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.



Hey Joey

Big Sam now has a column in the Evening Standard and alongside his confirmation that Galatasary tried to buy Carlton Cole on deadline day, it was interesting to see that he cited Joey O'Brien as "the most pleasurable" of his signings.

After two major knee injuries and three years out he was apparently very down and "his state of mind was 'no-one knows or cares who I am'". He's certainly had a good season so far and after out troubles with Spector, Faubert and Jacobsen we seem to have solved a problem position.

And Joey's story will give some hope to another long-term injury victim Gary O'Neil.

Sunday, September 18

One hundred thousand hits

As you may have seen from the view counter on this blog, Hammers in the Heart has now passed 100,000 views. Thanks to everyone who has ever viewed or commented.

Think of all that clicking on posts and adverts as a social service. Having an outlet to write about the enigma that is West Ham United and the numerous nightmares on Green Street has probably preserved my sanity...

Irons tame Lions

Millwall 0 West Ham 0

Would like to say that I was standing my ground at the New Den, but, erm, I was visiting my mother-in-law in Buntingford instead.

Thankfully the game seems to have passed without too much trouble. Interesting that Sam preferred the experience of Faye over Reid for this one and that he is developing a liking for the novels of Gustave Faubert.

Looking at the Football League Show highlights at some unfeasible hour in the morning, Lansbury almost scored from the kick off as the Millwall keeper dozed, Green made a couple of decent saves, Lansbury hit the bar and Bentley could have won it at the end after the keeper parried Faubert’s shot. A bad miss, but not quite the open goal the press claimed.

We could have gone top if we'd won. Still, grateful to get anything at the most hostile venue we’ll play in all season and a good test of the player’s character. Unbeaten in six with two home games to come is definite progress.

Friday, September 16

Irons in the Dom-Toms

More unlikely literary mentions of West Ham. On page 180 of Rosie Millard's new book, Bonnes-Vacances, (Summersdale) the story of a chaotic but fascinating family trip to the French Territories, we read of Millard's trip to watch turtle eggs hatching in French Guiana (a sliver of South America next to Brazil):

"The probability of us standing beside a hillock when hatchlings actually start swarming out of it is about as likely as West Ham winning this year's league I say to Pip (an armchair Hammers fan). Still, we wait and we walk with hope in our hearts."

They never do see those hatching turtles. Maybe Rosie should return this season as the odds of West Ham winning the league and inspiring a mass hatching might be a little better.

Thursday, September 15

Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium

The Newham Bookshop tells me that Jeremy Nicholas' new book Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium (Biteback) is selling well. Haven't read it yet, but the man is something of a national treasure at Upton Park.

Jem was once admonished by Brian Clough for not wearing a tie and also partakes of luncheon in Ken's Cafe, which makes him a top geezer. And as comic Phil Whelans says in the blurb: "As West Ham announcer Jeremy has had to deliver more bad news than Kate Adie". It's also available on Amazon and looks well worth a read...

Wednesday, September 14

Oh East London is full of shops...

Big Sam, David Sullivan, Carlton Cole, Jack Collison and Kevin Nolan were all at Westfield yesterday to mark the opening of the new West Ham store. It will certainly make it easier buying club gear on the way to the game rather than enduring the queues at the Upton Park store.

When we're in the new stadium 70 per cent of all fans will have to file past our claret and blue nodding dogs, so it should prove a nice little earner. Just as long as Karren Brady doesn't let those contestants from The Apprentice demonstrate their selling skills there.

Monday, September 12

We're winning at home!

West Ham 4 Portsmouth 3

Oh to be back in England with the smell of chips in the autumnal air. In Ken’s Café all is well with the world: Carol’s been at her caravan on the Isle of Sheppey, the egg, chips and beans is as good as ever, and Matt has given up on the Dukla Prague away kit and is wearing his untried lucky Versace Classic black t-shirt.

My daughters are there as it’s kids for a quid and Lola and Nell ask why the imitation guns are still on the wall. Probably to deter rioters or shoot customers who don’t answer when their number is called.

It’s been worth wearing my sweaty nylon yellow, blue and green Solomon Islands replica kit just to make Nigel and Matt envious with tales of the Lawson Tama Stadium. Though Matt claims Doncaster is more obscure.

Inside the stadium, what’s apparent is that Noble, Nolan and Lansbury are snapping into tackles in midfield, O’Brien has slotted in well at right-back and Carlton Cole is holding the ball up well and showing more desire than last season. We’re also doing some nice short passing in the middle and the long-ball game we feared hasn’t materialized. The one thing the side seems to lack is pace.

Still, it all seems to be going predictably wrong when Luke Varney shoots from a corner. The ball is going wide, but deflects off Carlton Cole and into the net.

Within a minute Cole wins a free kick on the edge of the Pompey box. “Don’t worry girls, we always score from free-kicks,” I tell my daughters.

Miraculously, Taylor curls the ball, via a slight deflection, past Ashdown. Blimey. I didn’t mean it… It seems to sum up the difference between this season and last.

We have the better of the first half though Pompey create the best chances. Robert Green – who is still at Upton Park after ten-year-old Nell wrote to him telling him not to move — makes a fantastic double save from Pearce’s header.

The second half begins with Noble’s cross from the left being headed out to the edge of the box for Henri Lansbury to shoot home.

As we celebrate, Nell wonders if we can cheer an Arsenal player, so I reassure her it’s permissible to cheer an on-loan Gooner.

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

“Don’t lose it there Noble!” shouts Matt, as Noble misses a tackle and Varney sweeps down the field. Pompey cross and Norris’s header appears to be over the lie as O’Brien kicks it clear only for Benjani to make sure.

On 63 minutes Allardyce brings on Bentley for Gustav Faubert. The old David Beckham is eager for the ball in central midfield, if inclined to shoot on sight, Diamanti-style, from 900 yards out. Bentley’s skill results in Lawrence being him down and getting sent off for a yellow card offence.

Six minutes after Lawrence’s dismissal Lansbury juggles in the box and wins a penalty for what was surely an accidental handball. Noble strikes it confidently home.

It’s good to see McCartney back in the side and his overlapping on the left and understanding with Nolan makes a difference in the second half. The game looks over on 76 minutes as Taylor plays in an instant cross and the unmarked Cole rises to score with a heard into the top corner.

“Oh what a goal!” gushes the commentator on the Football League Show’s highlights – and it’s a long rime since we’ve heard that said about West Ham.

Lansbury almost gets a fifth but when Nell and Lola say that West Ham have won, curmudgeonly Nigel, Fraser and Matt all reply that you can never ever say that with West Ham.

Sure enough, sub Freddie Piquionne stupidly raises an arm to Portsmouth defender Halford and gets sent off. Perhaps Halford had made a quip about fly-tipping.

And in the 97th minute Ben Haim is brought down by Noble and Halford strokes home the penalty. Mercifully the ref signals full time immediately after the restart, before we concede the inevitable equaliser.

“That game went really quickly,” says a disbelieving Lola.

It’s a trip to the Newham Bookshop afterwards to celebrate after a thoroughly entertaining game of seven goals and two red cards and several cardiac flutters. Unbeaten in five games, we go up to fourth and it’s our first win at home since March 5. Sort out the defence and we just might get in the top two.

Saturday, September 10

Theatre of height

Looking forward to my first game of the season today. Fraser tells me: "Sam has spent the summer signing players who are mostly 6ft 5".

My only worry is that there might now be a height requirement for spectators. Big Joe should be all right, but I fear the rest of us may be turned away at the turnstiles.

Thursday, September 8

Hit the read Jack

Nice to see Jack Collison get a run-out for Wales against England at Wembley. He didn't have a great game, but was part of a Welsh side that could have equalised in the second half. He's still only played half a dozen games since coming back from a year out, so we have yet to see the best of him. Though he and Noble now have to compete with Demel, Diop and Bentley for a midfield berth...

On another note, it was horrible to see Scotty come on and think that he was now a Spurs player... and long-term he may be replacing our old friend Big Fat Frank. Hopefully we'll buy him back once Spurs go down...

Tuesday, September 6

Life on Mars

Just returned from a summer sabbatical in Australia and the Solomon Islands:

So we've had riots all over England, Shane Warne is dating Liz Hurley, Arsenal are struggling against relegation and regularly concede eight goals, Spurs now lose 5-1 at home, Stoke are in Europe and West Ham score from set pieces and have won three away games in a row.

Have I been away for longer than I thought? It all seems a bit Life on Mars...

Saturday, September 3

King Henri?

See that Henri Lansbury scored twice for England Under-21s against Azerbaijan the other night and was man of the match. Stuart Pearce has announced that he's ready for greater things. Could be we have a player on our hands for a season.

Though I seem to remember Jeremie Alliadiere was tipped for greatness at Arsenal too until he came to us on loan and caused consternation for Jeremey Nicholas every time he announced his name, but not for opposition defences...

Still, Henri has already proved himself a decent player in the Championship, so it will be interesting to see where Big Sam fits him in.

Thursday, September 1

Fab four?

Some seemingly good business by Big Sam, as we've recruited four new players after selling Parker in Diop, Demel, Lansbury and Bentley.

Guy Demel (will Elton John fans in the Bobby Moore stand come up with A Song for Guy?) can play on the right of defence or midfield and has won the league at Hamburg. The 30-year-old from the Ivory Coast looks a formidable size too...

Henri Lansbury is an England under-21 international at Arsenal and will add more depth to the squad. He's already had loan spells and scored goals at this level for Norwich and Scunthorpe.

While I'm excited by the season-long loan signing of David Bentley, once tipped as the new David Beckham, but possibly a victim of the, erm, Baby Bentley culture.

He was overpriced at £15 million when he joined Spurs, played out of position and then unable to displace Aaron Lennon. But we know from his time at Blackburn that he's a great crosser and free kick specialist. And anyone who saw the 50-yard goal he scored for Spurs at Arsenal knows he's got ability. Could be one of those undervalued Moneyball players that we need.

Slightly disappointed to see Junior Stanislas join Burnley as he's an Academy product who scored a few goals for the club and has never really been given an extended run, but guess we have to recoup some wages for the new signings.

Overall, Allardyce has attracted Premiership quality players and been decisive in the market so far. Seems like we have a manager who knows what he's doing at last.