Sunday, December 29

Point gained or two points lost?

West Ham 3 West Brom 3

At Upton Park tube Part-time Percy appears to be on the tannoy, welcoming customers to "West Ham v West Brompton." Must be a local derby then. Inside Ken’s Café the returning Michael the Whovian reveals his lucky Tom Baker scarf to Matt, Nigel, Fraser and myself. Though it might take his sonic screwdriver too to save the Hammers. Steve Rapport from San Francisco is there again, splashing out on a Mars bar and likening our season to the relegation seasons of the Lyall and Grant eras when we were distracted by Cup runs.

Inside Upton Park West Ham have the perfect start, taking the lead after three minutes. Jaaskelainen’s goal kick is nodded on by Carlton Cole to Joe Cole, who plays a one-two with Nolan and fires home a confident finish into the corner.  Jarvis gets in a number of threatening crosses and Demel hits the outside of the post following a Joe Cole cross and Carlton Cole header, but WHU don’t really threaten to extend their lead.

If it can go wrong it will go wrong, and James Tomkins has to go off with a muscle strain after ten minutes. “What would the odds have been on McCartney and O’Brien as our centre back pairing at the start of the season?” asks Matt.

West Brom haven’t looked that threatening until Brunt plays a simple ball through to Anelka who gets the wrong side of O’Brien, outpaces him and jinks home a simple finish. “How shit must you be? Anelka has scored?” sing the Albion fans. A little disrespectful: as Nigel points out, Anelka has had the best career out of any of the 22 players on the pitch, and he’s certainly out-thought the out-of-position O’Brien there to score his first goal for WBA. Yet again another player breaks his duck against the Irons.

It gets worse. West Ham win a corner but lose the ball, leading to an Albion break, with Morrison winning a disputed corner after a tackle with Joe Cole. From the corner Olsson wins a header that is chested off the line by Carlton Cole. Anelka reacts quicker than Rat and prods home before giving his now famous controversial salute. At half-time the new DJ puts on some loud Arctic Monkeys to disguise the boos. The team might be playing for Allardyce’s job in the second half.

Albion go close after the break as the impressive Berahino fires wide. But Nolan wins a corner with some determined running and raises the crowd as West Ham come back. Maiga is on for Cole and does well to cut inside and curl in a shot, producing a great save from Foster. Joe Cole finds Nolan with a good bit of two-footed skill. Nolan plays it in to Maiga and the maligned striker curls in a shot that Foster should maybe have done better with. Modibo kisses the Upton Park turn after scoring his first league goal in more than a year.

Maiga’s having a great game, winning crucial headers and finally looking like a decent striker. Noble does well to swivel and get in a cross, Modibo climbs brilliantly to nod down and Kevin Nolan acrobatically volleys home for his first goal since the opening match against Cardiff. Michael’s Tom Baker scarf might just have worked. The ground erupts and surely we’re on our way to a morale-boosting comeback victory.

But no, West Ham forget the basic rule of winning the next tackle after scoring a goal. Albion play three passes through midfield, Berhinho twists past Demel and fires in a great shot off the far post. Bugger. It’s almost much worse a few minutes later as Diame gives away a free kick and Berahino hits a screamer against the angle.

There’s still time for the Vicar’s Son to get very angry with Diame and then Maiga for trying a silly backheel in his own half, as both sides press for a winner in the fashion of a Sunday league match. It ends with West Ham drawing a must-win game against managerless Albion.

Not sure what to make of this. The two players we wanted to score to boost their confidence have in Maiga and Nolan. And the injury crisis is now ridiculous. Tomkins, Collins, Reid, Carroll, Downing, Morrison, Vaz Te and Petric are all out. Though it still feels like a defeat having done the hard work and then conceded a sloppy equaliser. On the other hand, we’ve at least drawn while playing four full-backs in defence and eight players out. As Allardyce says, the return of the injured players will surely be the key. And please, Deity of dodgy groins and iffy heels, can we have one or two of them back against Fulham?

PLAYER RATINGS: Jaaskelainen 6, O’Brien 5, Tomkins 5, McCartney 5, Rat 6, Noble 7, J Cole 6, Diame 5, Nolan 7, Jarvis 7, C Cole 6.

Friday, December 27

Kicked up the Arsenal

West Ham 1 Arsenal 3

Steve ‘North Bank Norman’ Rapport is over from San Francisco and enjoying an isotonic bacon sandwich in Ken’s Café with Big Joe, Barry from Whistle and Michelle, who is asking the eternal Whovian question of Spurs, “Tim who?”

Steve meanwhile maintains that he’s not a jinx because he came over for the play-off final. It’s just his Christmas visits that tend to end in disaster. Can Steve’s California cool survive 90 minutes of Andy Carroll-less Irons without him morphing into Ray Winstone? We very much doubt it.

Michael the Whovian has broken down on the way from Birmingham, such is the pain of supporting WHU. He can’t even find a Tardis to get him to the game on time. Nigel’s arrived having stocked up on his Christmas cracker jokes and Carry On films while Matt is off the night shift and looking more bleary-eyed than James Tomkins after a night at Sugar Hut as he leaves early to collect his free Spurs dvd (possibly as a late Christmas present for Lisa). Fraser’s not had time to brush his hair having received a lift all the way to the ground from Wolverhampton. And rather prophetically I’ve lost our dog lead – not the first time someone connected with West Ham has had trouble keeping hold of the lead.

Surprisingly Big Sam is playing in Adrian in goal rather than Jussi Jaaskelainen. Adrian probably deserved a game at Man United after playing well at Spurs, but he was at fault for United’s opener and seems a risk in a game of this size. While Morrison is out injured too. West Ham start off reasonably well, with Noble having a free kick saved, Carlton Cole putting himself about and Jarvis and Joe Cole looking lively. More bad luck strikes when James Collins has to go off with a groin injury and McCartney is moved to centre-back as Rat comes on to try and save our sinking ship. "We've got a big f•••ing German!" chant the away fans in honour of Mertesacker.

Slowly Arsenal impose themselves with ‘Santa’ Cazorla (who must be tired after delivering all those presents) looking classy in midfield. Thankfully the Gunners’ finishing is way off target. Walcott misses a great chance when put through by Ramsey and Giroud fires wide with only Adrian to beat. The striker then misses another good chance, failing to connect as the ball fizzes across our six-yard box. Arsenal get a free kick and I suggest, accurately, that the Gunners’ won’t breach the world-famous Adrian’s wall.

“At least we’ll see all the goals this half,” I suggest to Nigel as West Ham kick towards the Bobby Moore Stand. Sure enough, Jarvis fires in a cross that is half-cleared, Nolan take a snap shot from the edge of the area, and Szczesny palms the ball straight out to Carlton Cole who fires home from a few feet out. A good poacher’s goal and Carlton’s third since re-signing. Could this be our day? “Always believe in Carlton Cole!” implores the Bobby Moore Stand as Bubbles then wafts through the December air

West Ham then have a great ten-minute spell, with Noble prominent. Nobes’ fine ball sends through Jarvis who fires straight at Szczesny. Diame whips in an inviting cross from the right and Joey O’Brien sends his diving header just wide of the post. Then Noble finds Rat on the left and the substitute sends in a superb cross that Carlton Cole prods wide of the far post. We fear we’re going to regret missing these three chances against a quality side.

Podolski comes on and Nigel tempts fate by remarking that he hasn’t scored for ages. West Ham sit back and everyone gets nervous. Adrian pulls off a fine double save from Cazorla and Ozil. West Ham hold out until the 68th minute when Walcott fires a daisy-cutter straight at Adrian, but somehow it bobbles through the keeper’s hands and into the net. It’s a calamity of Rob Green against USA proportions and you just can’t see the experienced Jaaskelainen making that sort of error. Can we respect the point? No. Two minutes later Podolski crosses, from the ball left, the ball clips Tomkins’ head and Walcott reacts quicker than Rat to send an instinctive header into the net. It’s Walcott’s first ever headed goal – yet another player who has broken their duck against the Hammers.

West Ham look dispirited after going behind and lose a yard of pace. Adrian shows character to pull off a good stop from Podolski before the impressive big effing German finishes the game off by firing home a fine left-footed effort from the edge of the box after a Giroud lay-off. “1-0 and you fucked it up!” chant the awayday Librarians. Had we got the second it might have been so different.

Fraser and myself retreat to the Boleyn, which has both London Pride and its own craft beer in Boleyn Ale served by Santa-suited barmaids, plus a very loud sound system playing Spandau Ballet’s Gold. To make it worse, Sunderland, Palace and Fulham have all won away from home making WHU second from bottom. West Brom is now a must win game. The team hasn’t played that badly today, but there’s no mistaking the fact we’re in deep trouble.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 5, O’Brien 6, Collins 5, Tomkins 6, McCartney 6, Noble 8, J Cole 6, Diame 7, Nolan 6, Jarvis 7, C Cole 7.

Wednesday, December 25

I'm dreaming of a Frank Lampard Senior…

Just like the one at Elland Road
When the ball came over and Frank fell over
And scored the f***ing winning goal!

Happy Christmas to all the readers of this blog…

Monday, December 23

The only way way isn't Essex for Tomka

News that will make Hayden Foxe well jel and Big Sam wonder if he's been mugged off. James Tomkins has been arrested after a fracas outside the Towie haunt of Sugar Hut nightclub at 00.30am on Sunday morning. Seems Tomka was refused entry and the Old Bill were called. Tomkins had earlier played in West Ham's 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford. He was later charged with one count of assaulting a police officer, one count of resisting arrest and one count of being drunk and disorderly in a public place. Tomkins also appears on the Hammers advent calendar video advocating sensible drinking. You really couldn't make it up… 

Sunday, December 22

Grim up north

Manchester United 3 West Ham 1

The usual defeat at Manchester United. Adrian is given a game in goal after his heroics at Spurs and he makes a great one-handed stop from Cleverly early on and then another good save from Valencia. The keeper is at fault for United's opener though. Collins falls over as Rooney slices through the defence and Welbeck places the ball straight through Adrian. It's Welbeck's first league goal at Old Trafford since October last year - another example of West Ham yet again ending someone' else's poor run.

The second comes after West Ham fail to clear and sees Januzaj dummy Collins and send the defender half way to Salford before firing home. United's young winger is deservedly booked for a terrible dive, but we're never going to recover from being two goals down after 36 minutes. Sub Ashley Young scores the third with a great effort into the top corner. United relax and we score a consolation as Maiga plays Cole through a static defence. It's a long time since Carlton has outpaced anyone, but he manages to run through and poke the ball between De Gea's legs. The West Ham fans erupt like we've scored the winner and regale United with Bubbles.

Overall a very pallid performance from West Ham after the Cup heroics and Morrison appears slightly overawed against his former club. Now we have to concentrate on getting points from the next two home games and the six-pointer at Fulham over the festive period, hopefully playing with a lot more passion in front of two sell-out crowds.

Wednesday, December 18

Oh what fun it is to see West Ham win away…

Tottenham 1 West Ham 2 (Capital One Cup)

We haven't managed to get tickets for the game so Matt, Lisa and Fraser are at the Secret Pub with the dodgy feed, having caught Wilko Johnson at Rough Trade on the way, and I’m at home with a bad back listening to the game on Radio London. West Ham are playing a weakened midfield having rested Morrison, Noble and Diame, while Adrian is in goal and Tomkins is out injured.

The West Ham fans are in magnificent voice throughout, though Spurs have the early pressure. Defoe pokes wide after 90 seconds, Townsend has another effort go close and O’Brien heads just wide of his own goal. Spurs run out of ideas though and the Hammers hold on and defend resolutely to be level at the break. Our only effort on target comes from Carlton Cole who forces a save from Lloris.

Andros Townsend goes close for Spurs early in the second half. Just as West Ham force a corner, we lose the ball and it seems all over on 67 minutes when the restored Adebayor performs to script and scores with a thumping shot in off the bar after a run and cross by our old pal Jermain Defoe.

Matt texts: “Horror show. Our corner, counter attack, Taylor wins ball gives it back, Linda misses it… My granny could have put it in!” Though his granny must have bee quite a good finisher on that form.

That goal sparks the Irons into life. Diame and Maiga come on for Joe and Carlton Cole and on 79 minutes Morrison replaces Diarra. The subs change the game. Diame forces a good save from Lloris with a shot from Maiga’s knock-on. Matt Taylor has a fierce shot from the edge of the box saved by the keeper. Spurs are having problems coping with the extra class of Allardici’s substitutes.

Adrian takes a free kick, Maiga nods on, the ball falls to Matt Taylor in the box who pays a great reverse pass to Matt Jarvis who fires home into the top of the net. GOAL! Cue mayhem in the away end. Anyone’s tie now.

At 1-1 a combination of O’Brien’s block and a decent save by Adrian thwarts Chadli. We counter attack. Jarvis and Morrison retrieve the ball after a poor Diame cross and Ravel finds Diame again wide on the right. Mo’s cross is perfect and there is Modibo Maiga rising superbly between two defenders to send his header skimming into the corner of the net.

“MYEAGEEEEEEEEEEEEEER!” screams the Radio London commentator in disbelief. It can’t be. It is. Modibo Maiga has scored! His first goal in one year and 17 days. I sit open-mouthed before my computer monitor. Modibo!!!!

Professor Brian Cox tears up his latest thesis on the laws of the cosmos. Scientists at the Hadron Collider in Geneva give up their search for the Higgs-Bosun particle, throw down their white coats and decide that some things are simply unquantifiable. That Chinese probe on the Moon detects seismic shock waves and a disturbance in N17 that can be seen from the lunar surface. Inside the Tardis the Doctor detects a rift in the time-space vortex and suspects that Big Sam has reversed the polarity of the neutron flow. On board the bridge of the USS Enterprise Mr Spock declares: “This is most illogical. It’s a goal Jim, but not as we know it.” While Matt simply texts “OMG.” Luckily Modibo is quickly engulfed by claret and blue shirts as he has presumably forgotten how to celebrate.

There’s still time for Adrian to make another fine one-handed save from Sigurdsson’s shot and Diame to find the side netting from another header won by Maiga. WHU break again. Amazingly Maiga, who has won every ball in the air,  then proves that he is fact the next Lionel Messi, turning inside a defender to send a brilliant 30-yard effort whacking into the bar. Where has this player been hiding? Tim Sherwood is regaled with a chorus of "You're getting sacked in the morning!"

There’s a fire drill in the Spurs stands as after five minutes of added time the ref finally blows his whistle and the West Ham fans sing:

It’s happened again
It’s happened again
Tottenham Hotspur
It’s happened again!

We could do with slightly longer to savour being in the semi-final as within minutes we’re drawn against Manchester City. Still, we’ll see off those northern no-hopers and then it’s cup final breakfast round at Nigel’s in Kew. Irons!

A time not to panic?

Worrying times for Big Sam now three other struggling clubs have lost their managers in Crystal Palace, Fulham and Spurs. Sullivan and Gold traditionally give managers time, but defeats at Man United and Arsenal would see West Ham in the bottom three. I think the board would be right not to panic though. Allardyce has to take responsibility for not signing a second striker to deputise for Andy Carroll, though in fairness it does seem a deal for Demba Ba on loan was scuppered by Chelsea's Lukaku asking to go out on loan to Everton with just hours left to the transfer window shutting. 

But BFS has achieved all that was asked of him and more in his two full seasons by gaining promotion (historically very difficult for relegated sides) and finishing tenth in the PL. Big Sam also has experience in the relegation hothouse, having survived tough times at Bolton and Blackburn. He's undoubtedly been unlucky with injuries. Carroll was a huge blow obviously, but also losing Winston Reid, Stewart Downing, Petric and Ricardo Vaz Te has left the side short of speed at the back and creativity up front. While few could have foreseen how rapidly Modibo Maiga would decline, having scored four goals early on in his Hammers' career. Though his signing at around £3-4m has to be a debit against Allardyce's account. 

The team spirit has still looked good in most games though and the side has kept eight clean sheets so he's not too far off a decent side. Having let Sam spend the money let's see how he does when he gets his best team out in January.

What's the time? It's five past Spurs

Not often anyone says this about West Ham. From yesterday's Guardian: "The psychological effects of heavy defeats by West Ham, Manchester City and then Liverpool had eroded the board's faith in his ability."

Monday, December 16

Drawing drawing West Ham…

West Ham 0 Sunderland 0

For some strange reason Her Indoors has suggested we go to Brussels for our wedding anniversary mini-break rather than watch another six-pointer versus Sunderland at Upton Park. Though in between visits to the Grand Place, the Burleymont and the frites stand at Place Jourdan I do manage to find BBC’s Final Score on the hotel TV and receive various updates from Blighty.

At half-time Matt texts: “Abysmal first half. Utterly shite refereeing and they hit the bar. We had one disallowed and one off the line.” Things haven’t improved by full time. Nigel comments: “Really really poor, am worried Big Sam has lost the dressing room. Sunderland had much more fighting spirit. Their keeper’s only save in second half was from mishit McCartney cross. The worst thing was that Sunderland constantly seemed to have an extra player on the pitch.” Matt declares: “And the second half was even worse. We’re worse than under Avram. In more shocks you had to pay to get into the Central back room.” While DC adds: “It was truly awful. Next three games could be truly embarrassing.”

Hmm. Doesn’t sound like a very satisfying afternoon at the office, though at least Fulham and Palace have lost. We have now had five nil-nils, more goalless draws than in the whole of the Bundesliga this season. I am shocked and surprised to discover there is bad finishing on the Upton Park premises. The next day we visit the Magritte Museum which is even more surreal than West Ham, where the spirit of Rene Magritte suggests WHU need some more blue sky thinking and to play a man with a bowler hat and pipe up front as he might be more prolific than Maiga.

The only consolation is we have crisis club Spurs coming up next in the Capital One Cup…

Wednesday, December 11

Ten strikers West Ham might sign in January

Who can we sign in January? We're now being linked with the 34-year-old Diego Milito from Inter, but this would be a risk with his injury record. On the domestic front several strikers might be available. Here are a few possible targets:

JERMAIN DEFOE: Not a regular starter at Spurs, knows where the net is and claims to still love West Ham despite us calling him a 'Short Paul Ince'. Needs a move to get World Cup place.

NIKICA JELAVIC: Looked brilliant two seasons ago, but now out of the side at Everton. Top striker at Rangers too.

DEMBA BA: Not trusted by the Special One so might favour a loan move to get a game.

SHANE LONG: Silly money might tempt West Brom as they almost sold him in the summer. Brilliant goal against Villa will have added a few million to his price.

PETER CROUCH: Might welcome a return to London and fits Big Sam's height requirement, while also being skilful on the ground. Stoke would be unlikely to sell without a replacement though.

DIMITAR BERBATOV: Unhappy at Fulham. Fancy Dan but undoubted quality. Might fancy playing for a passionate crowd.

SHOLA AMEOBI: Underrated 32-year-old Newcastle striker out of contract in the summer. Could do a job as the big man up front. And Pards says he is clever enough to be Prime Minister.

NIKLAS BENDTNER: Despite comedy image does score regularly for Denmark and would benefit from first-team football. Has a point to prove as well as Paddy Power underpants.

JORDAN RHODES: Big scorer in the Championship and Blackburn have huge financial problems and need to cut the wage bill under the Fair play regulations so may be tempted.

DANNY INGS: Scoring for Burnley and if a flop would at least allow us to say 'Ings Can Only Get Better'.

Tuesday, December 10

Statement from Jeremy Nicholas

Could Mr Moon be entering the stadium again? Jeremy Nicholas has offered to wield his mike for nothing in an attempt to improve the match day atmosphere. We certainly need to try everything we can to intimidate the opposition, so his experience should not have been cast aside lightly. And I also suspect Jeremy might be able to do a better job up front than some of our players. Here is his full statement. Any views on this? If so please comment.


I’m offering to return as West Ham United announcer for no fee, because I’m so worried about the situation in which we find ourselves. We need to make the Boleyn Ground a fortress again.
After sixteen years as the stadium announcer I resigned after the Stoke game in August, as the club reduced match day costs. My fee was cut by sixty percent and I decided to hang up my microphone as a matter of pride.
Since I left, the club have taken just four points out of a possible fifteen at home. The atmosphere in the ground has been awful.
I stayed away at first, as I couldn’t get a ticket.
But I’ve been back for the Chelsea, Manchester City and Fulham games.
I sat in the West Upper for Chelsea and and was shocked. There was no singing around me and from what I could see it was quiet in most parts of the ground. It did pick up in the later stages of the game when the Sir Trevor/Alpari corner started a chant that picked up around the ground.
But bearing in mind we were playing against one of our biggest local rivals, I thought it was a very quiet game.
West Ham fans are not usually like that. Some of the quiet ones left early. Once they’d gone the hardcore fans seemed to find their voice. Even though we were losing, we ended the game loud and proud. It was like the Villa Park semi-final against Forest in 1991 all over again. I’d like to galvanise that core support.
We’ve always prided ourselves on being a noisy ground that inspires our players and intimidates the opposition. We use to tease Arsenal about the respectful silence at ‘Highbury the Library’, but if I’d taken a few textbooks along to our last few games, I reckon I could have got a fair bit of revision done, with little distraction.
Our away support is as magnificent as ever. The travelling West Ham fans at Anfield were in great voice at the weekend, even though we haven’t won at Liverpool for fifty years.
Over the past sixteen years I’ve helped mastermind some terrific home atmospheres, particularly that play off semi-final against Ipswich, when the Boleyn Ground shook it was so noisy.
Recently fans of the Seattle Seahawks broke the Guinness world record for the loudest stadium, measuring like a magnitude 1-2 earthquake. I would like us to be sending shockwaves from an epicentre at Upton Park.
So I’m offering my services free of charge, to help raise the noise and rebuild Fortress Boleyn. Lots of fans have contacted me and asked if I’d consider a return. So after a lot of thought I’ve come to the following conclusion:
As a professional speaker I can’t accept a sixty percent pay cut, because it just doesn’t seem right.
But as a fan of West Ham United since the age of six, I can’t bear to sit in the stand and watch as we throw away our home advantage. So I’ve come up with the idea of doing it for free.
My business manager and my wife think I’m mad, which is no surprise because they are the same person. My fellow professional speakers think I’m mad, because as business models go, the free option isn’t a great one. But my West Ham supporting friends fully understand why I feel I can’t just sit and do nothing. If I’m going to be up in the stands shouting, I might as well have a microphone in my hand and sit in my usual seat at the back of the dugout.
I have sixteen years of experience to offer. I’ve not been around as long as George Sephton at Anfield or David Hamilton at Craven Cottage, but I’m a well-known voice in the Premier League and also as the stadium announcer on all the FIFA video games from FIFA 06 up to FIFA 14.
I’ve worked under six West Ham managers so far. Seven if you count Avram Grant! I’ve also worked with caretaker managers Sir Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keen and now I’m offering my services for free to Big Sam.
Sam Allardyce has done great things at the club. He won us promotion at the first attempt and consolidated our position in the first season back in the Premier League. This season he’s had awful luck with injuries to vital players that have proved crucial. But there’s lots of cause for optimism at the club with the emergence of Ravel Morrison, holding onto quality players like Mo Diame and signings like Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing. We’ve shown we are no longer a selling club, but we need to hang on to our Premier League status at all costs.
There’s no need to panic. Once Andy Carroll is back and Winston Reid returns, we’ll be in great shape. But in the meantime we have to get the home crowd rocking.
So the offer to return for no fee is on the table. If the club want to take me up on it, I’ll be delighted to help.

Come on you Irons!

Jeremy Nicholas – stadium announcer West Ham United 1998-2013