Wednesday, February 27

John Carew goes Inter Italian football?

John Carew, Carew, he's slower than me and you… bizarre news of the day is that ex-Iron John Carew is on trial at Inter Milan. Strange as at West Ham he looked slower than a heavily-sedated Iain Dowie weighed down with a backpack full of bricks. Rumour has it Inter will be after Freddie Piquionne next… while Freddie Sears at Colchester is possibly attracting the interest of Juventus. The strangest move since Julien Faubert went on loan to Real Madrid.

Hammers succumb as Gareth Bales out Spurs

West Ham 2 Tottenham 3

In Ken’s Cafe, Jo from Whitstable is nursing a broken arm. Apparently it happened “weeding in the Caribbean”. So warm weather training hasn’t worked for her either. She’s waiting for DC who has left work to get the motor and drive the Sweeney route through Hackney, ETA 9pm. Matt’s been working Back in the Night, while Lisa’s got Michael the Whovian’s ticket as he’s gone “out to dinner”, perhaps with some luminary from the Jon Pertwee era.

We leave Ken’s early for the Bobby Moore tributes, which are mainly videos of his team-mates. We get to see Roberta Moore tell Jeremy Nicholas about Mooro’s qualities as “a gentleman and a gentle man” and then it’s Viva Bobby Moore by Serious Drinking on the PA and then If the Kids Are United (was Bobby a Sham 69 fan?). The cards making a giant “MOORE 6” in the Bobby Moore Stand are impressive and there’s a rousing chorus of “Bobby Moore’s claret and blue army!” at the kick-off.

“So much for warm weather training!” muses Matt as we learn that Noble’s done his arm in and Tomkins isn’t even on the bench.

“You never know where Lennon’s going to be,” suggests Matt, reflecting that at least he isn’t facing McCartney.

“Yes, it’s hard to Imagine,” I agree.

It’s sad to hear some boos for Scott Parker (what more could he have done for the Hammers?) and I’m not sure if it’s wise to chant “Gareth Bale he looks like a chimp!” at their best player. Jarvis has a dangerous run thwarted, Collins makes a typical block, but Bale threatens with his speed from the kick-off. Almost inevitably he puts Spurs ahead when Demel miskicks and the simian-faced Spur steps around Collins to slide home a shot into the corner after 13 minutes.

Part-time Nigel turns up to find us a goal down. It’s looking bleak, but to Hammers’ credit we keep at it, with even Gary O’Neil putting in a decent shift and Demel dangerous down the right. Nolan fights for a loose ball in the box, Parker slides into Carroll and the ref awards a penalty. There’s general panic about who will take it, but Andy Carroll shows enough confidence to blast it home and then run to the Spurs fans with his Dambusters arms outstretched celebration.

Nolan goes off injured after half an hour to be replaced by Taylor which is a blow, and Dembele isn’t sent off for a second bookable offence. Jussi Jaaskelainen makes a fine save from Caulker’s header before the break and it’s 1-1 at half-time. Nigel regales us with tales of going to freezing Sunderland for the first game after Bobby Moore’s death.

We have some dangerous attacks early the second half in an end-to-end game. On 58 minutes West Ham go ahead. O’Brien plays the ball over the Spurs defence, Joe Cole times his run perfectly, controls with his left foot and slides home with his right. It’s a finish of some class. Joe removes his shirt and runs to the Aviva stand as the stadium goes barmy.

But Spurs look a very good side and besiege our goal. Jaaskelainen does a passable impersonation of Sylvester Stallone in Escape to Victory, brilliantly saving another two Caulker headers, tipping Sigurdsson’s drive on to the post and then holding on to Adebayor’s header from the rebound. Then he superbly tips over a Bale piledriver. We give away numerous free-kicks in Bale territory, but luckily he hasn’t found his range.

We all sense the crucial moment is when West Ham break and Taylor is left in a one-on-one with Lloris. Instead of rounding him, Taytlor shoots into the keeper’s body.

Spurs equalize from a Bale free kick out wide after 76 minutes when O’Brien heads the cross into the back of Reid and in an almighty melee Sigurdsson prods it home. Bugger.

Crucially at this stage Diame looks tired and is subbed with ten minutes to go, while we also replace Demel with the unimpressive Pogatetz. “Taylor’s having a nightmare!’ bemoans Matt as we’re penned back.

Can we hold on to a point? It seems likely until the 90th minute when O’Neil, already booked, stands off Bale and he fires a sumptuous strike into the top corner. If it’s any consolation, Bale looks like Ronaldo on this form. “2-1 and you fucked it up!” chant the Chas and Dave lovers in the away end.

We’ve played as well as we can with these players against a top three side, the spirit has been good, the goalkeeper has been inspired, but failing to get even a point will surely affect confidence. We retreat to the Central and watch the highlights on some dodgy Abu Dhabi channel. At least with the league table written in Arabic we can’t tell where we are, which is just as well. Lose to Stoke and Chelsea and we’re right back in the relegation mix thanks to sodding Gareth Bale. 

Sunday, February 24

Viva Bobby Moore

It was 20 years ago today… This fan was lucky enough to see Bobby Moore towards the end of his Hammers career, from my first game in 1970 until he left the club in 1974. I also saw BM playing against West Ham for Fulham in the 1975 FA Cup Final - including a lovely moment towards the end when Frank Lampard attempts to nutmeg Moore. He fails and Bobby stands grinning with the ball before imperiously flicking it away to a colleague. No doubt they shared a Double Diamond or two after the match.

Standing behind the goal in the North Bank with my dad we'd have a close-up view of Mooro standing on the post at corners, complete with impressive 1970s sideburns. He certainly had an immense presence on the pitch, his interventions were superb and he always seemed to be thinking ahead of the other players. Several moments stick in the mind; a great goal away at Chelsea, a heated argument with the referee after a handballed goal by Hereford and the way he'd throw the ball out of the tunnel before emerging himself — something my late dad remembered on his last visit to Upton Park at the age of 80.

When you look at some of the dodgy defending in the Premier League today, there's no question Moore could have played in today's game, particularly with modern training techniques. He was a centre back who made two goals for Geoff Hurst in a World Cup Final and looking at footage of that tackle on Brazil's Jairzinho on 1970, you realise just what an immaculate player he was. There's a tinge of sadness too that Ron Greenwood's over-idealistic approach didn't provide the signings to deliver Moore, Hurst and Peters the trophies they deserved after 1966 and that the big clubs ignored his managerial potential. But he received the tribute he deserved with all the scarves outside the club gates in 1990 before the 3-1 victory against Wolves. Bobby Moore - thank you for the days.

Saturday, February 23

Warm weather training

West Ham certainly played like a jaded side at Villa (though why change the side that beat Swansea? Sam being too clever by half). So perhaps the trip to Dubai will refresh the squad, even if it does dent our carbon footprint. Brian Clough used to do the same with Nottingham Forest, so perhaps our lads will come back like refreshed gap year students. Or more possibly get lost in the outback deserts of the Premiership like that lad in Australia. Difficult game coming up on Monday. Worryingly the press is saying that Adabayor is coasting at Spurs - so expect him to score against WHU. Our best hope is to offer Spurs some horsemeat lasagne.

Wednesday, February 20

Paolo di Canio?

Interesting news that Paolo Di Canio has resigned from Swindon Town, now top of Division One. He certainly inspires loyalty in his backroom team who are all going to resign with him. The caretaker for last night's win Frabrizio Piccareta declared: : "We leave the team top of the league in League One but it's the outcome of the fantastic job that Paolo Di Canio and the team and ourselves as technical staff have done in the last two years. We are here for Paolo Di Canio and we will follow him everywhere even if he coaches at Real Madrid or Luton Town."
Currently the board are right to postpone talks on any new contract with Sam Allardyce until our PL future is known. I've always maintained we should judge managers over a whole season. Big Sam produced the shock therapy West Ham needed and achieved promotion and if we stay up he's done his job. Can he advance us from there? The next 12 games should tell. Are the board eyeing up Di Canio (would he inevitably implode after some row with the owners?) or Redknapp, Martinez, Laudrup or even Curbishley? The summer promises to be an intriguing time on the managerial front.

Monday, February 18

How good is Andy Carroll?

The success of West Ham’s season will surely rest upon the form of Andy Carroll. The big Geordie still divides opinion, and after the Villa game received some criticism. How good is he? He was clearly overpriced at £35 million when Liverpool signed him, but my instincts still suggest he’s a decent player. Though West Ham fans can be wrong of course. Think of that infamous YouTube clip of a fan in 1996 telling Harry Redknapp that Frank Lampard shouldn’t be in the team and young Scott Canham was a much better bet.

Carroll scored his first goal for Newcastle against West Ham (but then everyone does that…) while sporting a dodgy braided Barnet. He impressed when they won the Championship and back in the Premier League he scored a fantastic headed winner at Arsenal andhelped demolish Sunderland in a 5-1 win and of course, headed the winner at Upton Park as Chris Hughton’s men beat us 2-1.

While Carroll struggled at Liverpool, it’s often forgotten that he scored the winner in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton and scored and hit the bar in the final against Chelsea in a forceful cameo. Encouragingly he’s a big-game player, having scored on his England debut and added a thumping header in the Euros against Sweden. He’s also more than a battering ram. His skill on the ground is underrated, his lay-offs with feet and chest are normally good and he has a fine left foot shot. Watching Match of the Day last season Big Andy produced a fantastic overhead kick against Swansea that resulted in an equally superb save from Vorm. Of course he can look laboured at times, but that moment suggested he’s something more than the new Bob Latchford. Though, I have admit, his hair style is indefensible.

The biggest problem has been the lack of support from midfield. As we saw at Villa, pleying Carroll alone up front doesn’t work. What about trying to play the apparently undroppable  Nolan just behind Carroll and a second striker? Carroll has a lot to prove to Liverpool and us, but the raw talent is there as we saw against Swansea. Now we have to perfect the system to bring it out.

Wednesday, February 13

Literary Irons

So Frank Lampard has signed a deal for a series of children's books. He's not the only former or current Hammer to gain literary fame. Check out these books:

Great Expectations followed by Hard Times, both by Alan Dickens
Madam Bovary by Julien Faubert
The Woman in White by James Collins
Moll Flanders by Jermain Defoe
The Portrait of a Lady by David James
The Trial by Franz Carr
Girl With Green Eyes by Joey O'Brien
Treasure Island by Alan Stephenson
Vegetarian Home Cooking by George 'Linda' McCartney

And of course Thomas Hardy wrote a memorable tribute to our greatest side entitled Under the Greenwood Tree…

Monday, February 11

God on our side?

From the club website:

Joint-Chairman David God explained on Sunday that he, David Sullivan and the West Ham United manager are all relaxed about new contract discussions and Big Sam confirmed he is only interested in focusing on ensuring the Hammers get back to winning ways against Spurs for the time being.

Where is Plan B?

One point from the last eight away games is relegation form. If it wasn't for our relatively good points return at Upton Park we'd be right down there by now. The problem is that every other club in the Premier League knows how West Ham play away from home. We'll try to stop the other team playing in the first half, keep the game scrappy and play five in midfield and one up front. Second half we'll maybe bring on another forward player and pump balls onto the box, often when a goal down, hoping Nolan gets a second ball chance off the big striker. We don't seem to have a Plan B or C. If we're losing anyway then why not try attacking teams from the kick-off for an element of surprise?

Not sure what game Big Sam was watching yesterday. Yes, we could have got a result with a bit more luck and we had most of the possession in the second half, but Guzan didn't make lots of "unbelievable saves", he made one excellent stop from Nolan in added time and dealt well with crosses. Carroll had one off the line but otherwise the keeper wasn't made to work as their big defenders dealt with our attacks comfortably. West Ham put in lots of crosses but if no-one gets on the end of them you don't win games. You get points for goals not stats.

Sunday, February 10

Kick-starting Villa's season...

Aston Villa 2 West Ham 1

Thankfully I miss the first twenty minutes of the game before making it to the Bank of Friendship. Weimann has already blown the chance of the season, shooting wide after Jussi parries the ball straight to him. The first half is terrible, poor passing, scrappy play and one low cross from Demel that is well intercepted by Clark is about all that happens. Matt texts “We just can’t pass the ball. Carroll poor so far. Hard to see how we can score. This is so bad I suspect they will switch to the rugby here.”

Allardyce’s formation is very negative, with Carroll labouring alone up front, three centre backs in Reid, Tomkins and Pogatetz and no Jarvis or Vaz Te selected. Wouldn’t it be nice just for once to attack a team that is in the bottom three, low on confidence and can’t keep leads?

West Ham start the second half with greater momentum and force a series of corners. Joe Cole plays in some decent crosses and Carroll has one cleared off the line by Bent. Though generally we make Villa’s centre backs appear superhuman in the air. Allardyce decides to bring on a flair player in Vaz Te far too late after 67 minutes. And why no £9 million Matt Jarvis?

The game turns on a clumsy challenge in the box by Noble on N’Zogbia after 74 minutes. Benteke coolly slots home the inevitable penalty. Four minutes later Tomkins gives a free kick away on the edge of the box and N’Zogbia, who hasn’t scored all season, curls a brilliant effort over the wall and into the net. Another player whose season we’ve kick-started.

We go for it — too late  — after that. Vaz Te has a header and shot wide and a series of high balls drift into the box. Carlton Cole comes on for Noble, but you somehow know that Vila will never blow another two-goal lead against us. Joe Cole curls in a good ball that Westwood backheads into his own net to give the Hammers some hope.

At the end of the four minutes of added time Guzan has to make good saves from Nolan and Carlton Cole, but it’s too little too late.

Five away defeats in a row isn’t good enough, 4-5-1 isn’t working and nor is the plan of playing for a draw against clubs in the bottom three. The football’s pretty terrible to watch too. The only good news is that I’ve made one pint of London Pride last all game, reducing the cost of this lunchtime torment. We desperately need to improve against Tottenham.

Saturday, February 9

Sitting on defence

So we're playing a team that hasn't won at home for two months and can't defend tomorrow. My inner pessimist predicts a clean sheet and home win for Villa - let's hope I'm wrong!

Sunday, February 3

Der der der der der der, Andy Carroll!

West Ham 1 Swansea City 0

In Ken’s CafĂ© Nigel and CQ have returned from a mini-break in New York on a morning flight just to see the soccer. Will WHU make their jet-lag even worse? My daughters are pleased to see the chip service back to its normal prompt service as Michael the Whovian arrives to announce that Wendy Padbury, who played Zoe, companion to Patrick Troughton in Doctor Who, is in the Who Shop on Barking Road.

We disappear to catch a glimpse of the well-preserved Padbury (that shot of Padders draped over the Tardis console as it drifted through time and space had a profound effect on many Whovians of a certain age) signing posters and then buy a Matt Smith t-shirt for the 18th birthday of Charlotte, my pal Paul’s Whovian daughter in Brighton.

Then it’s in to the stadium and the Welsh end singing away. Diame gets an early shot away. Lola looks at Leon Britton and wonders why Swansea are so small. And where has Ricardo Vaz Te's hair gone? She's been to see Les Miserables twice at the cinema and once at the theatre, and thinks Victor Hugo might help with our defensive barricades. 

"Will they do the Cruyff turn?” asks Nell, having studied it as part of her PE homework. “You need Johan Cruyff for that!” suggests Matt. Indeed Johan is probably about the right age to sign for the Hammers now. 

Bizarrely, the Hammer who then does a Cruyff-like turn is Joey O’Brien, who bamboozles a defender to run down the wing and cross for Nolan to shoot low against Tremmel. It's a fine save.

It’s a scrappy first half, Swansea pass it nicely but don’t seriously threaten and the Irons create the few chances. Andy Carroll produces a great cushioned header for Kevin Nolan who fires low only to be foiled by another excellent stop from the German reserve keeper Tremmel. Then Diame finds Vaz Te who produces a long-range effort that stings Tremmel’s fingers.

Vaz Te has another long-range effort and Jarvis crosses and Carroll flashes a good chance over the bar. It looks like we’ll never score. Winston Reid does well to win the ball back for Carroll who produce a fine right foot shot that Tremmel deflects with his feet, Reid crosses it back in and Diame volleys over. Joe Cole replaces Jarvis.

Is Nigel just pleased to see us or is that a banana in his pocket? He resists the temptation to throw the skin on the pitch after enjoying his snack. Then CQ produces her lucky aniseed balls, which Nell hates but Lola likes.

CQ’s lucky aniseed balls work. Mark Noble wins and then takes a corner. Andy Carroll rises brilliantly to beat a defender and power a header down into the net. The stadium erupts and the Geordie with the dodgy Barnet looks genuinely elated as he runs to our corner and is engulfed by his teammates. Kevin Nolan moves faster than he has all season to leap on his old mate.

“Der der der der der der, Andy Carroll!” chants a relieved Upton Park.

We endure a nervous final ten minutes as the Irons sit back and Jussi had to make a fine low save from De Guzman and then keep out a header from Chico Flores with one hand.

Big Sam has to bring on Pogatetz and O’Neil to waste some time. We take the ball into the corner and then it’s all over and Twist and Shout on the PA.

Phew. Thirty points. A big, big win and a fine team performance. Encouragingly our defence is looking solid and Taylor has an energetic game at left-back. Tomkins is much better, O’Brien looks more at home on the right, Diame is busy. Big Sam is over his dental work. Nolan is getting chances again and Andy Carroll has lasted ninety minutes and made things happen. If we can keep the big man fit we can salvage mid-table security.