Thursday, January 31

Not a Thriller but it is Bad

Fulham 3 West Ham 1

Our pre-match organization is as shambolic as West Ham’s defence. After telling our butlers our whereabouts, Fraser and myself proceed from Hammersmith tube down Fulham Palace Road at different times, Matt and Lisa wait in the Delicious café having come via Fulham Road and when we do finally rendezvous no-one has researched a pub. So it’s a rather good pre-match Americano (what no Nescafe?) instead. 

We get to see the famous Michael Jackson statue at the corner of the Hammersmith End, which looks like the work of a not-very-talented FdA art student. Jackson went to all of one game and that was probably in an oxygen tent.

It’s weird watching the game from below pitch level at the front of the Fulham End, though £20 is a very reasonable price. It’s a frantic blur of lost possession and challenges with neither side stringing more than a few passes together. We get a good view of Schwarzer hollering at his defence and Hangerland mopping up everything against the unimposing Chamakh. Dimitar Berbatov is the one player with time and class and is brilliant all evening.

Fulham take the lead at the other end after ten minutes, Berbatov heading home a free kick with three Fulham players offside when the ball is kicked. It might have been offside, but Jaaskelainen doesn’t react either as a fairly tame header eludes him at his near post.

Our best chance is when Diame makes a burst down the left and crosses for Nolan to head wide when he should have been on target. But nought shots on target in the first half says it all. Joe Cole is hustled out of the game and Jarvis rarely gets a cross in.

West Ham start much better in the second half with Diame looking determined. Three minutes into the half Noble’s free kick finds clucking Kevin Nolan, who loses Berbatov and fires across Schwarzer into the net, his first goal since November.

We then commit the basic error of conceding a goal a minute later. An attack breaks down, Duff gets down the left and Demel fails to stop him crossing. Astonishingly Rodallega manages to beat Tomkins, Reid, O’Brien and Jussi to head home. He wants it more and it’s a rubbish goal to concede.

Hammers try to come back, with Schwarzer firing across goal and the ball trickling wide of the post. Carlton Cole and Andy Carroll (minus pony tail and now with a dodgy bob) come on as subs. Carroll gets a good left shot in with his first touch and produces a safe and also fires over a few minutes later.

Sub Matt Taylor moves to left back and crosses low when we have a giant forward line and then gets caught out as Fulham go close on the break. Tomkins has a nightmare and his confidence appears shot. We’re missing James Collins more than anyone.

“Typical Allardyce team!” says the bloke behind us we fire hopeful balls at our front men. Nolan has a huge row with Noble for kicking the ball out of play just because Dimitar Berbatov has a slight hamstring tweak. At least Kevin appears angry.

It’s all over in added time. Jussi saves well from Rodallega, but from a tight angle Petric shoots the ball across goal and in off the unlucky O’Brien. We get a fine view of Damien Duff thumping has badge in front of us.

We leave the stadium past the naff Michael Jackson statue. It’s not been a Thriller but it has been Bad.  We walk past the Thames while resisting the temptation to jump in. Beats the River Lea I’m afraid. Best result of the day is finding the Crabtree pub, which has rotating obscure real ales (we try Canberra and Detox), Pacifico lager for Lisa, Aspinall’s cider for Fraser and a menu of Cornish fish, polenta and halloumi. Just like Ken’s Cafe really. Fulham fans don’t drink white wine, they sip lovely real ales.

“That was relegation defending,” muses Matt over his pint of Detox. We wonder if the Michael Jackson statue might have performed better in defence or even Billie Jean. Swansea is now yet another must-win game.

Wednesday, January 30

Here's to you Mr Robinson?

We're about to sign Paul Robinson from Blackburn apparently, which is surely a good piece of business grabbing the one-time England goalkeeper. And this morning Sky claimed we're after one Radvan Rat — though surely Rat should be joining a sinking ship like QPR?

Tuesday, January 29

Poga joins the Irons

Emanuel Pogatetz has joined Hammers from Wolfsburg on loan until the end of the season. Don't know too much about him but he played 158 games for Middlesbrough in the PL from 2005-2010 and featured in their run to the UEFA Cup Final, so has plenty of experience. He's also possibly the first Austrian to play for WHU.

On the evidence of the Emirates we definitely need experience at the back. It was worrying the way Tomkins lost Giroud for the second goal and Reid is starting to make mistakes too, costing us a goal against QPR through stepping up too soon. With Demel and O'Brien still trying to catch up the Arsenal forwards from the third goal when the Gunners' scored the fourth on Wednesday, we also need more full backs. West Ham were after Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock too, who a few years ago was number three in the England squad behind Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines, though now it seems he's gone to Leeds who offered a longer contract. And let;s hope Mo Diame has had his phone confiscated for the next two days.

Thursday, January 24

Kicked up the Arsenal

Arsenal 5 West Ham 1

Having missed out on the WHU allocation I’ve acquired a Gooner pal’s ticket. Interestingly there’s a lot of empty seats around me indicating those 60,000 gates are not what they seem. Taking a library book from my pocket, I do my best to disguise myself as a Gooner. No white van men here, it’s more like an editorial board meeting of Granta.

It’s a strange team with no Diame (are we preparing to sell him?), Jarvis or Joe Cole and Chamakh ineligible. Arsenal are playing three up front in Podolski, Giroud and Walcott but have no fit holding midfielder.

It’s a decent start from the Hammers with Taylor having a shot deflected wide and a couple of corners. Then on 18 minutes a corner is deflected out to Jack Collison who scores with a crisp finish into the net. He runs towards the bench celebrating his first Premier League goal in two years. I have to keep quiet, but wonder if it is going to be another 1-0 to the Emirates? Four minutes later the answer arrives. Podolski cuts in from the left and arrows a fantastic shot into the corner.

It’s a decent first half performance though, with the Irons stringing some passes together and O’Brien clearing off the line. Many of the Gooners leave their seats a full ten minutes before half time. Carlton Cole also has an effort cleared from the Arsenal line and then Jaaskelainen produces a great save from Cazorla’s free kick.

A text arrives revealing that DC, Matt, Lisa and Nigel are in the only section of lairy Gunners, who are standing up and singing in the Library.

Arsenal start the second half looking like they’ve been consulting the Lance Armstrong beverage manual. Giroud loses his man with some clever movement and flicks home a corner on 47 minutes. Then good work by Podolski allows Cazorla to score with an impudent back heel from close in.

Our defence falls apart as Arsenal play some brilliant stuff, getting in behind our full-backs on the counter-attack. More good work from Podolski sees his cross swept home by Walcott and then Giroud scores a fifth by which time I’m past caring. Four goals in ten minutes. At this stage I’d settle for a point.

Thankfully Arsenal make a few substitutions and treat the rest of the game as a little rest and relaxation rather than scoring seven or eight. Diarra comes on for Reid and improves the defence slightly while Diame adds steel to the midfield. We sensible opt for damage limitation, as a cricket score defeat really would affect confidence.

In the second half Cole and Vaz Te don’t look good enough up front, failing to hold up the ball, admittedly with little support, while at the back Demel is exposed for pace and Reid is subbed by Sam. Substitute Dan Potts falls to the ground after a clash of heads and is on the floor for ten minutes, before being stretchered off unconscious, He’s in hospital and is hopefully recovering from concussion.

We endure 12 minutes of added time with ten men as the home fans sing “Rocky Rocastle” and “Oh Santa Carzorla!” to the tune of White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. Oh, and "One-nil and you f***ed it up!"

The final whistle is a blessed relief. After the game it’s back round to my gaff with Nigel and Lisa. DC is moving on to a party of Guardianistas in Muswell Hill and Matt’s gone to work the night shift as if he’s a character in a Dr Feelgood song. “Well, that all went to plan” I suggest. Nigel, in Panglossian mood, suggests it doesn’t matter because it was only our game in hand and they were unstoppable, as we sup tea and Old Golden Hen. I also have to explain to my daughters how we lost 5-1. In mitigation when Arsenal are good they're very good, having scored seven against Reading and Newcastle, six against Southampton and five against Spurs and West Ham.

The only consolation is the spine of our side was missing. Put Collins, Diame, Carroll, Jarvis and Joe Cole back in the team and surely we’d be a tougher side to beat. But lose to Fulham and Swansea and we are definitely in a relegation struggle. On the positive side though, at least none of our players kicked a ballboy.

Wednesday, January 23

Zavon at Wembley

A great moment in the history of Bradford City last night and an unlikely appearance at Wembley beckons one Zavon Hines. After a promising start where he terrorised Jamie Carragher and scored a great goal against Aston Villa, Zavon never really looked likely to make it at West Ham despite several chances from Avram Grant, and ended up at Burnley, where he made 13 appearances as a sub but never nailed down a starting place. He then went on loan to Bournemouth and Coventry and finally ended up at Bradford who are tenth in league two. Where he's got to a Wembley Cup Final before the Hammers…

Sunday, January 20

Always believe in Joey Cole

West Ham 1 Queen’s Park Rangers 1

A brave bloke with ‘QPR’ etched in his hair is sitting in Ken’s Café as my daughters and their dad take refuge from the snows of Green Street. We’ve spent the morning tobogganing. Wonder if the players were doing the same? Matt’s still wearing his lucky CCCP Russian top, while Nigel’s sat through three hours of Les Miserables with CQ, though perhaps he’s enjoyed his seventh viewing of We Will Rock You more. For once there’s a major system error on the chip delivery at Ken’s Café as Carol’s 30 minutes becomes 45 and we don’t receive our egg chips beans and sausages and bread and butter until 2.50pm. I reassure Lola and Nell that nothing will happen in the first five minutes while crossing my fingers and wolfing down chips.

By the time we enter the East Stand, a mazy dribble from Diame on the left has seen the ball fizz across the face of goal and then Reid connects with a corner and Nolan ‘s effort is cleared off the line. Good start for the Irons after last week’s debacle. Maroune Chamakh is in for Cole and playing in gloves. In Big Sam’s day he’d have happily played without a shirt on in a mere minus two degrees.

“Why’s no-one singing at Robert Green?” asks Nell of her former favourite player. The crowd taunted him enough in the away match, and we’re more concerned with Julio Cesar in goal, who is presumably ineligible to play on the Ides of March.

Taarabt tries to find the offside Remy a couple of times but on the third occasion it works. Reid and Tomkins step up too early and the £8 million Remy runs through to score with a confident first-time shot. It seems like we're Les Miserables

QPR look up for defending their lead and Hill and Nelson are blocking and clearing everything. Chamakh has one dribble and unconvincing penalty appeal but Rangers lead at the break.  Joe Cole threatens to unlock the defence a couple of times but WHU find the QPR back four unusually resolute. Harry Redknapp is clearly making a difference. We retreat to the bowels of the East Stand in our winter wear. Matt is wearing a red parka, which is frankly a bit Goooner-ish, while Fraser is in a black Kangol cap with goatee and black coat looking not unlike one of the current incarnation of Dexys.

West Ham come out with a lean and hungry look as they pepper Cesar’s goal after the break. Diame appears back to his pre-injury form (not too good Mo until after the window closes please) and Jarvis is getting in cross after cross from the left. Chamakh has a header saved by Cesar. Joe Cole fires a shot in that Cesar can only parry. In one almighty scramble Chamakh’s slightly weak header is saved on the line, Diame’s follow-up shot is blocked and Nolan heads the third effort just over. The crowd responds with an Upton Park roar.

Chamakh is replaced by Carlton Cole. The Moroccan looks a bit lightweight for an Allardyce team, though maybe he’s a confidence player and just needs a goal. But CC makes an immediate difference.

Finally another Jarvis cross is met by a great Carlton header, Cesar can only parry and Joe Cole shoots home the rebound before running to the corner like a joyous Dickensian urchin in the snow. Et tu, Joey?

We have QPR penned back now. M’Bia produces a fantastic block to deny a goalbound shot from Reid. Nolan fluffs one decent attack with a terrible pass and then Reid shoots into the side netting. Joe Cole rounds the keeper but his shot is cleared. We have 48 crosses according to Big Sam, and produce huge pressure in a second-half performance of some character, but still we can’t score. Twelve corners and 63 per cent of possession should have resulted in a win but at least this keeps the points ticking over. We look like a side with character at home at least, and if we keep playing like this we’ll surely keep above the pack at the bottom. And it was a good game for Robert Green to watch from the bench. 

Saturday, January 19

Should we play two up front?

Five goals away all season is a pretty terrible return and after defeat at Old Trafford you wonder if we should try to vary the formula of one central striker and two wider midfielders/strikers by playing two conventional strikers with Jarvis pinging in crosses. Cole and Carroll have appeared isolated for most of the season. At least it might surprise opposition teams who are used to the way West Ham play. One option would be to play Carlton Cole and Chamakh together or even give the spledidly-named Wellington Paulista a chance at some stage. Another option would be Joe Cole as second striker just behind the main striker and to rest Nolan or play him deeper. His ball skills would surely win some penalties and free-kicks. Call me Tinkerman but it's surely time to try something a bit different.

Thursday, January 17

Concentrating on the league

Manchester United 1 West Ham United 0 (FA CUP)

A predictable result, though a poor game. Both penalty appeals for handball were dodgy, though as Big Sam pointed out we didn't get ours as we were the away team. Thankfully Rooney wasted his spot-kick. United were so bad we could have got something in the second half, but had little cutting edge and our crosses were poor. Vaz Te at least held it up fairly well in midfield, but Matt Taylor missed a good chance with his right foot and failed to find the unmarked Cole when clear. Sub Kevin Nolan also tried to turn inside when he could have got a shot in. 

United's early goal could have been prevented if Tomkins hadn't tried to play offside and a bad mistake by Diarra let in Hernandez for a chance he should have buried. But a very weakened side with Jarvis, Noble, Joe Cole, Demel and Nolan rested and Collins, Carroll, O'Brien, McCartney and co injured. 

Guess Big Sam is right in that the midweek games at Arsenal and Fulham have to take priority while we're still looking to get to 40 points. Decent experience for Spence and Potts and at least Diame made his comeback, but beyond that not an inspiring night's viewing on ITV, tough the bearded Roy Keane does resemble Thorin from The Hobbit

Cup Final breakfast round at Nigel's will have to wait another year.

Monday, January 14

Royal supporters

Thanks to Nigel for providing details of a Twitter fandom survey that shows that West Ham are the most popular team in SW1, home of the royal supporter Queen and the House of Commons. Click on the link to peruse.

Should they stay or should they go?

Latest transfer rumours are worrying, particularly the suggestion that Newcastle are offering £10 million for James Tomkins. Yes, he must be frustrated at being the third choice centre back behind Reid and Collins, but we can't afford to lose a player of his potential, particularly as we only have three centre backs. It's also been suggested that Carlton Cole has been advised to find another club. We should hang on to him until the summer bearing in mind his salary cut last season, his performance in the play-off final and goals against Chelsea and Everton. He's not the player he was under Zola, but with Chamakh unproven so far, Carroll injury prone and Maiga not a main striker, Carlton is surely an option we should keep.

Sunday, January 13

Grim up north

Sunderland 3 West Ham 0

Never a fixture that fills a West Ham fan with confidence, we've ended up getting battered at the Stadium of Shite. Not much we could do about the first goal, an unstoppable shot from Larsson, who was very nearly closed down by Nolan. However the Match of the Day evidence shows it's one-way traffic apart from a tame shot at the keeper from Jarvis in the first-half.

Sunderland's second is "pathetic" to quote Big Sam. From a West Ham free-kick the Black Cats break. Joe Cole doesn't stick with McClean who has the freedom of the half to break and produce a great save from Jaaskelainen. The rebound falls to young Dan Potts who tries to chest it instead of heading or hoofing clear and Johnson nips in to poke home. Full-back Colback hits the post before Sunderland grab a third, Sessegnon turning inside Potts to mishit the ball across goal for McLean to score from  a tight angle. It's only then that West Ham show a little life with subs Vaz Te and Tomkins having late efforts saved.

Not good enough from the Hammers and Big Sam appears baffled by our poor work rate, though at least he's honest about it. Collins getting injured hasn't helped, but with O'Brien and McCartney out we surely need to sign a new left back as Potts is inexperienced and was exposed on his PL debut. At least Joe Cole has shown a decent appetite and Chamakh has come on as sub for a run-out. We also had Diame on the bench which offers some hope for next week. The Irons desperately need to beat QPR now and prove we're not a soft touch to teams that fight for every ball.

Wednesday, January 9

Wellington's boot

According to the press we've had a £2 million offer for Blackburn's Swedish international  full back Martin Olsson rejected by Blackburn. Meanwhile we're apparently going to bring in a loan signing from Brazil called Wellington Paulista — who is surely the most strangely-named Hammer since Ruud Boffin.

Saturday, January 5

Manchester (and RVP) so much to answer for…

West Ham 2 Man United 2 (FA Cup)

It’s another unusual kick-off time at a Roger Daltrey-like 5.15, so the pre-match routine for my daughters involves a trip to the Who Shop (where the man gives us a lengthy run-down on the varying prices of Lego Doctor Who figures), then the Newham Bookshop and finally Ken’s Café for a pre-match toasted cheese sandwich.

Nigel’s with CQ, who is dispensing liquorice torpedoes, while Matt is in his lucky CCCP top and Fraser’s carrying his festive cigars. It’s a strong United side with Van Persie, Giggs and Valencia in reserve on the bench, while Big Sam rests Reid Jarvis and Noble, starts Diarra and is forced to play young Danny Potts at left back with O’Brien and McCartney injured. Joe Cole receives a massive cheer from the home fans and still looks like a Dickensian urchin, even if his hair is a little thinner these days.

It’s all United passing early on with Welbeck looking sharp. After a Hernandez break down the right, he crosses for the unmarked Cleverley to shoot home first time on 23 minutes.

West Ham come back into it though, with Diarra having a header cleared from under the bar, Carlton Cole even showing a turn of speed to Vidic and Demel prominent on the right. After 27 minutes, Vaz Te passes inside to Joe Cole, who jinks in a lovely cross the find the head of Ginger Collins.  Lord Voldemort sends a glancing header into the corner and runs for the camera.

“You’re not singing anymore!” chants the Bobby Moore Stand.

We enjoy more of CQ’s lucky liquorice torpedoes at half time as Nigel reveals that Danny Welbeck’s dad used to be in the bomb disposal regiment. “He’d say stand welbeck…” A career in stand-up beckons.

West Ham give it a good go in the second half, and young Pottsy isn’t scared to get forward. Nolan wins a corner with a clever flick off a defender and from the resulting passage of play we score a second on 59 minutes. Cole chips in another finely-flighted cross and Collins scores another great header. It looks like Joe will give us the final ball we’ve been lacking around the box.

“That was the same goal as before…” say my puzzled daughters. “We’re quite happy to score the same goal again and again…” I suggest.

“Your support is effing shit!” suggest the Bobby Moore Stand.

Rather aptly, as Michael the Whovian is away seeing Bobby Davro in pantomime, Vidic has again failed to heed cries of ‘He’s behind you!”

Joe Cole gets a bloody nose but plays on in a new numberless shirt. If he's booked he'll presumably say his name's Julian Dicks. Jarvis replaces Vaz Te, who has shot wildly most of the afternoon, and Cole goes off to a standing ovation being replaced by Nobes.

Crucially, we fail to score a third just before the end when Carlton Cole prods just wide after Matt Taylor sets him up. There’s even a chant of “Que sera sera…” Ominously United have sent on Valencia, Giggs and Van Persie (no relation to Matt Van Percy). Giggs heads a good chance over as the board goes up for four minutes of Ferguson time.

Ryan Giggs plays a great long ball over our defence, Van Persie gets behind Tomkins, brilliantly controls it with his left foot and slots past Jussi with his right.

Bugger. It feels like a defeat, but there’s a lot of positives such as the performance of young Dan Potts in the biggest game of his life and the fact Diarra has come through a game. And we get to wave at Adrian Chiles in his TV box over the Bobby Moore Stand.

A text arrives from my Manc-supporting mate Nick: “Just when you were poised to send that text — what a goal!”

Now all we have to do is get Paolo Di Canio on loan for the replay at Old Trafford…