they had made an offer on Thursday to someone whom he though most supporters would approve of. IMO this would rule out Davies as I can't imagine the majority of supporters approving of his appointment! I think it also rules out MON as DS would have been more certain about supporter approval. He said that if the offer is turned down it will not be for West Ham-related reasons. KB and DS left part-way through the evening, to "see a man about a dog".

Tony Carr was asked the direct question, both informally at my table and formally to the whole group. He very skilfully and endearingly passed, mentioning that his expertise lay in youth development. Although stressing that patience is required for his job, he mentioned some "youth" who he thinks have real potential: Tombides, Robert Hall, Blair Turgot, Leo Chambers ('a Glen Johnson playalike'), Elliot Lee, Sadlier. He encouraged supporters to come to Little Heath to watch matches for free on Saturday mornings.

Regarding player appointments, and whether they would move players prior to the appointment of the manager, this is what I noted from DS:

they might renew players but preferably not prior to the appointment of the manager
they had made a colossal offer to an existing player to stay with the club
after letting 3/4 players go they will invest in new players - they know that what we will have left won't get us promoted
more money is available for players than was available at QPR or Norwich last season
Hines has turned down what the Board thought was a generous offer and this is now going to a tribunal
Spence has been offered a new deal, but is desperate to play, and is therefore waiting to see whether he would fit into the new manager's plans
the Icelandic banks have always supported their proposals, even when they wanted to buy Big Mac (which DS insisted was at Zola's behest)

I also found out in casual conversation that Upson and Dyer have already left the club. Like the Silence, I have already forgotten about them.

We saw the new away kit, which is sky blue. Everyone loved it but I can't tell you any more because we had to sign the Official Secrets Act. There was a whole lot more to the evening, which was overall a fantastic step forward for the club, I thought. I will update the list later...


Thursday, May 26

Me and Mr Jones

Is Dave Jones a man to fire up the fans? He's mentioned in most papers as our main target.

Yes, he's a decent man and manager, with a good record of getting Stockport promoted to the Championship and an FA Cup semi-final. He kept Southampton up and took Wolves into the Premiership, before getting relegated again. At Cardiff he reached the FA Cup Final and lost a play-off final last year and a play-off semi final this season, while working on very little money.

So yes, he's clearly good at working with limited resources, but there's also a lot of near misses.

He's good, and has done more in the English game than Grant, but surely not the talismanic manager we need to get bums on seats and ensure promotion.

Where's Wally?

Today's Daily Mirror says we've parted company with Wally Downes. Whatever he was doing as a defensive coach it didn't work! More goals conceded from headers than any other side and the concentration powers of Ryan Giggs when distracted by a Welsh Big Brother contestant…

Monday, May 23

That's why we're going down…

West Ham 0 Sunderland 3

No tubes again, so it’s the usual forced march from West Ham station to Green Street. After this season we are certainly fit to wear the shirt, unlike several of the team. Amazingly 32,000 fans have turned up to see a dead rubber (or should that be dead parrot?).

“Are you up for a trip to the Black Lion?” asks Nigel in Ken’s Cafe.

“Can we go now?” quips Matt.

At least Carol is happy with Ken’s Café’s mention in the Observer's end-of-season round-up. Big Joe, a promoter, is impressed by the WHU end-of-season gala. “When we organize fights we normally book them for the end of the evening, not 9.15!”

Kevin Keen has picked a youthful side and there’s no place for Ba and Cole (apparently injured) while substitute Scotty Parker receives his Hammer of the Year award before kick off.

There’s a strange atmosphere of resignation from the home fans and it feels like watching a training match.

Sears at least looks interested in the early stages, forcing a save with a snap shot. Hitzlsperger has a shot that rebounds from the keeper with no striker following in and Hines fluffs a one-on-one, before Sunderland take the lead. Elmohamady’s cross is headed by the unmarked Zenden and lopes over the helpless Green.

“Keen out!” I suggest.

Just before half-time Piquionne crosses and a smart turn and shot from Zavon Hines sees Mignolet make a great save. We retreat into the East Stand to discuss potential managers. Bizarrely, Carlo Ancellotti is reported as saying he’d manage us in the News of the World.

“Neil Lennon must want a break from Glasgow,” suggests Fraser.

“And he’s used to people abusing him,” I add.

“David Blunkett’s in line for job because he knows how to hold a lead,” suggests Nigel.

At least Keen maintains the Avram Grant tradition of being worse after the interval.

Sessegnon is given more space than a district line track engineer as he strolls through our parting midfield to fire home from distance. Possibly Green should have done better.

Parker comes on, to chants of "We've only got one man!", but our performance is devoid of passion. There’s chants of, “We’re going to Coventry!” and then an impromptu conga in the Chicken Run.

With the last kick of the game our defence melts away again and Riveros, previously a flop for Sunderland, fires home. A fitting way to end the season.

“That’s why we’re going down!” chants a mournful Bobby Moore Stand.

The best part of the day is the Adnams in the Black Lion. Gavin turns up with some Silesian sausages, which sounds like something from Doctor Who. “They’re 100 per cent pork,” he declares. Best result of the season for the Gav. Meanwhile we have a team of Silesian sausages.

Thank goodness it’s over. At last we can rest — at least until August when we’re sure to be playing Doncaster or Barnsley away. All we need is a manager and a team.

Love those fans

The Observer's Said and Done column noted Danny Gabbidon's comments on the club website: "The fans have always been unbelievable. The West Ham support is something I couldn't believe from when I first came here… they've been really patient with the team and could have been harsher to us. I'd just like to thank the fans for their support this season. They've been fantastic…"

Surely no relation to the Danny Gabbidon whom in April tweeted: "U know what f*** the lot of of you u will never get another tweet from me again u just don't get it do you. Bye bye."

Friday, May 20

They've got Di Canio…

So Paolo Di Canio is the new gaffer at Swindon. He should make he training run on time. Wonder how he'll react if a player tries to substitute himself?

Where did it all go wrong?

Every paper has had their say on where it all went wrong for WHU this week. Where do you start? I’d say it stems from:

Terry Brown selling out to the Icelandic bankers (Brown wouldn’t have panicked and sacked Pardew).

Purchasing Tevez and Mascherano from Daley and McCann Imports and Exports (SA Division)

Dean Ashton’s injury – he’d still be banging in goals for us now.

Sacking Pardew months after he’d got us to the FA Cup final and finished ninth.

Curbishley buying Ljungberg and Dyer on nearly 200k a week combined, when he had Solano on a free transfer who was a better player.

Selling George McCartney and forcing Curbishley to walk.

Wasting £9 million of the Bellamy money on Savio, an act of incredible stupidity.

Selling Matthew Etherington rather than tackling his gambling addiction in-house.

Pleading guilty to the Tevez charges, which left the door open to Sheffield United to sue us.

Not keeping Lucas Neill.

Selling James Collins,

Signing Big Fat Benni as a panic measure and wasting £5m in fees and salary on a player who scored no goals.

Publicly undermining Zola and then sacking him in a very crass way by accusing him of misconduct.

Appointing Avram Grant.

Buying Barrera and Reid on the strength of a good World Cup.

Leaking the Martin O’Neill approach without first sacking Grant.

Apart from that, everything’s gone quite well…

Wednesday, May 18

Avram, you blew it

Today's Guardian has "sources close to Avram Grant" claiming that he wasn't backed up with enough cash. It claims that the board refused to go above £6 million for Yakubu when Everton wanted £10 million and would only bid £2.5m for Marc Wilson. Don't think he has a case here as Yakubu was wildly overpriced and being Brassic we have to drive hard bargains for the likes of Wilson, which AG knew when taking the job. And he was allowed to spend £4m on Barrera and £3m on Reid, both a huge waste of resources, and sign Hitzlsperger on 45k a week.

Yes, he was fatally and shamefully undermined by the owners in the Martin O'Neil fiasco and the players are to blame too, but he was given Keane, Ba, O'Neil and Bridge on 90k a week during the transfer window. More than enough talent there to keep us up.

Look at what Martinez, Holloway and McCarthy have spent and you'll realise how much more we've squandered than our rivals.

KK speaks

I don't think Kevin Keen (aged 17) should get the job, though he's interested, but he does at least talk sense in his quote today:

"I think we have got a superb young bunch of footballers coming through in the likes of James Tomkins, Junior Stanislas, Zavon Hines, Freddie Sears, Jack Collison and Jordan Spence.

"There is a real opportunity to go back to the days of pass and move and make sure people tackle like [former player and manager] Billy Bonds and want to run through brick walls for this football club."

Though with our injury record it might not be wise to run through those brick walls too often, Keeny.

Tuesday, May 17

Lost on the training ground

So our training was rubbish. Interesting piece from Henry Winter in the Daily Telegraph today. He writes:

Players like strong, decisive managers who inspire them with good training sessions, intelligent tactics and rousing words. That patently did not happen with the sorrow-filled Grant. West Ham’s season was lost at much at Chadwell Heath as Upton Park.

The club’s co-owner, David Gold, told Sky yesterday of how he found only “professionalism’’ on visiting their training ground, a view that contrasted with BBC’s Lee Dixon. He saw only “shambles”.

As West Ham headed towards the rocks, further evidence of Grant’s slack hand on the tiller was supplied by the distinguished London-based correspondent of Suddeutsche Zeitung.

Raphael Honigstein reported that a West Ham midfielder asked Grant an important question before the Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge on April 23: “Are we supposed to press on Essien and Lampard or sit?” Grant allegedly replied: “You have to work that out yourselves on the pitch.” West Ham were swept aside 3-0.

Admittedly Brian Clough didn't coach either, but then he won trophies. And if Grant wasn't up to day to day coaching what was Wally Downes doing?

Meanwhile David Sullivan has finally admitted: "Avram is a lovely person but the results sadly speak for themselves that it was a bad selection by the board."

Making a dog's dinner of it

Not since Hayden Foxe urinated in a pot plant at the Hammers Christmas party at Sugar Reef in 2001 has there been a more shambolic WHU function.

Our end of season gala dinner at the Grosvenor Hotel ended with the police being called after a fight broke-out. According to the papers it all stemmed from Demba Ba claiming to be "too tired" to sign an autograph for a fan. Demba denies this on Twitter. Press reports claim this didn't go down well with the £275-a-head punter and a melee ensued, with allegations of racial insults aimed at Ba (not excusable) and fans kicking over vases and running into Park Lane after causing the aggro, with David Sullivan appealing for calm.

Presumably our next end of season gala will be held on the Titanic.

Monday, May 16

We're going to Coventry…

Wigan 3 West Ham 2

Is it really necessary to be getting up at six am on a Sunday for a relegation party? It’s a long wait for the first train from Finsbury Park, then the Central line and a ten quid taxi from Stratford to meet Fraser at Upton Park, as the tubes aren’t running. The train would be easier of course, but the chance of free coaches from Sullivan and Gold has affected my sanity.

The coaches leave at 8.30 and then it’s a long drive past roadworks and signs for Wembley Stadium that we won’t need ever again. Still, at least we get to see an Only Fools and Horses dvd, the one where the coaches drivers gets pissed and then the coach blows up. Someone wonders if we couldn’t have one of David Sullivan’s private collection of saucier dvds.

It rains immediately we’re in Wigan. We trek across a volcanic ash-strewn car park to a sports bar and then on to the Red Robin pub. We can hear loud chants of “Avram Grant, he’s a c***!” from the Hammers fans outside. The bouncers have bent noses and look like they’ve played rugby league for 200 years.

There’s a mood of dark humour inside, where we meet Michelle and Tom from Ken’s Café. It’s four deep at the bar, the Adnams is off, and there’s a raucous chorus of “Come on Eileen!” aimed at a barmaid of the same name. Then a mass pogo and cries of “Let’s go f***ing mental!” as expensively purchased and long awaited cold beer is thrown in the air and a lampshade removed.

There’s also some nastier anti-Semitic chants aimed by a minority of fans at Avram. Let’s be clear, he might be useless but it’s not because of his religion.

Matt and Lisa emerge from a delayed Virgin train and we head to the ground. There’s more “Lets go f***ing mental” fans jumping up and down in the North Stand and a man in an Osama Bin Laden mask (presumably not taken out by West Ham’s shoot-to-miss Seal team) who provokes a chorus of “He’s got a bomb!” And here we find Big Joe and Mike O’Brien having a cockney knees-up too.

“The Queen Mum will be coming to boost our morale soon,” suggests Matt, observing the relegation Blitz spirit.

As ever, it’s an eccentric team selection from Grant. As in the Carling Cup semi-final, he opts for Zavon Hines, who’s had a lengthy injury and never really proved himself as a Premier League player, while keeping Cole and Keane on the bench. Gabbidon is preferred to Da Costa and Spence gets his debut at right-back. Jordan has a decent game and will surely be a regular next season, but you wonder if Jacobsen’s experience wouldn’t be better in a must-win game.

There’s a rowdy atmosphere in the West Ham end with chants of “You're going down with the West Ham!” at the meagre home fans and “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we're going to Coventry.”

Green makes several good early saves and after 12 minutes we take the lead as Ba heads in Hitzlsperger’s fine cross. “We are staying up!” And Fulham are winning at Birmingham.

We double our lead as Tomkins heads Hitzlsperger's free kick across goal for Ba to head the ball over the line for his seventh Hammers goal. Oh no, we have hope again…

There’s a crucial moment on half an hour when Piquionne has a clear chance, but his shot is cleared off the line. Green makes a fantastic save from Rodallega's overhead kick and then blocks Diame's shot. We’re 2-0 up at half time and look to be in control.

2-0 UP 3-2 DOWN
Except this is West Ham. We might be 2-0 up, but Wigan have created plenty of chances. Piquionne looks sluggish and is having a poor game, while Hines, despite wining several free kicks, is giving the bal away too often. While we worry that Collison won’t be able to last the game.

In a microcosm of our season Grant dithers while Martinez changes the game at half-time, sending on Sammon and Victor Moses for Tom Cleverley and James McCarthy

Matt points out that Sammon has never scored for Wigan and we all predict that he’ll break that duck against us, as Torres and De Jong did.

On 57 minutes Tomkins gives a free kick away on the edge of the box and N’Zogbia curls a great free kick into the top corner. Wigan have hope and are running the midfield.

Grant is forced to act as Spector limps off and super Scotty Parker comes on after 60 minutes.

In a Hammers’ breakaway Ba is sent clear but instead of bagging his hat-trick shoots at Al Habsi. Another crucial moment.

The game’s going away from West Ham, but Grant can’t see it. Sure enough, Hines loses possession in midfield, a through ball is played towards Sammon, he steps round Danny Gabbidon too easily, and slots home his first Wigan goal.

As Sammon scores a plane appears in the sky trailing the banner: “Avram Grant: Millwall Legend.” You wonder why Osama Bin Laden doesn’t bring it down with his rocket-propelled missile launcher.

“Going down going down!” chant the Wigan fans.

“So are we!” respond the Irons in the North Stand.

More four-letter chants are aimed at Grant by the away fans.

Predictably Avram has waited until they equalise before reacting, He brings on Cole for Piquionne after 74 minutes and Keane for Collison on 83 minutes.

The game has descended into end-to-end jumpers for goalposts schoolboy stuff. Parker has a shot saved, Hines scuffs several chances and crosses and has one off the line and Green makes a fine dive to deny Sammon.

There’s four minutes of stoppage time before we fade and die. Watson hits the post and the ball rebounds into Green’s grateful hands. Cole contrives to miss from three yards out in the 92nd minute and then, agonizingly, with the very last kick of the game, N’Zogbia comes inside Bridge to shoot and his tame effort squirms through Robert Green.

Sums up our season. And harsh on poor Greeny who’s had a great game up till then.

Another two-goal lead blown. Twenty two points lost from winning positions. We don’t deserve to stay up. Fulham have won at Birmingham too. The Wigan fans invade the pitch in relief and there’s a cacoponous Tom Hark on the PA at the final whistle in scenes of pie-eating hysteria.

“West Ham till I die!” comes our response.

Parker comes over to the fans. Green slumps in his goal and Tomkins give his shirt to the crowd.

“Well, that all went to plan…” says Matt.

“How many relegations can one man experience in a lifetime?” I ask, calculating that it’s my fifth. “Still, at least the tubes might be running next season.”

“And Ancelloti will be our manager next season,” adds Fraser.

The texts come in and Nicola tells me that poor Nell my younger daughter is in tears. A Plymouth fan sympathises.

“Where’s your ceiling gone?” chant some young West Ham fans in the gents busy ripping off ceiling panels. We trek towards the coaches like extras from Shaun of the Dead and there’s the bizarre sight of a man in fake breasts kicking a car.

It’s a slow, comatose journey home on the M6. There’s cheers and a song to greet the Tweet that Avram been sacked and then some mooning at the Spurs coaches.

But soon it’s silence and subdued exhaustion as we finally reach Redbridge roundabout at 11pm. All played out. Then the Central Line and home at midnight to walk the dog and pour a whisky. I’ve been travelling from 6am until 12pm and ended up going down with the West Ham. Like Avram, I don’t know what I’m doing.

Throw the R away…

"Daddy, does this mean we have an R next to our name?" asked my ten-year-old daughter Nell on the walk to school, after my midnight return from a long day's journey into nightmares at Wigan. We bought a paper to confirm the horrible fact.

"At least the R won't be there next season, unless we go down to League One," I said hopefully.

At the start of the season Nell asked: "Why did we appoint a manager who got his team relegated?" And in that judgement she was more astute than Sullivan and Gold.

Still, her sister Lola says we'll win more games in a different league and Nell's made me a card reading: "Dear Daddy, I am very sorry to hear that West Ham United FC (the best team in the whole wide universe) are going down and bottom. When I grow up they will rule the world, Love Nell."

Maybe she'll be manager one day and we'll never see the R word again...

Saturday, May 14

I just couldn't take any more…

Can't take much more of this, Wolves and Blackpool are winning as I write and today's Guardian says it will cost £3.5 million to sack Avram Grant. If we go down and get rid of AG then that's £7 million or so squandered on removing Zola and Avram. So looks like we'll have to learn to love Avram whatever happens as we can't afford to fire him…

Meanwhile Matty Etherington is at Wembley... and we're desperately hoping Birmingham lose their final two matches and we win by hefty scores and Blackpool and Wolves cock it up in the final minutes.

Nurse, the screens.

Thursday, May 12

Selling England by the pound

Before the Blackburn game David Gold admitted that if relegated we won't be able to hold on to England players Parker, Green, Upson and Cole. Stating the obvious really, but it's more important we hold on to the second-tier of players, the likes of Noble, Tomkins, Ba, Piquionne, O'Neil (if fit) and Collison.

Selling these four wouldn't be as disastrous as selling Lampard, Ferdinand, Cole, Carrick, Johnson and Defoe.

Yes, we'd miss Parker, but he's 30, we'd get a good price and he deserves a move for what he's given us. Cole hasn't scored enough league goals. Upson would be off anyway and doesn't influence games in the way centre backs like Huth, Samba and Jagielka do. While Green is a great keeper, but keepers are replaceable. Stech looks a promising deputy to me and who knows, the Boffin might come good.

At least our wage bill will finally be under control. Dyer's departure will save millions and presumably we'll also be getting rid of Faubert, Kovac, Barrera (though I'd like to see him given another chance) and Boa Morte, plus the expensive loan signings like Keane and Bridge. We'd like to keep Hitzlsperger, but again his agent will surely agitate for a move.

If relegated, it's not inconceivable we might have a Championship side of largely Academy players: Stech: Spence, Tomkins, Da Costa, A N Other: Sears, Noble, Collison, Stanislas: Piquionne, Ba.

We'd need to strengthen - and get a left back - but that might be the basis for a promotion side if you add three or four quality players to the squad.

Although hopefully this is all hypothetical and we'll beat Wigan and Sunderland to scrape up.

Monday, May 9

I know it's over…

I can't escape the sense of impending doom even when I'm washing up accompanied by my collection of retro CDs.

Every song seems to apply to West Ham. While playing the Smiths' The Queen Is Dead yesterday, Morrissey's lament of "Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head…" seemed particularly appropriate. While today, REM's E-bow the Letter has a mournful Michael Stipe chorus of "It tastes like fear…" with Patti Smith on ghostly backing vocals. And then came Losing My Religion

We'll play the wild Rovers no more?

West Ham 1 Blackburn 1

Upton Park station is closed yet again. It’s another Palin-esque train journey up the Victoria line to Blackhorse Road, on the Overground to Barking then one stop to East Ham and a walk to the ground.

I’m taking ten-year-old Nell as it’s kids for a quid and we’re accompanied by my neighbour Scott, a Blackburn fan and possibly the only sociologist ever to enter Upton Park. Nell, perhaps lacking the Corinthian spirit, tells him that Blackburn are rubbish and that Arsenal should have 1000 points docked, which we all agree on.

Inside Ken’s Café Nigel is shaking his head as he reads the programme, muttering, “Grant says we displayed well at Chelsea and Man City…” Indeed, Avram’s notes might have been compiled by Voltaire’s Dr Pangloss, who believed that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”.

Matt’s speculating with Big Joe about who is hiding behind superinjunctions, but fails to admit his own superinjunction forbidding the press from covering his shameful relationship with 11 men in E13.

There’s a long wait for our cuisine, although I explain to Nell that we can’t leave as it’s the best part of our day. DC and young Conor arrive at 2.55, which is pretty early for DC. We just make the kick off.

It’s a little baffling why there’s no place for Piquionne, and Parker, Tomkins and Upson are all out. “Any team with Jason Roberts up front can’t be up to much,” quips Nigel.

The crowd are up for it, but as ever we concede an early goal. Hitzlsperger fails to foul properly, the ref plays the advantage and Jermaine Jones finds Emertom who races down the right to cross. Da Costa loses his marker to let journeyman Jason Roberts score.

We have a Da Costa header cleared off the line and Ba holds the ball up well for Sears to shoot at Robinson, but we rarely look like penetrating the Rovers rearguard. Samba is immense and the impressive N’Zonzi runs the midfield for Blackburn.

Early in the second half Spector fires just wide and Der Hammer gets in a shot that Robinson parries. At least we’ve tested the keeper. Carlton Cole beats the ground in frustration at being denied a penalty but Rovers still look on course for a victory. But we still look disjointed and lacking in energy and belief.

Keane replaces Boa Morte after 55 minutes. After 63 minutes Grant makes more scattergun substitutions, bringing on Piquionne and Collision for Sears and Jacobsen. At least he’s acted early for once. We end up with four forwards, in Cole, Piquionne, Keane and Ba. It’s lopsided, but in the final 25 minutes we at last show some urgency.

There’s some booing when Grant touches the ball in the second half and then a mournful chant of “Que sera sera whatever will be will be, we’re going to Coventry…” But generally the fans are superb, singing a rousing “We are West Ham’s Claret and Blue Army!” and making it the noisiest second half at Upton Park this season.

Collison plays a great long ball out to Cole on the left and Carlton whips in a superb cross that Demba Ba heads just wide, when he probably should have got it on target.

It’s great to see Collison back. Suddenly we have a midfielder who appreciates an angle for a pass.

“Daddy, when are West Ham going to score?” asks Nell.

“I’m not sure if we’ll ever score again,” I reply bleakly.

“Don’t be silly Daddy, of course West Ham will score.” Oh, the optimism of youth.

Carlton Cole is proving influential on the left. Just as I’ve given up hope CC crosses for Piquionne on the right who plays it into the box. The ball breaks for Carlton again on the left and he holds it up before finding Hitzlsperger. Der Hammer fires first time from the edge of the box and a superb strike finds the bottom corner, Upton Park erupts and Nell was right.

Could we win it at the death? On 88 minutes Collison finds Piquionne on the left and he crosses low towards Robbie Keane two yards in front of the goal. Somehow Keane contrives to miss the ball and spurn the sort of chance he’s buried all his career.

“What the f***ing hell is the point of f***ing Robbie Keane?” hollers the normally mild-mannered Nigel. You wouldn’t think he attended Brentwood School and lives in sedate Kew Gardens. The vicar’s son beside him looks a little shocked. Even Fraser is in danger of losing his mask of cool. Nell wants to know why they’re calling Keane an “anchor”. Keane’s missed three chances in three games for us now.

There’s still time for the superb Samba to block a goalbound Ba volley and then throw himself in front of Cole in stoppage time.

They think Hitz all over. We’ve got to win our last two games and hope that Wolves lose to WBA. Defeat would have surely been the end, so there’s some limited hope. Let’s start Collison next week at Wigan and give Piquionne a game and pray that Parker returns. Our two-game group of death begins here. And even if we get six points it may not be enough.

Friday, May 6

Anyone but Neil Warnock

Yesterday's Guardian speculates that the Irons have drawn up a list of managers to replace Avram.

Martin O'Neil would be fine but unlikely, while the paper lists Slaven Bilic (not a bad choice), Paul Lambert (very unlikely to quit Norwich), Chris Hughton (has won the Championship with Newcastle)and Ian Holloway (would give better quotes than AG and can motivate players).

But as for Neil Warnock, who worked with Karren Brady's husband, Paul Peschisolido — I said NO! NO! NO! It would be the most inappropriate appointment since Roy Hodgson found himself unwelcome at Liverpool and Sam Allardyce alienated the fans at Newcastle. Wrong man at the wrong club.

Wednesday, May 4

Where were you when we were s**t?

Not sure about David Sullivan's reasons for missing the Man City game. He said: "Watching our poor away performances week after week, and not having the ability to influence things, has impacted on us. My family think I'm mad devoting so much time and money to the club and, as the match was on TV, I decided to watch it on TV.We couldn't influence the result, we donated the cost of a private plane to a charity for terminally ill children, we thought that would do more good.

"Had it not been on TV we would have been there. None of us draw any salary or expenses from West Ham United. We are not £20,000-£60,000-a-week footballers. We only took 1,100 supporters. Like us, the bulk of the West Ham United supporters preferred to watch it on TV. We'll be at Wigan, as will 4,500 supporters."

Doesn't sound that much of a hardship to get there if you have a private jet on standby. Yes, we're grateful for Dave's money and owners don't always attend away games, but what sort of message does it send to the players when the owners — who claim to be hardcore fans — don't attend one of our most crucial matches of the season?

Monday, May 2

Manchester, so much to answer for…

Manchester City 2 West Ham 1

We watch this one at the Sheephaven Bay in Camden as Matt and Lisa are participating in the Camden Crawl.

Not sure if they plan to view the Lemonheads later, but there’s few lemonheads in our defence. After ten minutes we have no-one on the edge of the box at a corner and De Jong fires in from distance for his first City goal. Another player breaks his duck against the Irons. It’s the spot where presumably Parker or Noble might have been patrolling had they been fit.

Gabbidon (replacing the on-loan Bridge who isn’t allowed to play) is out of position at left back and is easily beaten for speed by Johnson and Kolarov. When Gabbs fails to keep goalside of a simple run by Kolarov, the City full back fires towards goal and Jacobsen turns the ball into his own net. It looks like a 6-0 thrashing is on the way. Another pint of Landlord please…

Bizarrely, City ease off and we come into it after a disastrous start. Spector plays in Keane with a great through ball, but the on-loan Spurs man dallies failing to either shoot quickly or round the keeper and Hart makes a block. Lisa wonders if Harry has sent Keane to destabalise us and ensure he gets to sign Scott Parker.

On 33 minutes we gain a corner. It’s cleared to Hitzlsperger who crosses for Keane to nod on. Lescott handles and while everyone else appeals, Demba Ba plays to the whistle and scores. Come on you Irons! It’s not the despair I can’t take, etc…

Da Costa has a header comfortably saved by Hart in the second half but we don’t really take the game to City. Stroppy Balotelli hits the bar and has one off the line while Green foils Silva. We don't look as if we're fighting for our lives.

There’s an apt cameo as Grant drops his notes and they flap around the pitch like Kate and Wills’ confetti. The stylish Mancini looks on in bemusement as Bela Lugosi/Uncle Fester fumbles in the wind trying to catch his failed formulas.

We’ve shown some character to prevent a thrashing. After Upson went off with a dead leg Da Costa and the excellent Tomkins did well at the back, while Bridge returns next week.

But now we need seven, possibly nine points from the final three games. But maybe we deserve to go down: five defeats in five is relegation form.