Thursday, March 28

The future for Orient

Interesting piece on the future of Leyton Orient in the Daily Telegraph by Luke Edwards. While Barry Hearn has won no friends in E13 with his constant carping and litigation about West Ham's move to the Olympic Stadium, it would be sad indeed if Leyton Orient were forced out of business through having West Ham on their doorstep. It would surely have been fairer if the LLDC or West Ham had offered some sort of compensation or contribution towards moving costs. The article suggests possibly selling Brisbane Road and returning to their old home of Clapton… Some TV money trickling down would help too. Let's hope an accommodation can be found that enables the Os to survive.

Wednesday, March 27

Time for two strikers?

The other week Sam Allardyce was saying in his Standard column that he has five strikers fit and can't play them all. Surely a sensible solution would be to try two up front? One of the things I like about Harry Redknapp as a manager is that he fits his tactical system around the players he has, rather than vice versa. At QPR he's now playing Zamora and Remy together up front and results have improved in recent weeks. He's not the only Premier League manager to play two strikers together; Man United have Van Persie and Rooney (or Welbeck and Hernandez), Man City two from Aguero, Dzeko and Tevez most matches, Liverpool now play Suarez and Sturridge, Villa have Benteke and Weimann, Sunderland Graham and Flectcher, and Stoke Crouch and Walters.

Big Sam may argue that two strikers up front is antiquated, but good players should make any system work. Andy Carroll is knocking the ball down for midfielders who aren't getting into the box at the moment. Nolan is meant to do that job but has been playing with a toe injury most of the season. We have a £4 million striker in Maiga who's only started two games, Carlton Cole could play alongside Carroll and frighten defences, and there's also Chamakh and Wellington Paulista. Perhaps Sam is a little too rigid in his thinking and should give another system a go?

Friday, March 22

What's in a name?

There's now the issue of naming rights for the Olympic Stadium to be decided by West Ham and LLDC. Here's the list of possible contenders so far:

The Ann Summers Stadium

The Sugar Hut Stadium

The Wimpy Stadium

The Ken's Cafe Stadium

The Boris Bike Stadium

The Dr Martens Boot Wrapped Round The Head Stadium

The Terminator Stadium

The Mad Dog Stadium

Any other suggestions gratefully received…

Stadium of light?

Finally it's over. West Ham is the anchor tenant of the Olympic Stadium from 2016. There's a real sense of sadness to be leaving Upton Park, but you have to admit the board has secured decent terms (and check out the whinges from supporters of other teams on the BBC website!). West Ham have to pay £15 million up front and £2 million a year rent, while the rest comes from the government (£60 million) and loans from Newham Council (£40 million) and the London Legacy Development Corporation (£20 million). Not sure when those £60m in loans have to be repaid, but we can assume it's over a lengthy period.

The club has got everything it wanted, namely retractable seating over the athletics track, a new roof  and keeping the ticket and merchandising revenue with catering revenue shared. David Sullivan and David Gold have also proved they are committed to the club long term and not out to make a quick profit - if they sell the club within the next ten years they have to pay an unspecified lump sum to the LLDC. Interestingly Karren Brady mentions a capacity of "at least 54,000" in her email to supporters today, which might be a more feasible capacity to sell-out.

No-one knows if the Olympic Park will prove a huge white elephant, but the fact is that in Stratford with its numerous transport links West Ham will be hugely more accessible to fans from all around the country. It's a gamble, but at is stands we're getting a £600 million larger stadium for £15 million up front and the profit from selling Upton Park. As a business deal it's hard to turn down.

Wednesday, March 20

Blair's new labours inspire Irons

Well done to Blair Turgott for scoring a hat-trick against a strong QPR line-up in the weekend friendly and today signing his first professional contract. The boy looks a bit tasty and all his goals were great finishes, particularly the third. That loan spell at Bradford will have toughened him up too and he certainly looks livelier than Marouane Chamakh...

Sunday, March 17

I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea…

Chelsea 2 West Ham 0

At least this fan saved £55 by missing this one. The MOTD2 evidence suggests we could easily have lost by more, although Hazard and Mata looked world class on the day. Almost inevitably Big Fat Frank scored the opener when poor marking allowed him a free header in the box to score his 200th Chelsea goal. No sign of BFF not celebrating against his former club as he peels away in front of the away support, though the coin-throwing from a few idiots was stupid.

Jarvis does well to get in a cross and Carroll has the ball in the net only to be penalised for a push on Luiz, which looks a correct decision. Diame has one powerful run that almost creates a chance while Ba misses several chances and Jussi plays well. Hazard is just too skilful for West Ham's defence with the second and you have to say it's a delightful goal. The only other West Ham sniff is when sub Carlton Cole produces a late save from Cech from Jarvis's cross. On the plus side Pat Nevin says Andy Carroll played really well. But then he also rated the Cocteau Twins…

We were always likely to lose this one and looking at the fixtures history suggests we'll lose at Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton. So we need to get six points from home games against West Brom, Man United, Wigan, Newcastle and Reading and the game at Southampton. Surely that's achieveable?

There's only one Eamonn Dolan…

So that's what happened to Eamonn Dolan...he's popped up as Reading's caretaker manager at Old Trafford. He is of course best known to us for his brace of goals for West Ham against Sunderland in 1989 and some bizarre celebrations ridiculed in the fanzine Fortune's Always Hiding, involving an Irish jig, much leg pumping and a Dambusters flight towards the Chicken Run...

Tuesday, March 12

James thinks stadium might be a calamity

There's a lengthy piece by David James outlining his worries about West Ham's move to the Olympic Stadium in the Observer (click on link to read). I'd agree that renting not owning is a problem, partly mitigated by the 100-year-lease. Though I think he's wrong to equate Arsenal's lack of success with a move to the Emirates. Most of their fans seem reasonably happy with the new stadium, it's just Wenger's inability to buy a decent defender that gets to them. James also worries about the likelihood of getting in 60,000, though fails to mention the massively improved public transport links at Stratford, which will surely help bring in the floating fans and part-timers. Though it is, as he writes, a risk... read the piece and see what you think.

Saturday, March 9

Freddie Piquionne gone

Remember Freddie Piquionne? He's been loitering at the club while not in the squad all season, like an odd sock at the back of the drawer. Well, he's finally departed "by mutual consent" which presumably means the club made him an offer to tear up his lucrative contract. Strange, as he looked a decent player when he first joined us (remember his winner against Spurs?) but has never been the same since getting sent off at Everton for removing his shirt. Big Sam gave him several chances last season but apart from a very flukey goal at Coventry he looked way off the pace. Sadly he'll be best remembered for being nicked for fly-tipping in Essex while a Hammer.

Friday, March 8

Paper chase

And now the Daily Mirror reports that a 57-year-old ex-fireman had his paper confiscated at Stoke on Saturday too. Clearly a bunch of trouble makers these literate West Ham fans. And don't even think about taking in a Kindle… Only Sir Alex Ferguson has banned more newspapers than Stoke.

Wednesday, March 6

Is the Guardian inflammable material in Stoke?

The game's gone mad… My pal Big Joe had his copy of the Guardian confiscated by an over-zealous steward in the away end at Stoke on Saturday. The steward claimed that supporters might set fire to the Guardian and throw it at the Stoke players. Joe then asked why he could take his programme in and he was told that was OK because it was flame retardant. He wouldn't have minded so much, but he'd got the last copy in Cannock and it was minus the magazine!

The authorities at football have a long history of confiscating ridiculous items, from inflatable bananas in the 1980s to the time my mate Gavin had four yogurts confiscated. Now it seems stewards are concerned about Premier League players being felled by a flaming David Conn feature...

Monday, March 4

Back of the net for Dyer

Most unlikely goal of the weekend was scored by one Kieron Dyer for Middlesbrough against Cardiff. It was Dyer's first league goal in six years, since he was more injury-prone than Monty Python's Black Knight during his time at Upton Park. Still, you have to admire his perseverance, even if he was one of our worst ever signings at £6 million.

Sunday, March 3

Happy Jack

Stoke City 0 West Ham 1

It’s up on the 10.46am train to Stoke, where my maternal family links have proved useful. My late mum’s cousin Terry has got me a ticket in The Boothen End, along with his son Dave and pals Keith (in shorts) and his son-in-law Mark. First off it’s a trip to the legendary Gardeners Arms, where there’s Marstons Pedigree and Hobgoblin to spare and an eager crowd of drinking Stokies.

After a couple of pints we walk past the incinerator and over the canal to the Britannia Stadium, and take our seats in the Boothen End. Meanwhile Big Joe texts to say he’s had his Saturday Guardian confiscated by stewards in the away end who regard it as a fire risk. When he asks why he’s allowed to bring his programme in he’s told it’s flame-retardant.

We have the worst possible start, Taylor gets a boot wrapped round the head from Crouch’s overhead kick and has to go off after ten minutes and a minute later Joe Cole is withdrawn with a hamstring problem. Though actually it’s a piece of serendipity. Allardyce is forced into fielding a more attacking side with Vaz Te and Collison on, and the pair both impress.

“You can stick yer f***ing Bubbles up your arse!” chant the cockney-hating home fans, followed by “Andy Carroll are you still pissed?”

It’s a scrappy game but Reid and Collins are covering well and West Ham are passing the ball better. Diame has a not-very convincing penalty claim rejected. Vaz Te’s shot is deflected for a corner, it’s cleared and O’Neil crosses for James Collins to loop a header on to the top of the bar. A fine move on the right sees Jarvis cross for Carroll to mishead a good chance wide.

The home fans are getting restless as Keith next to me is muttering that it’s the worst half he’s ever seen. It’s looking like a goalless half as the 45 minutes is up until Shawcross clatters Carroll on the edge of the box, the ref waves play on and Vaz Te finds Collison with a fine reverse ball. Happy Jack slides it into the corner. A great time to score, though I resist doing a double somersault among the Stokies. One-nil to the Guardian-reading pyromaniac cockneys.

A second half onslaught from the Potters never quite materializes. A nice one-two with Vaz Te and Jarvis sees the winger shoot at the legs of Begovic. A decent chance. With Pennant dropped and Etherington injured Stoke lack width and Walters, played out of position, is getting stick from the Boothen End, as is the hapless Whelan. The man in front of me has such a broad Potteries accent that I simply agree with him. Turns out no-one else understands him either.

“F***ing hell Pulis! Same old league one s**t!” shouts the angriest fan in the world a few rows behind us. The fans next shout back telling him to effing shut-up.

Crouch has a tame effort easily saved by Jaaskelainen. City have a loud penalty appeal turned down, correctly, as O’Brien makes a great tackle to deny Jerome.

West Ham should then wrap it up. Collison dawdles in the box but finds Vaz Te, who unaccountably tries to cut inside rather then shoot. Never safe at one-nil.

Charlie Adam comes on and Dave a few rows back reports that one Stokie has to be restrained from fighting another over the issue of whether Adam is crap or not. Always a good sign when the home fans are arguing among themselves. With half an hour to go Stokies Keith and Mark head back towards the sanctuary of the Gardners Arms. Forgive them Delilah, they just couldn't take any more. 

Bubbles and Twist and Shout ring out from the away end.

In added time Adam crosses with one free kick rather than shooting, but then fires a brilliant dipping 25-yarder on to the bar. A let-off for the Irons there. But Collins is performing heroics at the back, blocking everything and O'Neil should be praised for some calm passing in front of the back four. We then survive a penalty appeal as the ball bounces on to Demel’s hand. There’s a flood of expletives from red-faced fans who make my mate Matt in the East Stand seem like a vicar’s son.

It’s a nerve-wracking five minutes of added time but we hold out for a massive three points. Stoke have been poor but we've done what we had to.

The disgruntled Stoke fans trek home past the incinerator plant. Terry and his wife Dorothy drive me to the station and on the radio there’s more entertainment from Stoke fans phoning in saying they’re not renewing their season tickets and Pulis should go. It’s actually only their second home defeat of the season and they should be careful what they wish for: think Mick McCarthy and Wolves.

It’s on to the 18.12pm train back to London and a chorus of Bubbles echoing around Euston. One win and a couple of draws from ten games should keep us up now and this could be the most vital win of the season. Irons!

Friday, March 1

Clucking Kevin Nolan out

More bad news is that Kevin Nolan is out with a broken toe after Dembele's tackle. With Nolan also still injured it's looking bad for my trip to Stoke tomorrow. At least Huth the Barbarian is out for the Potters. We're now reliant on Diame in midfield and surely it's time to try something a bit more adventurous rather than relying on Taylor and O'Neil. Perhaps we could play Carroll and Cole (or Maiga) up front with Jarvis and Vaz Te as wide midfielders and move Joe Cole into central midfield alongside Diame? Though I expect Big Sam will opt for a five-man defence, with one up front and hope for a draw...