Tuesday, April 30

Rat trap

Today's papers claim West Ham hope to sign one Radzan Rat from Shakhtar Donetsk. Rat is a 31-year-old  left back and captain of the Romanian national side, so can't be a bad player.

And, of course, Rat would certainly make the headline-writers' life easier. Not since Luis Boa Morte inspired "Boa selector" on the front of Hammer have we had such an animalistic name.

"Rat on board", "Rat trap", "Dirty Rat", "Rat attack", "Rat's life", "Rat catchers", "Rat leaves sinking ship"… the possibilities for the tabloids are endless.

Sunday, April 28

Cheer up Robert Green?

It would be easy to experience a sense of schadenfreude (whoever he plays for) at QPR's relegation today, complete with one Robert Green.

A year ago Green left for a "new challenge" at QPR and spent most of the season on the bench at what is now a Championship club. He gave West Ham great service during his six years at the club and stayed with us after relegation so we can't be too hard on him.

But even so, as the chant went at Loftus Road, "You should have stayed at a big club!" And so should Bobby Zamora and Anton Ferdinand.

City end West Ham's unbeaten run

Manchester City 2 West Ham 1

The game hasn’t inspired the locals to turn out in the Worlds End pub in Stroud Green at 12.45pm. We have a choice of numerous empty tables, but Matt and Lisa are there and the Black Rock ale is good.

It’s good to see the 23rd minute marked with applause for Marc-Vivien Foe, who died ten years ago. Not too much happens in the first half hour. Carroll gets in a decent cross with no one on the end of it. West Ham have a corner and Diame has a good hit saved by Hart. Aguero hits the post after a rather fortunate rebound reaches him inside the box.

City take the lead after 28 minutes as Toure, Silva and Nasri play a series of intricate and unchallenged one-twos and find Aguero in the box, who taps home. A quality goal, but Reid should have been tighter. A couple of minutes later Jaaskelainen makes a decent double stop to deny Nasri and Zabaleta.

We actually have quite a lot of the game in the second half, but don’t create many chances. City should score a third when Nasri misses an inviting cross, while West Ham’s best chance is a Collins snapshot wide after Jarvis’s effort is blocked.

Carlton Cole, Matt Taylor and Jack Collison all come on. The game is settled on 83 minutes when Yaya Toure fires him an unstoppable effort into the top corner from the edge of the area.

“Carlton Cole is leaving it late to get his hat-trick,” muses Matt. But Andy Carroll does connect well with Gary O’Neil’s cross and Hart has to stop to turn away his header, injuring himself in the process.

The Hammers gain a consolation in the fourth minute of injury time when Carroll chests down Demel’s cross and fires in a shot that gores straight through Joe Hart. It’s his seventh goal for the Irons — a decent return from 21 appearances.

Oh well. Bit of an end-of-season feel to the game, but at least we gave them a game and getting something at the former champions was always going to be difficult. If we can get some points from Newcastle and Reading then hopefully we can overtake Swansea into ninth place.

Saturday, April 27

Matt finish

Couple of interesting West-Ham-related pieces in today's Guardian sport section. David Sullivan can be found commenting on the madness of QPR's finances. He estimates that Rangers will lose £50 million next season even with the parachute payments. He also mentions he had players at West Ham on 30 grand a week who refused a £1 million pay-off to leave.

And there's a big interview with Matt Jarvis where he comes across as a down-to-earth footballer. He travels by tube and says his mum would never allow him to wear gloves on the pitch. He also admits to being a bit scared of Big Sam: "He's a big guy… He's got that presence… I'm only 5ft eight… "

Tuesday, April 23

Do Man United play the long ball?

Interesting to note that when Rooney played a pass from his own half into the path of Van Persie for the "goal of the century" last night it was described as a "probing chip" in the Guardian and a "deep pass" on Sky. Had James Collins played a similar ball for Andy Carroll it would definitely have been a "long ball". Rooney also played a great long ball out wide for United's first. Route one, that Man United, if you ask me.

Monday, April 22

Once bitten, twice why

Wonder if the Luis Suarez bite means it's more likely Liverpool will sell the Dracula-lite striker in the summer and want to keep Andy Carroll? Brendan Rodgers would have to go back on his words, but Sturridge and Carroll might make a good combination and the Liverpool board must surely be wondering why they don't utilise a £35m asset. So Suarez's penchant for human flesh could cost the Hammers too… though I hope not. And anyone remember Jermain Defoe's bite on West Ham's Mascherano back in 2006 resulting in a mere yellow card for the Spurs striker?

Sunday, April 21

We are staying up!

West Ham 2 Wigan 0

My daughter Nell and her friend Anna are impressed with the sausage and chips in Ken’s Café followed by the purchase of mystery Doctor Who Lego figures in the Who Shop, resulting in one handbot, one Matt Smith and a River Song. Can the game match this? In the end, you could say it was overpriced at a quid for kids.

There’s an end-of-season feel to the match in the bright sunshine, with a group of fancy dress Irons in the Bobby Moore Stand brandishing plastic swords adding to the impression that it’s all nearly over. Fraser’s been to see Dexys the previous evening and is wearing his double-breasted suit in tribute. But can he tell us when West Ham’s light turns green?

Early on Mystic Morris predicts that Kevin Nolan will never score another league goal for the Hammers. Nolan immediately produces a great save from Robles as he volleys goalwards from a quick free kick. Wigan play some good passing stuff and should score early on when McCarthy plays in Maloney for a one-on-one, but his effort is smothered by Jaaskelainen. The Hammers’ take the lead after 21 minutes when Nolan goes for Jarvis’s cross, misses the ball, and the ball deceives keeper Robles. A bit lucky, but we’ll take it.

Wigan dominate the second half against a lethargic Irons. Maloney dominates the game for Wigan. Boyce fluffs a header and then Beausejour shoots tamely when well placed. Jaaskelainen makes another great stop to deny McArthur after Maloney’s run and pull back.

The statistics tell the story: Wigan have 61 per cent of possession and West Ham a mere 31 per cent. The Irons might be tired after their efforts against Man United, but then Wigan have played on Wednesday too, at Manchester City.

In the second half it seems like a training exercise where the defence has been told to play on its own to see how good it is. It’s too much for the Vicar’s Son: “Vaz Te is having a terrible game… Diame is one of those players who scores a great goal against Man United and then think he can relax against Wigan… that’s terrible from Cole! Do something Allardyce!’

Thankfully James Collins has a great game at the back and Jaaskelainen is outstanding too. Wigan pay for paying pretty football with no penetration on 80 minutes. Collins’ free kick is chested down by Andy Carroll. His overhead kick is the superbly volleyed home by clucking Kevin Nolan for his 100th league goal. Except there’s no clucking celebration today, just an arm to the sky in memory of his late aunt. Mystic Morris has been proved wrong again and departs early for the Silverlink.

An unimpressive performance from most of the team, but playing badly and winning isn’t a bad habit. And 42 points and tenth position sees us safe at last. A poor game, but a season of some character from the lads and we’ve achieved what we set out to. Four more wins and we’ll be talking about the Europa League…

Friday, April 19

Essex Irons

Check out the latest issue of e-zine Blowing Bubbles for my piece on Essex Irons, inspired by researching my book The Joy of Essex. Exclusive revelations about my mum going to an auction with Billy Jennings's wife in Great Warley, my pal Gavin seeing Martin Peters shopping at Roome's department store in Upminster, Julian Dicks' parrots and bull terriers in Latchingdon, Paolo's piranhas in Chigwell, Trevor Brooking washing his car in Shenfield and Keith Robson going over the top at Ilford's Room at the Top.

Thursday, April 18

Part-time Van Persie saves United

West Ham 2 Manchester United 2

In Ken’s Café Nigel, CQ, Matt and Michael the Whovian are loitering by the counter with cups of tea while even DC makes a fleeting 30-second appearance. Nigel suggests that the Man United fans will have a special Thatcher tribute of 90-minutes silence. Nigel’s feeling positive as he met Deep Purple’s drummer Ian Paice at the Joe Bonamassa gig. Paicey bought his own drink at the bar too.

Inside the stadium it’s a bright start from the Hammers with O’Neil making one great tackle, Carroll looking full of confidence and Demel making some positive runs down the right.

We take the lead on 16 minutes as Diame finds Jarvis on the left. The winger gets in a fine cross that is knocked down by Andy Carroll for Vaz Te to stoop to head home. Michael the Whovian says he never doubted Vaz.

“Sold in the summer… You’re getting sold in the summer!” chant the Hammers fan as Rooney fluffs a chance.

Collins is having another great match alongside Winston Reid. United keep calm, but don’t really threaten until the 31st minute when Van Persie nutmegs Collins and finds the Kagawa who eludes Reid and gets to the goalline to pull back for Valencia to tap home. Oh dear.

Just before half-time West Ham force a corner, Carroll launches himself at the ball but clatters De Gea instead. Ferguson later whinges on and on about this, but looking at the replays it should probably have been a yellow card rather than red. And it makes up for the fact Vidic inexplicably escaped dismissal at Upton Park two seasons ago.

The teams leave the pitch to the sound of Walls Come Tumbling Down by the Style Council. Is this an omen? West Ham start the second half to some purpose, with Carroll flashing a fine volley just over the bar. Ten minutes into the half we take the lead with a fantastic goal. Vaz Te backheels to Demel who finds Diame on the right side of the box. He eludes Rooney and thumps home a fabulous curling shot into the corner.

It’s a cracking atmosphere as Bubbles wafts over the stands. But have West Ham scored too early? We never feel less confident than being a goal up with half an hour to go.

Predictably United come at us. O’Neil has to clear off the line from Rooney and Jussi makes a couple of fine saves, one of which was offside anyway.

On 77 minutes Kagawa fires against both posts and just as we’re thinking the luck is with us, Van Persie taps home the rebound, from what TV replays later prove is an offside position, though to be fair to the referee’s assistant it was very difficult to spot in real-time. Even if we was robbed.

Matt has to leave early to work the night shift at the typeface, Bruce Springsteen-style, and pleads for no texts winding him up saying we’ve won with a last-minute screamer. The returning Noble comes on for O’Neil and Taylor for Diame.

“Sir Alex Ferguson has indicated there will be four minutes of Ferguson time…” Nigel counts down the clock as Matt Taylor suddenly breaks and briefly threatens to bust the net in the style of Geoff Hurst in 1966. But instead he balloons it into the Bobby Moore Stand.

Thankfully there’s no Gareth Bale moment as we hold on for a deserved point from an entertaining tussle. Inside the Central, Al Jazeera TV features Deadly Don Hutchison, Alan Curbishley, Leroy Rosenoir and Man United fan Donny from South Africa, who is one of their more local supporters.

There’s a surreal tube journey home as the conversation turns to the new series of Mad Men, inspired by the fact Fraser has come dressed as Roger Sterling. High Court Judge Michael the Whovian claims to be unaware of the series. A fellow passenger then suggests to Michael that ‘solecism’ is the word he’s looking for as he discusses his trip to Orkney for the Jo Grimond tribute night. Not sure if Deep Purple’s drummer is going. Then the body of a West Ham fan appears between the two carriages. Has he done a Lane from Mad Men? No, turns out he’s urinating between carriages, while perched between them, as you do. Who knows what went on after I changed at Aldgate East?

Thirty nine points, eleventh place, and a point off the Champions in a game where we had them worried. Not a bad night’s work.

Tuesday, April 16

Fair play for Andy?

Is Sam Allardyce getting his excuses in early for not buying Andy Carroll? Or negotiating a knock-down price through pleading poverty? A day after Carroll said he would consider moving to West Ham Big Sam cited UEFA's new Financial Fair Play regulations as the reason why it might not happen: "Financially you are restricted to be able to do it. So in one fell swoop the financial restrictions mean Andy Carroll can't sign for us from Liverpool because it's too expensive, even if he wanted to. I might not be able to afford Andy Carroll, full stop, even if I wanted him, even if the chairmen wanted him, even if we all wanted him - which we do - it will not be allowed to happen."

Personally, I'd rather see one decent signing rather than several mediocre ones. Yes, turnover has to be related to wages, but if we could move on three relatively moderate earners (Chamakh, Carlton Cole and Maiga may all go) to pay for one player who might make a difference it would surely be worthwhile going for Carroll, with cheaper younger players like Robert Hall as back-up.

Monday, April 15

Hammers in the Heart out on Kindle

Good news - my 2005 book Hammers in the Heart is finally available on May 3 as a Kindle book. There's been all sorts of problems with corrupted master discs at Mainstream, but now it's been uncorrupted and is available to download. It covers my life supporting West Ham from my first game in 1970 until the 2005 play-off Final against Preston and the start of the 2005-06 season. A book full of lows, and even more lows, plus a couple of Cup Finals, Paolo Di Canio going mad against Bradford, Terminator Dicks, losing 6-0 at Oldham, skinheads in the North Bank, Frank McAvennie and his mock-Turdor mansion, non-scoring striker John Radford, Alvin Martin who's got no no hair but we don't care, and much more. Click on the link below to pre-order.

Sunday, April 14

Carroll has Hammers singing in the rain

Southampton 1 West Ham 1

It’s on to the 12.35pm train from Waterloo, where Big Joe, Mike and myself are busy buying deli pastries and avoiding Millwall fans. When we reach Southampton an hour or so later we can’t find the bus outside the station and leap into a taxi to escape the downpour and find St Mary’s.

In our seats, even in row M, we’re getting soaked as the wind blows the storm in our faces. Mike has his waterproof, I have a hat at least but no warterproof, Joe has a waterproof and no hat, and everyone’s glasses get misted up. It was sunny in London when we woke up.

The Hammers start fairly encouragingly. Nolan has a snap shot saved by Boruc, and another shot blocked from Vaz Te’s pullback. Tomkins makes a great block to deny a Saints’ goal and you can see the team spirit in the West Ham defence as Nolan high fives Joey O’Brien for winning a free-kick in his own area.

Meanwhile the rain gets heavier and it all feels like being at sea. “I’ve stood in grounds without a roof and not been this wet,” remarks Joe. There’s a minor altercation as a jobsworth steward tried to confiscate plastic bottles of lager from the sodden fans behind us.

“Shit ground, shit roof!” chant the West Ham fans.

We start to lose the midfield, with Diame dribbling too much and O’Neil having a quiet game. Gaston Ramirez and Clyne make inroads on the right flank and Southampton very nearly score before the break. Ramirez’s cross deceives the West Ham defence, Lambert pokes on to the post and Jussi Jaaskelainen somehow scoops the ball off the line and round the post. In added time Lambert flashes another header wide.

We retreat to the concourse feeling wet all over. The second half sees West Ham going forward. Vaz Te’s cross is deflected up into the air and Andy Carroll chests down and turns well to volley just past the post.

Then, somewhat fortuitously, the Saints take the lead on 59 minutes. Ramirez has his shot well blocked by a combination of Collins and Tomkins, but the ball rebounds straight back to him and he fires into the roof of the net. We can envisage a 3-0 defeat in the rain and Millwall reaching the FA Cup Final to round off a bad day. "The Saints are staying up!" chant the hone fans.

But the Hammers come back at Saints and it turns into a tasty game in terrible conditions. “This is proof the jet stream has moved way south of Southampton,” I suggest.

West Ham force a corner and Southampton make several last-ditch blocks. When Diame is fouled on the edge of the box, O’Neil taps the freekick to Andy Carroll who fires home through the wall via a slight deflection. The big Geordie runs to our corner falling to his knees and then pumping his arms and looking like he wants to play for us, which is good to see.

We sense our first ever win at St Mary’s. Carroll is all alone up front but does really well to get past three defenders and fire a shot at Boruc. Sub Collison is also making a difference, inspiring some neat passing movements.

In the deluge anything could happen though, but the unsung Joey O’Brien does well at left-back and then there’s a nervous four added minutes of stoppage time, with Pogatetz on for the injured Tomkins. Jussi has to save well from Rodriguez and then O’Neil fails to beat the first man with a late corner as Big Sam goes mental on the touchline ordering Matty Taylor back into defence. 

The whistle blows and we’re grateful for a point and a misty-windowed bus journey back to the station. Wonder if the train has a drying-room? Back at Waterloo Joe tells Mike not to wear his West Ham scarf around the Millwall fans at Marylebone, but luckily they’re too busy fighting among themselves to care about us. 

A good point in terrible conditions and 38 points may well be enough – although an easy three points on Wednesday should see us definitely safe.