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.

1 comment:

Pete May said...

Alison O'Brien texts:

In Romford this morning and I saw two guys in WHU tops and trackies. I congratulated them and one said: "If I only wore it when we won it would never be outta the packet!".

Then I bumped into a Hammer who is compiling a 20 reasons why going down is a good thing. He's got to eight.

Feeling a bit better today. And at least we're not in another desperate scramble next weekend!