Saturday, November 30

If the kids are United…

Taking my kids for a quid today in the hope my daughters will bring some luck as both have a great record of wins at WHU games. On the other hand it might put them off for life. Andy Carroll is said to be about to return to training and may soon be running, though that's still a long way from fitness. But I have seen a video of AC kicking a ball while standing on a bench in Belgium. Last night I dreamt that West Ham played a striker… looking at Freudian interpretations of this in Her Indoor's dreams book, but apparently it's so weird it's off the scale.

Thursday, November 28

Always believe in Joey Cole…

Following press reports that Joe Cole felt humiliated after being subbed against Chelsea after 40 minutes, the club has been quick to put up an interview with Cole on the website. A lot seems to have been read into the fact Joe removed his shirt as he went straight down the tunnel, but he's not the first player to get stroppy when subbed. "I was as frustrated as anyone on Saturday…" admits Joey. "I'm happy at the Club and the only way I'll be leaving is if they tell me they don't want me anymore… The manager has been great to me since I came back and supported me while I was out with a couple of frustrating injuries." Assuming Cole wasn't marched into a holding room with Julian Dicks standing menacingly by the door, this seems a pretty clear statement that he's happy to stay. What he needs to do now is prove that he can go on a 20 or 30-game run without injury. If Joey plays then he can at least provide some much-needed creativity.

Wednesday, November 27

Still waiting for the right player at the right price…

West Ham's current search for a striker is starting to resemble the debacle of the 1987-88 season. The full sorry saga is recited in my book Hammers in the Heart, but to summarise, West Ham sold Frank McAvennie and were left with the Invisible Man up front, though we at least had Tony Cottee to play alongside him. For five long months we played Alan Dickens as a ghost striker, a midfielder with all the physical presence of Joey Essex. It was so traumatic for poor Dicko that he ended up as a cabbie.

West Ham's John Lyall tried to buy Kerry Dixon, Mick Harford, John Fashanu, Kevin Drinkell, Colin Clarke, Peter Davenport, Nico Clausen, Lee Chapman and quite possibly Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. John Lyall even tried Paul Ince, Eamonn Dolan and Paul 'Diego' Hilton up front.

Hammer issued the following Micawber-esque statement: “Mr Lyall does not disguise the fact that we are looking for a striker but stresses there is no immediate panic particularly as the team are playing so well, at the moment. He says: ‘We simply want the right player at the right price. It’s as simple as that… the nice thing is that we are not under any pressure as the team are playing well and winning matches.”

To quote from Hammers in the Heart: "The Kerry Dixon saga was particularly excruciating. Ken Bates refused to let Dixon rejoin Arsenal for fear he might rediscover his goalscoring touch, but had no such worries about the Chelsea striker joining West Ham, immediately agreeing terms, only for the player himself to reject the deal and Lyall to claim that 'you have to be patient when you are pursuing quality.' The Daily Mail duly labelled West Ham 'the lepers of football.' "

Finally, shortly before the transfer deadline, Fulham’s Leroy Rosenoir agreed to sign for West Ham and amazingly scored on his debut as the Hammers just escaped relegation. And now 25 years on, it all seems to be happening again… We've been linked with Jermain Defoe, Shane Long, Demba Ba, Jordan Rhodes, Emmanuel Adebayor, Niklas Bendtner, Everton's Jelavic and just about anyone who has ever scored a goal. Once again, when the window opens, we're waiting for the right player at the right price.

Monday, November 25

Chelsea Dagger

West Ham 0 Chelsea 3

Watch this one on Sky as I’m on Whovian duty over the weekend, causing DC to text, with some justification, that I’ve been exposed as a part-timer supporting West Hampstead. Nigel’s been to see Mott the Hoople at the O2, but at the end of the game is of the opinion that, “Violence, violence, it’s the only thing that will make them see sense…” Lisa’s got my ticket and has a fair case for a refund, while I can hear the Vicar’s Son swearing at Maiga across London.

We’re not going to beat Chelsea if players make individual errors, but in the first half we do just that. Demel tries to play a silly back pass with his thigh and the ball falls to Oscar, who is brought down by Jussi. A lot of refs might have sent him off, but the keeper escapes without a caution. Big Fat Frank duly whacks home the penalty. For the second goal, Collins gets sucked into making a challenge and Oscar spins behind to coolly put Chelsea 2-0 up.

In the first half it’s increasingly obvious the strikerless formation doesn’t work at home. There was an element of surprise away, but at Upton Park we’re not going to beat teams without strikers - whom I believe were big in the seventies. Even if Cole is not match fit, why not keep him on for the first 60 minutes or so to rough up Terry and co?

Allardyce hauls off Joe Cole and Collison after 40 minutes for Maiga and Diame, and Joe walks straight down the tunnel. We're booed off at the interval.

We play with slightly more spirit in the second half, though Oscar misses a great chance for Chelsea on the break and Noble clears a Cahill header off the line.

The key moment is when Demel does brilliantly to shuffle past three defenders and cross invitingly for Modibo Maiga to produce a world-class miss as he pokes horribly wide.  It sums up the game and poor Maiga’s season. I wonder if Doctor Who has started early as by this stage I’m behind the sofa.

Lampard seals it at the end as he pokes home from the edge of the box after a rebound. Big Fat Frank ostentatiously kisses his Chelsea badge. All that’s left is for Big Sam to claim for the umpteenth time that we need to be more clinical, or indeed be able to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.                                                                                                      

What can we do now? Diame should be in the team and there’s certainly a case for dropping Nolan who hasn’t scored in 11 games. And we have to start with strikers up front. Give Carlton a game at least and try to get Petric fit… or maybe even, counter-intuitively, try the hapless Maiga alongside a big man in the hope he gets a goal and some confidence back, because he’s never going to score as a solo striker. 

Meanwhile, as the Doctor says: "Our future depends on one single moment of one impossible day, the day I've been running from all my life. The day that Andy Carroll returns to fitness."

Friday, November 22

Could the Doctor play up front for West Ham?

Well, it's starting to look bad for WHU now Winston Reid is out for ten weeks following his ankle operation. Looks like James Collins might recover for tomorrow's game with Chelsea, but Joey O'Brien has picked up a knock with Ireland (probably tried to save Roy Keane a prawn sandwich) and Rat had to go off after 25 minutes of Romania's match.

At least Carlton Cole scored in the 2-2 draw with Millwall behind closed doors (strange decision that, can't think why they didn't invite the fans) so it's surely time to give him a full game. He's not so much Plan B as Plan F, but it just needs one header or knock-on to come off and give us an option we don't currently have.

Meanwhile I'm going to have to watch the game on Sky as my kids are insisting we watch the 50th anniversary edition of Doctor Who live and in Gallifrey. Come to think of it, Matt Smith scored quite a few goals when he played for Craig's Sunday League team in a story called The Lodger, so perhaps the Doctor could do a job for us. That is if he doesn't trip over the Tardis console and damage his heel, ruling himself out for the next 900 years. Irons!

Friday, November 15

Style counsellors

Just to cheer ourselves up it's good to know West Ham are doing their bit to help those less well off in the community this Christmas. Here are two needy folk found on Green Street modelling WHU's new range of Christmas wear. Or could it be Ravel Morrison and Carlton Cole?

Sunday, November 10

A game of two sodding halves…

Norwich 3 West Ham 1

Manage to get to the pub just in time to see Snodgrass curl home a brilliant free-kick. Typical. And to make it worse he's got a comedy beard. The Match of The Day evidence reveals we dominated the first half. Good work by Morrison sees his ball find Nolan in the clear. Kevin hits the keeper's legs when he arguably should have scored. Demel then hits the bar with a thumping header from a corner. Some quick thinking by Nolan sees us take the lead. The West Ham skipper keeps the ball alive after Rat's cross rebounds off a defender, playing it into the path of Ravel Morrison who slots home. With the Irons one goal up at half-time and Norwich being booed off it's time for another clean sheet. Though ominously there's no Winston Reid.

Second half it all goes Letsby Avenue as Jussi drops a routine high ball to offer Delia Smith's boys hope. Fighting to retrieve the ball he pulls down Hooper, though the contact is minimal, and the ref awards a penalty. Though the Sky replay reveals that Turner has actually kicked the keeper's glove when he had both hands on the ball during the melee and it should have been a free-kick. Hooper sends his penalty straight down the middle. It gets worse as Howson thumps the bar with a great shot. As the ball rebounds off the bar Collins bumps into a Norwich striker and it's a free kick on the edge of the box. Snodgrass curls in another stunner, the fourth brilliant free kick we've had scored against us this season.

Carlton Cole is bought on too late and his control was never his strong point. We don't keep the ball well enough to seriously threaten a comeback. The Canaries add a third in added time as Fer profits from a rebound off Tomkins' tackle and fires in a low shot that Jussi should have done better with.

Matt texts to say "What is the point of Downing?" and he's giving WHU up (for the 499th time). We've been unlucky in the sense of a rare mistake from Jusssi and an unstoppable free kick have cost us the game, but as ever, without a striker we haven't been able to score more than once when dominating. No side has ever tried to stay up without a striker and can't see that we will. The two weeks' break is coming at a good time as we need to get Petric and Cole fitter and Andy Carroll closer to a December return. And whatever happens, we have to buy a striker in January.

Saturday, November 9

Could David 'Psycho' Cross solve Hammers' striking crisis?

Bit of a "we're not worthy" moment. Yesterday I was mentioned in a tweet by David 'Psycho' Cross, centre forward in West Ham's 1980 FA Cup winning side. Having read the extract from my e-book Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals in Sabotage Times, David tweeted: 
"Just read @petemay3's article on the 1980 Cup Final. Clearly a huge Hammers fan. Great recollection and detail. #goodday"
Asked him if he still has his boots and he replied that given three weeks of intensive training he might be able to come back and solve the Hammers' striking crisis… And I'm sure, even at 62, he might be able to do a job for Big Sam and prove less brittle than some of our strikers…

Friday, November 8

Spies target Hammers

Meanwhile the BBC reports that three men working for the PKF, a company employed by Tottenham Hotspur, have pleaded guilty to spying on Karren Brady and West Ham officials during the Olympic Stadium bidding process. Tottenham deny any involvement in illegal activity. Presumably they were 'rogue spies' working alone. Sounds like a case for Sherlock to me…

Onesie-nil to Razvan

Fresh from helping out in the WHU ticket office Razvan Rat has now been co-opted into modelling the Hammers onesie for the Christmas sales push. Here he is with Adrian modelling what might pass for classy couture in both Romford and Romania…

Winston out…

Bad news is that Winston Reid has damaged his ankle in training and is out of both WHU's game at Norwich tomorrow and New Zealand's World Cup qualifying play-off against Mexico. It shows how much we rely on Reid that the club were going to pay £100,000 to hire a private jet so that he could fly straight from Carrow Road to New Zealand's training camp in the US. Our carbon footprint will have  improved, though not possibly our chances at Norwich. We have to hope that James Collins is fit again to partner Tomkins or move Joey O'Brien into the middle. Teams desperate to end a losing run normally prospered against the old Hammers — let's hope it's not so in the Big Sam era. Though whatever happens, I hope Norwich keep faith with Chris Hughton. He did a good job as player at West Ham and seems a decent man who was treated shabbily at Newcastle.

Wednesday, November 6

Friend or Defoe?

Are we being softened up for the return of Jermain Defoe? He still loves West Ham according to this interview in the Daily Mirror. Defoe says of that infamous transfer request:
“It was a massive mistake. I didn’t really want to do it. We’re talking about leaving the club I was in love with at the time because I came through the youth system with my friends, the fans loved me there. They were brilliant - every game they sang my name. 

"The person who represented me at the time said, ‘You need to hand in a transfer request and get in early because all the lads are going to leave.I remember going in and I was so nervous. It was (then Hammers chief executive) Paul Aldridge and I gave him the letter and he said, ‘What’s this?’ And I said, ‘It’s a transfer request’. And he looked at me as if to say, ‘Are you kidding?’ 

"The backlash was crazy. I felt like I was on my own and people were absolutely abusing me. To this day I can imagine West Ham fans look at me and think, ‘Who does he think he is? How can you do that? You’re a Judas’. And it’s quite sad really because I can honestly say I still love that club.”
Though it doesn't explain why if he loved the club so much he couldn't devote a season to trying to get West ham promoted… Still, with our critical strike situation a proven goalscorer is essential. Should we have Jermain back?

Sunday, November 3

Respecting the point (again)

West Ham 0 Aston Villa 0

Three lines down today, so end up taking a circuitous route to Barking on the Overground, though did manage to get some Palace away tickets at 9am. Strangely, my family have chosen to see The Nutcracker on Ice at the London Palladium, a show about the skating career of Julian Dicks, rather than visit WHU.

At the Newham Bookshop signed Harry Redknapp books and Morrissey’s Autobiography stand by Vivian’s door as I peruse the shelves. Matt, Nigel and Michael the Whovian are in Ken’s CafĂ© supping tea, as Matt says Petric injured himself warming up for the reserves, which sounds about right.  We arrive at the ground just in time to hear “Dirty northern bastards!” aimed at the Villa fans, as they have apparently broken the minute’s silence for the war dead.

Villa are playing in a lime green day-glow kit that looks like Her Indoor’s fluorescent cycling jacket, while their fans sing more “Kumbaya My Lords” than in the average evangelical church. Collison is in for Diame (is Mo injured?) and we persevere with out strikerless formation.

West Ham have a couple of scares early on, as a simple through ball sees Weimann get the wrong side of Tomkins and only a fine Jaaskelainen block prevents a goal. Then from a West Ham corner Villa break again and Weimann is heading towards goal pursued by Morrison. There’s a tussle on the edge of the box and Morrison’s arms clearly touch Weimann, but the ref rules it’s a fair challenge. Had it been a free kick Morrison would have been off, though it’s a sign of his growing maturity that he was the last man. 

West Ham have their moments too. Jarvis weaves across the front of the back four and has a shot saved by Guzan, and  Collison shoots into the side netting. Reid has another great game and Morrison displays easy mastery of the ball in midfield. Though the Vicar’s Son is still agitated by half-time.

Nigel dispenses CQ’s lucky aniseed balls at the break in the hope that they might facilitate a breakthrough. We discuss the death of Lou Reed, whom Fraser met twice, no doubt learning that I’m Waiting for My Man was written about Big Sam’s hopes that Andy Carroll might one day get fit.

Jarvis pulls back crosses to midfielders who aren’t there and Rat aims crosses towards that looming Carroll-shaped hole. We finally see Carlton Cole on after 62 minutes, along with Joe Cole, increasing our Cole factor by 200 per cent. Carlton looks rusty but does win a couple of headers and gives a focus to our attacks.

It’s Villa who nearly win it though. Benteke beats Tomkins to thump a header against the bar and then produces another fine tip around the post from Jussi.

Best chance of the game falls to Kevin Nolan after Downing’s clever reverse pass. But instead of shooting across goal he fires into the side netting and beats the ground in frustration. Joe Cole has looked way off the pace, but at least produces a great turn to force a save from Guzan.

We end up respecting the point and Big Sam says our game is only lacking a goal or two, which, call me old fashioned, I always thought was quite important. But at least it stems three home losses in a row and takes us up a place. Reid and Morrison were our best players today, Downing played pretty well too. Though we are currently the only team ever to try and stay in the Premier League without a striker. Rather like the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Dickens’ Bleak House, we are expecting a judgement on Mr Carroll any day soon.

We retreat to the Boleyn where the bar staff have green skin for Halloween (unless they normally look like that?) and a crush at the bar results in London Pride from a hand pump, two pints of Carlsberg and a Becks. Nigel admires the interiors and Come on Eileen ends the day on a more satisfying note. Five clean sheets in ten games is a decent record, and we might have a half-decent side if we ever find a fit striker.

MATCH RATINGS: Jaaskelainen 8, Demel 6, Rat 7, Reid 8, Tomkins 6, Downing 7, Morrison 8, Noble 7, Collison 6, Nolan 5, Jarvis 6.