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…

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