Friday, May 31

Should Andy stay or should he go?

Is it just me or is Andy Carroll taking rather a long time to decide whether to join West Ham? Ten days ago the club agreed a £15 million fee and since then silence. At this rate he'll still be thinking about it in August… He's now got a heel injury, but does this mean any move has been put on hold?

Thursday, May 30

West Ham old boys struggle to beat David Forde

Offered a late ticket to England versus Ireland at Wembley last night where there was plenty of interest for the Hammer. Never thought I'd see former West Ham reserve goalkeeper David Forde play at Wembley, but there he was having a decent game in goal for the Republic. Ireland also had Tottenham double agent Robbie Keane up front, who got subbed and as we saw looked some years past his best.

Still, a reasonably entertaining game and Ireland's Aiden McGeady, now at Spartak Moscow, impressed on the wing. As for England, it was basically ex-West Ham, with Frank Lampard (not as good as Scott Canham) scoring his usual goal, Glen Johnson, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe all appearing. And predictably enough, West Ham old boys struggled to beat our former reserve keeper, now at bleeding Millwall, and a collection of Championship and Sunderland players.

Thursday, May 23

My West Ham Animal XI: A right bunch of animals

OK, so inspired by the arrival of Razvan Rat here is my all-time West Ham Animal XI.

Bernard Lama
Hayden Foxe
Paul Heffer
Razvan Rat
Geoff Pike
George Cowie
Luis Boa Morte
Brian Dear
John Hartson
Demba Ba
Marlon Harewood

Neil Finn would be a substitute goalkeeper while we also had Darren Peacock on a loan although he never played, while Malcolm Pyke played under Ted Fenton in the 1950s. Goalkeepers seem particularly prone to animalistic names, as we also had Perry Suckling. Anyone I've missed out?

Wednesday, May 22

Rat joins rising ship

And now we've completed the signing of Romania's captain, the 31-year-old Razvan Rat… busy day at Upton Park. Big Sam seems very impressed that Rat has taught himself English. And with 88 caps and Champions League experience he looks like a good signing.

Farewell Carlton Cole

So Carlton Cole is leaving. His finest moment for the club was scoring in the play-off final against Blackpool a year ago, when he had a great game. Under Zola he looked like he might become the top striker he had the potential to be, though he was never quite the same after a bad knee injury, even if he did always give wholehearted commitment. His scoring rate was never quite high enough but as his tweets have indicated, he did have a genuine feeling for the club and had his pay halved to play for us in the Championship last season. And he's never complained about being on the bench this season and scored that crucial equaliser against Chelsea. Always believe in CC. Good luck at your next club, Carlton

Andy Carroll we want you to sign

Well, West Ham and Liverpool have agreed a £15 million fee for Andy Carroll, although the big man remains undecided about his future. It's understandable he should want to consider his options, having seen Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing resurrect their Liverpool careers. If Newcastle came in there would be the hometown club pull to consider too and it's possible a club like Everton or Spurs might step in. In his first season at Liverpool Carroll played in the FA Cup Final and won a Carling Cup winners medal, so guess Big Sam has to convince him that we can compete for trophies. Full credit to the board for making the money available though. And if it doesn't work out I hear Carol from Ken's Cafe is available…

More scored against than scoring…

Did anyone notice that in Match of the Day's Goal of the Season competition four out of the ten goals were against West Ham? These were Adel Taarabt scoring against us for QPR at Loftus Road, Jermain Defoe belting one in for Spurs at White Hart Lane, Gareth Bale scoring the winner at Upton Park and Kevin Mirallas' first for Everton against us at Goodison. Though MOTD did include Andy Carroll scoring for West Ham against West Brom. Either this proves it takes a stunning effort to score against our superb defence or we let in a lot of goals.

Monday, May 20

We want our parrot back!

West Ham 4 Reading 2

Inside Ken’s Café Matt is excited by Yeovil getting promoted, though Nigel hates them for once depriving Enfield of promotion in the 1990s. Iain is showing Carol pictures of his dogs, Carol’s gone off that David Cameron and there’s even a second appearance of the year from The Gav. 

And there's more good news over at the Newham Bookshop where someone from Hackney Council has just bought five copies of The Joy of Essex, enough to keep me in Maldon Gold for an evening or two.

Within Upton Park Winston gets his Hammer of the Year award and several fans are in fancy dress. Fraser has come as a member of Dexys and Matt is masquerading as a Vicar’s Son.

It's a year to the day since we beat Blackpool in the Play-off Final. Reading almost score twice early on as Jussi makes a great save from Pogrebnyak’s header and Gunter fires into the side netting.

But we take the lead on 23 minutes thanks to a blunder from young goalkeeper McCarthy, who has just been called into the England squad. The keeper boots a clearance into the back of Andy Carroll and the ball falls to Kevin Nolan who passes the ball home. He’ll never score an easier goal. “That’s why you’re going down!” chant the WHU fans.

Eleven minutes later we score again. Diame overhits his cross but Carroll controls it brilliantly to play the ball back to Ricardo Vaz Te who fires through the goalkeeper into the net. Michael the Whovian, possibly the only WHU fan attending the Jo Grimond anniversary bash in Orkney, will have enjoyed that one.

The rest of the first half is exhibition stuff as Carroll bullies the defence, Diame fires over and Carroll produces another great knock-down for Nolan’s header to be tipped on to the bar by McCarthy.

“Andy Carroll we want you to stay!” serenades the entire ground.

At half-time Nigel announces that if we win 5-0 and Swansea lose 5-0 we can still make ninth. We pay for thinking about the league table though, as West Ham start the second half in a catatonic state.

Just as Nigel and myself are discussing bagging Wainwright fells, McCleary fires home a deflected shot and then, after a fine move, ex-Hammer Jobi McAnuff crosses for the unmarked sub La Fondre to slot home after 53 minutes.

At least this jolts the Irons back into life. Fearful of Matt getting angry, Nolan plays in Carroll for a shot against the keeper. Can we hold on for a draw? Thankfully Reading revert to uselessness as Noble plays in Kevin Nolan, who outpaces the Reading defence and slots home. We even get to see Modibo Maiga, who makes the fourth goal with a cross on to the head of the unmarked clucking Kevin Nolan. It’s a hat-trick for Nolan, surely not the same player that Nigel predicted would never score in open play for West Ham again?

It all gets very end-of-season as a conga starts in the lower East Stand, fans wave palm trees and an inflatable parrot drifts on to the pitch. The Bobby Moore Stand demands “We want our parrot back!” before a steward obliges.

Even the ref can’t be bothered to extend it, playing only two minutes of added time. We ‘re tenth! And Spurs are in the Europa League.

The players return for a lap of honour in t-shirts thanking us for our support. Jussi throws his gloves in our corner, Big Sam looks avuncular and Kevin Nolan has enough children to cast a Dickensian musical. Meanwhile it’s High Ho Silver Lining from Jeremy Nicholas on the PA.

The season ends well with two pints of Maldon Gold at the Black Lion and Nigel asking us to name the only seven football teams to have a Tory MP in 1997 (don’t ask the answers, but one was Southend and another was Wycombe).

We’re officially top half, our best finish since Curbs kept us in tenth for a whole season and it's certainly a nice little earner for the club with £700,000 prize money on offer per league place. Now all we have to do sign up Andy Carroll…

Sunday, May 19

Is God a third party owner?

Bit concerned to see Chelsea's Davis Luiz wearing a t-shirt declaring "I belong to God" after Chelsea's Europa League triumph. Surely belonging to God constitutes third party ownership? We got into enough trouble over Carlos Tevez and that was without a Deity claiming third party rights. If I was Dave Whelan I'd be getting my writs out for the lads and demanding Chelsea's immediate relegation...

Meanwhile we find the bizarre situation of West Ham not needing to win on the final day of the season to stay up. It'll never catch on. Beat a relegated team and finish tenth... what could possibly go wrong?

Monday, May 13

West Ham fail to poop Moyes' party

Everton 2 West Ham 0 

Well, we were never likely to get much out of the David Moyes love-in. West Ham dutifully stood by as Everton scored their first and only had two worthwhile efforts, Nolan producing a good save save with a snap shot and Carroll hitting the post late on from Jarvis's cross. Jussi had another great game and managed to save from Anichebe with his unmentionables.

Still makes a change to be finding the end of season vaguely boring. I remember people complaining that it was really boring under Curbishley because we were always tenth. We came to regret such complacency by the time that Millwall plane was flying above Wigan. Now it's just a relief to be out of it with an end of season party game against Reading to come.

Saturday, May 11

Can West Ham ruin David Moyes' farewell?

If only Man United could have kept quiet about David Moyes for a couple more weeks… now West Ham will be up against an Everton crowd and team wanting to send him off in style. Goodison is not a happy ground for us. I still recall going up there with Big Joe back in the Redknapp years when we lost 6-0 in a late season match (they were inspired by Deadly Don Hutchison) yet we still managed to finish fifth that season…

Wednesday, May 8

Avram for Old Trafford?

So no mention of Avram Grant or Glenn Roeder in the running for the Man United job? Clearly almost losing to West Ham at Upton Park has made Fergie realise his time is up…

Tuesday, May 7

We are mathematically safe, I said we are mathematically safe!

Phew! Thanks to last night's draw between Sunderland and Stoke West Ham are safe, as Sunderland and Southampton still have to play each other. If Sunderland lose they can only finish on 41, while if Southampton lose they can only finish on 42. If it's a draw then Sunderland can only finish on 42. So all we have to worry about is not owning any third party players or going into administration and we should be safe...

Monday, May 6

Can we still go down?

My pal Mystic Morris writes:

Have worked out a combination of results that would see us relegated.

It includes WHU losing 6-0 to Everton, and 3-0 to Reading

Newcastle beating Arsenal 6-0 at the Emirates.

Norwich winning 3-0 at Man City.

WHU would then be relegated on goal difference…

[but think we are mathematically safe if Sunderland fail to beat Stoke tonight]

Sunday, May 5

Drawing drawing West Ham

West Ham 0 Newcastle 0

Unseasonal hail and rain batters Green Street, which will at least make the Geordies feel at home. Inside Ken’s Café Matt is relaying scores from Watford and the KC Stadium, as Nigel looks forward to taking the highway to Hull.

My comment about not really caring who is relegated from the Championship, having assumed that Millwall are safe, has Machiavellian Matt spinning this into a claim that I’m a closet Millwall fan. Meanwhile my remark that I’ve given Carol The Joy of Essex has CQ quipping, Carry-On style, “And did you give her a book too?” Michael the Whovian arrives at ten to three and orders a full breakfast, as you do.

It’s full sunshine by the time we make the stadium. The first half isn’t good enough from the Hammers. Diame shoots over and then it’s general torpor, as it all feels very end-of-season. Coloccini calms Newcastle’s nerves at the back and we fail to press a team that conceded six the previous week.

The defence plays well though, none more so than Winston Reid, favourite to win Hammer of the Year. When Cabaye finds Cisse who has got round the back of Collins, it’s Winston who clears it off the line. Newcastle claim it’s in, though the TV evidence suggests the ball is only two-thirds over the line.

“Andy Carroll, he wants to come home!” chant the wistful Toon fans.

Allardyce has clearly thrown a few players against some granite kitchen worktops at half time as West Ham are much improved and at last play with some passion. Jarvis sets up Carroll for a header wide and we have a decent penalty appeal turned down. 

Then in our best moment Carroll is blatantly pushed by Coloccini in the box, Nolan has an effort cleared off the line and Jarvis’s shot is tipped over by Elliot.

Newcastle nearly score when Jussi rushes out of the box and Gouffran shoots just wide from an acute angle. The ineffectual Vaz Te continues to get some abuse from the East Stand and is finally withdrawn for Collison. Then the game seems to settle into a mutual stalemate despite a cameo from Joe Cole and Michael the Whovian suggests that the West Ham cuddly toy slumped face down over the front of the Bobby Moore Stand is symptomatic of  the game.

West Ham continue to waste free kicks, though one excellent spin and cross from Carroll will have impressed Roy Hodgson. The game ends goalless and Jeremy Nicholas plays Walls Come Tumbling Down, which they haven’t looked likely to in this game.

Still it’s another point and we are now on 43, though we are not mathematically safe, but still lie in tenth position. The Doombar in the Black Lion is a welcome relief from the Central and for once we can let teams like Newcastle do the worrying.

Saturday, May 4

My Hammer of the Year

Finally voted for my Hammer of the Year this week. In the end I opted for James Collins, mainly because it's so long since we had a no-nonsense stopper who puts his body in the way of man and ball. He overcame a couple of early errors to become one of our most important players - and look how Aston Villa have struggled without him. Winston Reid ran Collins close and so too did Diame, while Carroll might have got it if he'd plated more games, but in the end it was Ginge. An an honourable mention to Joey O'Brien for being the best honest pro of the season — a man who always does a job whatever position he's played in.

Friday, May 3

Hammers in the Heart out on Kindle today

My 2005 book Hammers in the Heart: A Lifetime of Supporting West Ham is out on Kindle today. Click on the link below to peruse.  It begins with my first match in 1970 when there were steel toe-caps in the North Bank and Bobby Moore was on the near post at corners, then romps through John Radford's goal drought, Alan "Whippet" Taylor's Wembley brace,  Frank Lampard falling over and scoring the effing winning goal, the Redknapp years of Foreign Legions and Di Canio madness, Boogers going barmy, Joey Beauchamp going AWOL, relegation under Roeder, chants of "We want a new back four!" at Charlton and winning the play-offs under Pards. Read it and weep…