Thursday, August 30

Oh Carroll!

Never thought this would happen, but West Ham have got Andy Carroll on a season's loan from Liverpool. He wasn't exactly keen to join us initially, but Brendan Rodgers has been very clear he isn't going to play. I've always rated Carroll on what he did at Newcastle and he appeared to be coming back to form at Liverpool towards the end of the season. It's often forgotten that his left foot is pretty useful as well as his head and we have to hope the team don't just lump balls forward because they have a big man. But with Jarvis bought to ping in crosses this makes sense and 80k a week is worth it to ensure Premier League survival. Carroll is also going to be angry enough to want to prove Brendan Rodgers wrong. We've got a £35 million striker for a season and there's no obligation to buy at the end of the loan, so this seems a pretty good deal. This may mean Cole or Maynard goes before the window closes, but as long as his refuelling habits survive East London, this looks a fine piece of business.

STOP! Hammer Time

Just recorded a podcast with STOP! Hammer Time, the West Ham podcast for lovers of irresponsible speculation, wild theorising and potentially libellous songs about overweight former players. Around the table were fellow Irons' anoraks Phil Whelans, Sam Delaney and Sam's brother Don playing the Bez role by doing the hokey-cokey in the background. The Arsenal podcast team were in the studio before us, presumably recording 30 minutes of librarians saying "quiet please!" On Stop! Hammer Time we spoke about my new e-book Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals (download for £1.99) and I possibly convinced the team that we still have a chance of getting the 1923 FA Cup Final replayed. Plus we discussed great Cup Final banners of the past, such as "Bonds eats Rice" and "The Greatest Players in the Land are Captain Billy and his Band. That’s Frank the Lamp, Alan Dev, Paul and Stewart and Tricky Trev." Our 30-minute discussion also covered well hard cockney geezer patwa that sounds a bit camp when said in an American accent, such as phrases like "lovely" and "give him a slap". Oh and it all ended with a request for tales from people who have had sex while watching or listening to West Ham. Blimey. I expect Frank McAvennie has had sex while actually playing for West Ham and Russell Brand must have some tales...

Noble cause

Disturbing rumours in yesterday's Evening Standard that Mark Noble is a target for Fulham. We seem to have seen off their interest, but the fact remains that Nobes has one year of his contract left and has yet to sign a new deal. It would be a mistake to get rid of a home grown player who appears to enjoy playing for us and he's surely worthy of pay matching the new signings. Noble has never become quite the player he promised to be, but that is possibly because he was forced to play as a ball winner in the Curbishley era and last season had to do an awful lot of running to cover for Nolan's forays forward. But the fact is he was our player of the year in 2011-12 and this could be the season he finally makes it as a playmaker if he can play in front of Diame and/or Diarra.
Meanwhile still rumours we'll go for Andy Carroll and try to shift Cole and Noble to pay for it. And Robert Green might be available soon, as QPR have just signed another keeper...

Wednesday, August 29

This is the Modibo world

West Ham United 2 Crewe Alexandra 0 (Capital One Cup)

A West Ham-supporting customer in the Newham Bookshop is asking for The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. The loss at Swansea might have been bad, but hopefully the Allardyce empire is not as yet in terminal decline with the Goths lurking outside the Green Street gates.

Vivian says the bookshop hosted a very successful signing for Steve Bacon’s new book There’s Only One Stevie Bacon (published by Biteback) before the Villa match. A tome by the legendary Clicker Bacon, as immortalised by Porky’s cartoons in Fortune’s Always Hiding, should be worth reading. So if you do buy it please visit the Newham Bookshop to do so, as it’s the best independent bookshop in London.

It’s down to myself and Fraser tonight as Nigel’s away and Matt is in a boutique hotel in Aberaeron, having turned the Swansea debacle into a romantic mini-break. Jeremy Nicholas plays Paradise, which is a little over-optimistic for Crewe on a Tuesday night in front of 18,000 fans. The Carling Cup is now the Capital One Cup, which gives us the intriguing acronym of COC.

Allardyce makes ten changes from the side and plays the squad players. It’s Potts and O’Brien in an unlikely centre back partnership with the forgotten Jordan Spence at right-back. Maynard goes close with a good effort and Diarra has a long range shot parried by Phillips. Crewe play some neat passing football and a shot parried by Henderson could easily have been deflected in. But O’Neil restores some passing skill to midfield and after 34 minutes West Ham’s nerves are eased as Maynard finishes smartly from Vaz Te’s cross.

Matt fails to fall for my text suggesting that it’s the game of the century. The second half sees some interesting substitutions. On comes one Matthias Fanimo (presumably nicknamed Fanny by his team-mates) after 60 minutes. The 18-year-old nearly makes a goal with his first cross as Maiga volleys over and Matthias looks to have good control and a fine left foot.

The Irons’ second arrives when Taylor’s rolled free-kick finds Nolan who tests the keeper with the alert Modibo Maiga firing home the rebound. That goal gives Modibo confidence and he goes close with several other efforts and starts to look a skilful striker. Henderson pulls off a couple of good late smothering saves. Robert Hall gets a cameo and there’s six minutes for George Moncur, not quite long enough for him to be here, there and every effing where. It would be no surprise to see the Essex Lion getting a run-out too.

It’s job done for West Ham and several players have put themselves in contention. Maynard had a lively game against his old club and Maiga, Diarra, Vaz Te, O’Neil, Taylor, O’Brien (in place of Demel) and even Henderson may all be in with a chance of starting against Fulham.

At the final whistle we head for the Black Lion for some Maldon Gold and have the odd experience of finding seats and not having to queue at the bar. On Sky Sports News Paolo Di Canio is congratulating his giant-killing Swindon side with a series of slaps and kicks. Now Swindon would be an interesting draw in the next round…

Monday, August 27

Always believe in Joey Cole?

Rumours on Twitter that West Ham are trying to sign back Joe Cole from Liverpool. Good player, but he can't now get in the Liverpool or England sides, though he apparently matured as a person and footballer through his loan spell in France. But the problem was the side looked too old at Swansea and should you ever go back? You'd trust Harry Redknapp to get the best out of an ageing former star, but not sure if Joey could fit into the current Allardyce side... though sentimentally, if not logically, it would be nice to see him in claret and blue again.

Always believe in...

Well done Carlton Cole for retweeting some very offensive twitter comments that have resulted in the arrest of a man in Southend. The comments were nothing to do with the match and Cole handled it all with some class. As Carlton tweeted: 

"Listen, i take racism a lot lighter than others and i do understand the banter that comes a long with it to get under peoples skin but it can sometimes be hurtful & insulting, i don't mind when people criticise me for having a bad game or they think I'm crap at football but just say that, whether i am crap or had a bad game has nothing to do with my race, creed or religion. lets just keep it FOOTBALL. Kapeesh?"

Sunday, August 26

Failed in Wales

Swansea City 3  West Ham United 0

It’s up at six am to get the 7.45 am train from Paddington to Swansea, where several West Ham fans are already drinking cans of lager as we set off. The guard threatens to evict some smokers at Cardiff, but there’s good humoured banter with the Swansea fans who get on at Neath and we learn that the nickname the Jacks comes from Swansea Jack, the dog who saved 27 people from the docks and riverbanks in the 1930s. Though I'm sure a dog around the Thames Ironworks factory at Leamouth must have done something similar, saving all bar Millwall dockers.

Big Joe is at the station having travelled down from Shropshire and we meet Matt and Lisa at the ground. The Liberty is a functional white stadium in a retail park, similar to every other new ground. Though the service in the chippy outside is much quicker than anything experienced at West Ham.

The Swansea fans regale us with Land of My Fathers while the Irons fans respond with God Save the Queen and “We pay your Benefits!”

It’s a strange selection from Big Sam with Tomkins playing in midfield, when we’ve already signed Diame and Diarra to play that role. West Ham do reasonably well for the first 15 minutes with Diame prominent. Record signing Matt Jarvis gets a fine cross into the box that Nolan just fails to connect with. But Rangel is making some good runs behind McCartney and West Ham fail to respond after 20 minutes when the right back is again not picked up and fires in a low cross that squirms off Jaaskelainen’s elbow into the net. It’s a bad goalkeeping error. Jussi has been a great keeper at Bolton, but at 37 does he gave another season left in him?

A Villa fan has told Joe that James Collins “always has a mistake in him” and we find out what he means when the former Cardiff centre back plays a weak bobbling back pass that is easily intercepted by Michu who scores Swansea’s second.  “We are top of the league!” chant the delirious home fans.

On the edge of his technical area the raging Big Sam looks like a low grade Mafiosi in his black shirt and claret tie and is regaled with chants from the Jacks’ fans of “You fat bastard!”

At least West Ham rally before the break. Collins’ up and under free kick is headed on by Cole and Jarvis swivels sharply to produce a fine save from Vorm. We gain a a corner and Carlton has a header cleared off the line.

Big Sam takes off Tomkins for Vaz Te at half-time and at least Ricardo gives us some dribbling ability up front. He wins a free kick that he fires low at Vorm for our only chance of the second period. Noble works hard as ever, but the second half is very worrying. We should do better against a Swansea side lacking last season's best players, Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair. While West Ham have a team of giants Swansea outpass us in midfield, inspired by the tiny Leon Britton, a former Hammers junior, Dyer and Routledge. Graham is regularly getting behind Collins, and our offside trap is somewhere east of Cardiff. Graham has a shot parried and then shoots wide after Demel fails to get tight. In fact both Demel and McCartney are struggling for pace on the flanks. Another fine passing move results in Swansea’s third, a right wing cross bundled home by Graham, who has lost Demel.

“Are you sleeping over there?” chant the home fans.

“Is it too early to say we’re too good to go down?” I ask Joe.

“We love our chairman!” chant the Swansea fans, ironically, at the away supporters.

“When did our season last end in August?” muses Big Joe.

Still, at least it’s a new ground. I blame the new away kit too. What has navy blue got to do with West Ham?

It’s a long trek past the Welsh hills as we walk back to town on the scenic trail that Lisa and Matt have discovered.

We find some local real ale at Matt and Lisa’s hotel, the rather fine Tomos Watkins’ Magik Lagyr. The hotel is next to the Dylan Thomas Centre. Supporting West Ham would certainly have had the Welsh poet raging against the dying of the light and might possibly have resulted in him drinking even more Magik Lagyr than he did.

Joe and myself go gently into the night via a taxi to the station and a long journey home, though at least Joe’s got a Michael McIntyre gig in Cardiff to look forward to. Before the game Big Sam has warned that he doesn’t want West Ham to revert to being a soft touch away. We must beat Fulham now (and Crewe won’t be easy on this form) and it’s surely necessary to base the defence around Tomkins and play Vaz Te and possibly Maiga up front. We looked terribly slow in Wales, with Demel, McCartney and Collins all struggling for pace. Is Jarvis, a decent enough player, worth up to £10 million? Have we successfully replaced Robert Green? And where is the creativity in midfield? Big Sam has some decisions to make.

Friday, August 24

Jarvis joins the Common People

So we've finally signed Matt Jarvis from Wolves for £7 million upfront, in a deal that could end up at £10 million with add-ons. Big Sam has paid over the odds for an English player with one cap, but on the other hand a winger who can cross for Cole, Maiga and Vaz Te could be the key to surviving a very competitive Premier League. Jarvis has always looked useful when at Wolves and last season scored eight goals in a struggling side which is a sign of character. Big Sam also says Jarvis "has good stats", making him sound a little like a contestant in a 1970s beauty contest. Overall, the £18 million outlay on Jussi, Diame, Diarra, Collins, Maiga and Jarvis certainly strengthens our squad, as it should. Not since Mattie Etherington departed have we had a conventional winger who could cross. And interestingly both Jarvis's parents were table tennis champions...
Meanwhile Sam Baldock and his cunning plans have departed for Bristol City for an an unspecified fee. I'm a little sad to see Baldock go, as his five goals last season, especially the pair against Leicester, suggested he's a fine finisher when confident, though he never looked the same player after his injury. He's a victim of our promotion and was never going to get many games once Maiga came in. Think he'll do quite well at City. Meanwhile it's an early morning start for my train to Swansea tomorrow...

Monday, August 20

We're gonna win the league! (possibly)

West Ham 1 Aston Villa 0

Was ascending Yewbarrow in Wasdale Head while the game was on, but in rare moments of phone reception in the Lake District it felt like I was virtually there. Matt reported that it was 140 degrees in Ken's Cafe and Alison and Scott asked is it only West Ham fans who form interminable queues for fish and chips on the hottest day of the year. Presumably we'll all be watching the Spice Girls in taxis (or more likely the Cockney Rejects) pre-match if we get the Olympic stadium. Caught the game on Match of the Day and it looked like a deserved win. The goal stems from a Noble free kick on the half way line. A Villa defender backheads the ball to Vaz Te who does well to centre and set up clucking Kevin Nolan for a tap-in. Carlton Cole is regularly clattered in the area and substitute Maiga almost makes it two when he rounds the keeper and has a shot cleared off the line. Matt reports that Villa were very poor, we had the best five chances and Diame and Collins were the men of the match. Three points will do me. And though I'll always be grateful to Robert Green for what he did for us, QPR losing 5-0 at home to Swansea rounds off the day nicely. So much for being a bigger club that West Ham. Back home for our visit to Swansea on Saturday and a train dash to South Wales. Irons!

Friday, August 17

Nothing beats being back...

Good luck to the Irons against Villa tomorrow. While London swelters we're in the rainswept Wasdale valley enjoying superb Yewbarrow ale from the Great Gable brewing Co. Her Indoors' 18-year-old godson George is using my ticket for the match and I fear he might learn some new vocabulary from Matt. Two years ago I was on top of Scafell Pike when the season opened and mobile reception lasted just long enough to reveal we'd lost 3-0 at Villa in Avram Grant's first match. Let's hope we're more successful this time. Where will Diarra, Diame and Maiga fit in? Will Carlton Cole carry on his great form from the play-off final? (You can relive the final in my new e-book Flying So High West Ham's Cup Finals via the link on the top right.) Shame we missed out on Van Persie, but I can already feel that anorak twitching...

Sunday, August 12

Holding holding West Ham!

Sitting in the White Horse at Scales while holidaying in the Lake District, news reaches me that West Ham have signed another holding midfielder in Abou Diarra. You do wonder if Big Sam is going to emulate Spain by ditching strikers and playing an entire team of 6ft 3ins defensive midfielders. Signed from Marseilles for £2 million, Diarra has 44 caps and has played most of his career in France. Clearly a decent player, you wonder if he's an alternative to Diame or if they will be played together in a five-man midfield. Meanwhile Ravel Morrison has gone on loan for a season at Birmingham which seems a good way of the lad getting some experience and returning to the Hammers as a better player.

Friday, August 10

We need Ken's Cafe at the Olympics

The only downside to the Olympics has been the catering. So far I've seen pizza slices for £6 at Wembley for Mexico versus Japan, burgers for £6 at the giant TV screens in Hyde Park and pasties for a fiver at the Excel where we watched Jade Jones at taekwondo. To make it worse you can't take your own snacks in as even crisps and water get confiscated. There's no market competition here, just a cartel of extortionate prices. Surely Carol and Ken's Cafe should have been put in charge of Olympic catering... "I don't care how many Gold medals you've got Mr Bradley Wiggins you'll wait till your number comes up!"

Wednesday, August 8

Hardyesque Hammers

Just been staying with friends in Somerton in Somerset, the old capital of ancient Wessex, while reading The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy. Being in Hardy Country it’s tempting to wonder how many of West Ham's current squad might make characters in his novels. So far I’ve come up with:

Mark Noble: Stoic shepherd whose constancy finally wins over Bathsheba.
James Collins: Proud owner of a cider press in Little Hintock.
Ricardo Vaz Te: Continental army officer out to seduce country maidens from Budmouth.
Guy Demel: Aristocratic gambler and rake.
Ravel Morrison: Young man who dreams of becoming a scholar at Oxford.
Gary O’Neil and Joey O’Brien: Horse dealers at Casterbridge market.
Carlton Cole and Nicky Maynard: Honest furze-cutters on Egdon Heath.
Samuel Allardyce: Stout gentleman farmer who becomes infatuated with Bathsheba.
Jack Collison: Cowherd from Sherton Abbas.
James Tomkins: A pious trainee vicar torn between God and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
Winston Reid: Northern industrialist selling newfangled threshing machines to Wessex farmers.
Sam Baldock: Taciturn woodlander living in a small hut who dreams of marrying Grace Melbury.

Saturday, August 4

3-1 to the Tractor Boys

It's not about results at this stage but a strong line-up lost 3-1 at Ipswich Town this afternoon. Collins and Maiga played, while Nolan, McCartney and Collison missed the game with knocks and Diame and Tomkins were on Olympics duty. West Ham's consolation came from Taylor. Thankfully noone will notice this result though, as they'll be too busy watching Jessica Ennis. Big Sam is said to be impressed by her high-jump and feels she might yet fit into our tactical plans…

Thursday, August 2

Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals

My new e-book Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals is now out, with six finals for a mere £1.99, less than a copy of Hammer. Published by Endeavour, the book covers the FA Cup Finals of 1923 (possibly staffed by G4S), 1964, 1975, 1980 and 2006, the classic European Cup Winners' Cup Final of 1965 and the Play-off Final of 2012, which I believe we won. It features Billie the white (actually a grey) horse, Billy Bonds' beard, Trevor Brooking's head, Lionel Scaloni's indecision, Alan Taylor's goals, Bobby Moore's giant hammer and much more, including West Ham fans in jackets and ties and flat caps, and the chants, programmes and cockney knees-ups inspired by each final. If nothing else it's been an excuse to watch all those games again and enjoy the West Ham fans chanting "Who the f•••ing hell are you?" at Liam Brady as he's interviewed on the pitch before the 1980 FA Cup Final. Flying So High can be downloaded to Kindles, Macs and PCs. Click on the link to peruse…

Clause for thought

With the ongoing Carroll saga, today's Guardian claims that the £2 million loan fee for Andy Carroll comes with an agreement to definitely buy him for £17 million the following season. I can't see that this makes any business sense, since we might end up obliged to buy a player who could have had a poor season. Surely there is a get-out clause? In any case, most of the papers say that Carroll is not keen on a move to West Ham, information that is presumably coming from someone in Carroll's camp. The Guardian also reveals that Carroll and Sam Allardyce share the same agent, which might persuade him to sign along with the Nolan link, though it's surely a mistake to sign a player who will feel he's taking a step down. After Ljungberg and Dyer we have to be very careful about taking massive gambles on individual players and surely need some mid-price players rather than a showboat signing. And four days on he doesn't seem exactly desperate to join us...

Ginge returns

So we've signed James Collins from Aston Villa for £2.5 million. On the plus side I didn't realise he's still only 28 and we know from his previous spell at West Ham that he's a good player. He had a fantastic game at Old Trafford in the 1-0 Great Escape victory and was playing well before being sold to pay for Diamante. The downside is that most Villa fans appear very pleased to have got rid of him, though internet forums do attend to attract whingers, apart from on this blog, of course, which is full of football connoisseurs. Hopefully Villa's creaking defence last term was more down to injuries and the ageing of Richard Dunne rather than Collins. Martin O'Neill doesn't normally buy bad players and it should be noted that until O'Neill left, Collins was looking a decent player in a top six side. A change of club might give Collins a boost and as competition for Tomkins and Reid he should be a decent signing. And now he's bald rather than Ginger, looking not unlike Valdermort, he should at least frighten opposition forwards.