Friday, January 31

Costing an Armero and a leg

We've signed another loan star from Italy, Napoli left back Pablo Armero, a Colombian international, presumably to replace the injured Joey O'Brien. Wonder where all this leaves Razvan Rat, who has been out of favour recently. No sign of Rat fleeing a sinking ship as yet. Fulham apparently outbid us for that Greek geezer though…

Razak in

West Ham have signed another midfielder, 21-year-old Abdul Razak, the former Manchester City midfielder. He can't be bad if he made six substitute appearances for City and has had loan spells at Portsmouth, Brighton, Charlton and Anzhi Makhachkala. Wonder if we'll get anyone else in on deadline day or indeed sell a used Diarra or Maiga?

Thursday, January 30

Nil-nil to the Victorians!

Pre-match sign predicts Chelsea's shooting accuracy
Chelsea 0 West Ham 0

There’s a chorus of “Chim-chim-cherooo… We are those bastards in claret and blue!” echoing down Fulham Road as I make my way from Fulham Broadway tube through the Chelsea Village to the Shed away section, while Matt and Fraser have been in a pub that boasts almost as many fine ales as The Central.

The away fans amuse themselves with chants about John Terry’s mum. From the kick off the spirit looks good with the Irons’ defenders and midfielders willing to throw themselves at the ball, but still trying to pass it out of defence and break out through our wide players. West Ham force an early corner and Carroll chests the ball down only to slip on the skiddy surface as he tries to shoot.

Oscar, Hazard and and Willian look skilful in midfield and we receive a warning of what they can do as he skips inside to fire in a shot that Adrian tips onto the bar.

Tomkins gets in a good header from a rare West Ham corner that Cech tips round the post. The rest of the half is waves of Chelsea attacks but the defence is resolute. The pick of the defenders is probably the returning Joey O’Brien who gets in the way of everything, while Noble and Taylor do a fine shielding job. And Andy Carroll is defending brilliantly too, clearing countless balls whenever Chelsea get a set piece.

The obligatory bizarre West Ham injury happens when Diame tries to get a cross in but falls over the advertising hoarding, Mo has to be replaced by Jarvis.

The ref finds three minutes of added time for Chelsea to nearly score in. Chelsea win a corner and Adrian makes a good save with his feet to deflect Terry’s header. Then an Oscar shot is deflected into the path of Eto’o. He shoots but Adrian pulls off of another great one-handed save.

There’s no beer at half-time as notices all over the away end announce that all the Singha bars will be closed in case we get too lairy. “Oh East London is full of beer!” chant the fans in the concourse.

We nearly nick a goal early in the second half. Downing chases down a clearance on the left, skips round Cahill and gets in a good cross that Cech palms into the path of Andy Carroll. Only AC swivels and takes an air shot when if he’d connected it would surely have gone in. A sign that Carroll’s still rusty, but he’s given us a solid 64 minutes before being replaced by Carlton Cole.

We have a fine view of Jose Mourinho going mental on the touchline as O’Brien gets a yellow card for fouling Willian — presumably Joey apologised Smiths-style by saying “Willian, it was really nothing”.

“Sit down Mourinho!” chant the West Ham fans and then the more Anglo-Saxon “F**k off Mourinho!”

Then Big Sam has a touchline fit too. Mourinho has been in the ear of the Fourth Official all game and you do wonder if the Premier League might be better off employing nursery teachers rather than Fourth Officials, with the power to use the naughty step.

Big Fat Frankie Lampard warms up and is greeted with the usual abuse from the away end. Not sure if we should be winding him up as he’ll love to score one against us even more now. Still Chelsea sweep forward. Five minutes from time Hazard crosses from the left and substitute Demba Ba hits the post with a flick, though Adrian might have had it covered.

“We’re leaving it late to get a winner,” I suggest to Fraser. It starts to get really nerve-wracking now, but Collins and Tomkins are blocking everything.

“Chelsea’s a shithole I want to go home!” and “Jump up if you love West Ham!” chant the bouncing Hammers fans.

Carlton Cole chasing down there defenders shows the spirit in the side as we edge towards full-time. Hazard cuts in from the left and has a low shot smothered by the excellent Adrian. The ref awards a free kick, Adrian places the ball on the ground, but Eto’o, thinking it’s a goal kick and the ball is live, tries to sneak a crafty goal by rolling the ball into the net.

Joey O’Brien makes one last block and is carried off with a dislocated shoulder and is likely to miss the rest of the season. More bad news as he’s shown real character tonight.

There’s still time in the four minutes added on for Hazard to find Lampard ghosting into the box, but Adrian smothers his effort. The whistle blows and the cameras catch a satisfying roar of triumph from the cult keeper.

Never in doubt. After the game Mourinho displays more sour grapes than in a Somerset Levels vineyard. He claims that West Ham play “19th century football”, perhaps confused by James Tomkins’ sideburns and the fact that we used to have  Dickens in midfield.

Chelsea are one of the richest clubs in the world and have bought better players than West Ham. Is he really suggesting that defending resolutely and trying to catch them on the break should not be an option for a team in the bottom three? West Ham are £77million in debt and our record signing cost £15 million, which is less than Chelsea pay for a reserve. And Jose is ignoring the fact that his side settled for a draw at Man United earlier this season and are unlikely to attack at Manchester City.

Our Victorian contingent of Mr George, Mr Massey and Mr May perambulates to Earl’s Court in the rain, reflecting on a brilliant defensive performance of association football, berating the bad sportsmanship of Mr Mourinho, expressing disapproval at the hemlines of the ladies and agreeing that Chelsea is a s***hole, albeit a listed Georgian one. A great point that could prove vital at the end of the season.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 9, Demel 7, Tomkins 8, Collins 8, O’Brien 8, Downing 7, Noble 7 Nolan 6 (Nocerino 5), Taylor 7, Diame 6 (Jarvis 6), Carroll 6 (Carlton Cole 6).

Wednesday, January 29

I don't want to go to Chelsea?

Chelsea in a deluge - what could possible go wrong? About to set out for the match and Matt has just pointed out that the last West London game in a rainstorm was Fulham, which didn't exactly go to plan.

Saturday, January 25

Italian double for Hammers

He came from Milan, he wants to save West Ham! West Ham have completed the double loan signings of Italian internationals Antonio Nocerino, 28, from AC Milan and 31-year-old Roma striker Marco Borriello. Both players have appeared for some big clubs in Italy and have Champions League experience. Assuming they're prepared to work, they can only improve our squad. Wonder if Nocerino, who played in the Italy side that knocked England out of the 2012 Euros, will replace Nolan or Diame? Should increase competition all round. Good news at last.

In for McCormack?

Seems like West Ham have put in a £3.5 million offer for Leeds' top scorer Ross McCormack, who has 17 goals this season. It will surely take more than that to prise away their top scorer, but a more realistic target than some of the names banded about. Other rumours suggest the Hammers are after Italian internationals Marco Borriello, 31, from Roma and Antonio Nocerino, 28, from Milan. While it's also been suggested we're after ex-Liverpool and Chelsea midfielder Raul Meireles. And we might be able to pick up a couple of players off eBay too.

Friday, January 24

The Exterminator

Just to cheer ourselves up a bit, here's the new Exterminator t-shirt from Philosophy Football, those purveyors of footballing t-shirts of intellectual distinction. Not a tribute to Julian Dicks, but a nod to another favourite obsession, Doctor Who. Retails at £22.99 and comes in metallic grey. Might signing a few Daleks in the window help WHU? They always obey orders, but could pick up even more red cards than Kevin Nolan for exterminating the opposition. Click on the link to view the full Philosophy Football catalogue.

Wednesday, January 22

Are West Ham going for the wrong transfer targets?

Asked about possible signings last night, Sam Allardyce said: "I wouldn't have a clue at the minute. Every time I get a new signing somebody else f•••ing takes him!" Which makes you think some of the club's targets are too ambitious. Lacina Traore was always likely to prefer a club like Everton and it was never that likely that Everton's Heitinga, who played in a World Cup Final, would want to step down into a relegation struggle and join WHU. Similarly our chasing of Manchester City's Joleon Lescott seems unlikely to be successful, especially after what he saw last night. A more realistic striking target might have been West Brom's Shane Long, who has now signed for Hull City. A decent player, good in the air and capable of  scoring the odd great goal. Surely we'd stand a lot better chance going for middle-ranking PL players or younger Championship players in our present position?

We're not really here…

West Ham 0 Manchester City 3 (Capital One Cup)

For the first time ever you can arrive at Ken’s Café 15 minutes before kick off, walk to the front of the queue and get instant service. One local bookmaker has offered “the keys to the shop” should West Ham win 7-0.

The Boleyn Stadium is more deserted than a Lord Rennard speech at a Lib-Dem feminist convention. Only 14,390 supporters have turned up, presumably those who bought tickets before the first leg, and we’re sill waiting for our £45 refunds. Fraser, Matt (in a Man City-blue coat by Paul Smith) Lisa, Nigel and myself sit blissfully alone in the East Stand.

Carroll starts, but bizarrely we don’t play with any wingers. And Chambers, a right-back, remains on the bench. City score after two minutes as Negredo eludes Tomkins to head home Lopes’s cross. We’ll have to leave it late to get those eight goals. Terrible marking from the central defenders.

Nolan does have the ball in the net but it’s correctly disallowed for offside. Young Lopes looks lively for City and dances round Diarra with disarming ease. City go two up when Aguero skips round Taylor and Rat before poking home like it’s a training session. The one positive of the first half is that Carroll puts himself about and is not scared of clattering City defenders.

Carlton Cole comes on for Carroll in the second half and Joe Cole has to go off injured after 47 minutes. Downing immediately improves things and gets in some decent crosses. Morrison makes one great dribble into the box but is generally played too deep. Carlton Cole is up for the fight and outspeeds Lescott to get in a shot against Pantilimon.

Matt and Lisa predict a 7-0 win
Negredo wraps it up with a third as again he dances past Johnson and Taylor to poke home after 59 minutes. “Nine-nil in your Cup Final!” chant the City fans.

Cole then goes close with a header just wide from a corner, and Diame collides with Cole in the box when well placed, but our main concern is keeping the score down to three. Negredo is still tracking back to the right back position with City 9-0 up on aggregate, the sign of a great player. Even City’s sub Jovetic is a £22 million player. Couldn’t the ref stop it on points? The League Against Cruel Sports should be informed about this. It seems much worse than hare coursing.

“We’re not really here!” chant the City fans, ignoring the fact that it is the West Ham fans who are not really here. Strangely Matt leaves ten minutes before the end to work the night shift, assuming we won’t make a late comeback.

Diame is stretchered off as our usual injury arrives on 69 minutes. Mercifully the ref only plays one minute of added time.

In the Boleyn, a bit like West Ham, they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for the last pint of London Pride. But at least we have plenty of space. 

Nine-nil! Nine-bloody nil! We all feel like Michael Palin in Ripping Yarns. A strange game, more like a training exercise, but City are miles ahead of West Ham. The only consolation is that we don’t have to play them again until the final game of the season, which we may need to win to stay up…

TEAM RATINGS: Jaaskelainen 6, Taylor 5, Johnson 4, Tomkins 5, Rat 4, Diarra 4, Morrison 6, Nolan 5, Diame 5 (Collison n/a), Joe Cole 4 (Downing 6), Carroll 5 (Carlton Cole 6). 

Saturday, January 18

Giving goals to Newcastle…

West Ham 1 Newcastle 3

It’s an early train to Essex to meet writer Ian Sansom (whose Dad played in goal for Chelsea in the 1950s) at the Secret Nuclear Bunker in Kelvedon Hatch, where he’s recording my thoughts on Essex for his forthcoming Radio 4 programme. The thought occurs that the Secret Nuclear Bunker might be the best place to watch West Ham from for most of the season, with its sirens, siege mentality and Protect and Survive booklets. Though James Tomkins might like to consider it as an alternative to Sugar Hut, as the door policy is much more relaxed.

Then it’s a train from Brentwood back to East London. In Ken’s Café Nigel is very excited by the fact that he sat next to Rory Gallagher’s brother at an Irish Embassy do. Michael the Whovian reveals that he was in fact born in Newcastle, while a picture of Tom Hanks on the wall inspires a discussion of his films. We have to tell Matt to keep his voice down as he discusses Tom Hanks in Saving Mr Banks and the literary oeuvre of Mary Poppins.

Matt Taylor is playing as an emergency right-back as Demel, O’Brien and McCartney are all injured. West Ham have a decent first five minutes as Noble plays a couple of fine passes and Taylor ghosts in to head wide from Jarvis’ cross. But Newcastle and Cabaye then start to dominate midfield and Remy fires inches wide.

Newcastle take the lead after 16 minutes. Taylor loses the ball in midfield to Gouffran, who runs at the defence and passes to Cabaye. The Frenchman skips inside a weak Rat Challenge and calmly slots it into the corner.

The Toon double their lead on 33 minutes as Rat fails to track back with Sissoko and Collins is pulled out wide. The cross drops over the head of the poorly-positioned Taylor and Remy does the rest.

Only a fine one-handed save from Adrian prevents a third and the crowd start to turn as West Ham stand off the swift-passing Newcastle midfield. Collison looks out of his depth and Diame is over-elaborating and losing the ball and we don’t seem to have anyone screening the back four or pressing their midfield save for Mark Noble.

Yet suddenly West Ham are back in the game. Rat’s cross is chested down by Carlton Cole, who pokes the ball at Krul with the ball rebounding off the keeper and in off Williamson. We could easily be 3-0 down yet now we’re back in it.

Allardyce makes a change at half-time, bringing on Morrison for Collison, though Adrian has to immediately save from Luic Remy.

But Morrison plays one great ball, Diame improves and the crowd give it a go. Matt Taylor gives and goes with Stewart Downing on the right and races down the right wing to send in a perfect low cross. Carlton Cole must surely score but somehow pokes the ball wide of a gaping goal. That could be crucial. It was a great run by Taylor too, who has looked good going forward but way out of position in defence.

Big Sam makes a brave substitution taking off Diame for Carroll and playing Cole and Carroll together up front, with two wingers and only Morrison and Noble in central midfield.

Andy Carroll wins a lot of headers but the other players aren’t reading them. Then comes the moment where he’s surely destined to score against his old club. Downing’s cross is palmed away by Krul and the ball falls to the big Geordie to swivel and volley somewhere towards that Chinese probe on the Moon. Not as easy as Cole’s chance, but a sharp and match-fit striker might have put it in.

West Ham then lose some momentum as Allardyce replaces Jarvis with Joe Cole, who doesn’t have the pace anymore to patrol up and down the wings.

It’s all over in added time when Carroll brings down Ben Arfa on the edge of the box. Cabaye fires in another brilliant free kick at Upton Park. If only we had someone who could do that. Newcastle look a good side but we have to get some points at home.

Nigel heads off to see Twelve Years a Slave, which compared to watching West Ham is relatively feelgood. We look at our remaining 16 fixtures and decide we have to win seven of them, which doesn’t look easy. At least Tomkins and Nolan will be back from suspension now, but we’re running out of games. We need some home wins and quickly.

TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 7, Taylor 6, Collins 6, Johnson 5, Rat 5, Downing 7, Diame 5 (Carroll 5), Noble 7, Collison 5 (Morrison 6), Jarvis 6 (Joe Cole 5), Cole 6.

Even the man from Del Monte said no to West Ham…

Typical. Now it looks certain that Lacina Traore is going to sign on loan for Everton, with the Toffees having hi-jacked the deal West Ham had been chasing for weeks. A personal appeal by Sam Allardyce at Traore's work permit hearing meant the permit was granted - then the ungrateful so and so decided on Everton. Might not be that big a loss though as the club were also concerned that Traore had a hamstring injury. Two possible cash targets Jelavic and Shane Long have now moved to Hull, and strikers are looking very hard to come by.

Friday, January 17

Gentle Giant signs for Hammers?

The Guardian reports that Monaco's 6ft 8ins striker Lacina Traore has been granted a work permit so should be finalising his loan move to the Hammers. He looks like he can both dribble and shoot on his YouTube highlights - though with selective editing most of us could be made to look good on YouTube. As deputy for Radamel Falcao he can't be bad, so let's see what he can do. His nickname of 'the Gentle Giant' is a little worrying, but hopefully that just means he's a nice lad who won't get into trouble outside Sugar Hut. Meanwhile Modibo Maiga is reported to have turned down a loan move to QPR but will surely leave in the window now he's behind Carroll, Cole and Traore.

Wednesday, January 15

He's indestructible…

Clearly Big Sam has read my blog this morning. West Ham have signed Carlton Cole on an 18-month deal which gives us cover up front for Carroll and any new strikers, and indeed the prospect of playing Carlton alongside them. Cole has put himself in a good bargaining position through scoring four goals since his comeback. He's finally looking fit and at 30 should have another couple of years left at the top. Welcome home CC.

Transfer policy un-Ravelling?

Fulham have confirmed they have had a bid for Ravel Morrison (and Mo Diame too according to the Daily Express) rejected. Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen knows Morrison from his days as coach at Man United, while another man with Old Trafford links, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, is said to be keen on taking Ravel to Cardiff.

It's been reported there's a clause in Morrison's contract that if any club offers more than £10 million for him then his wages have to increase from £15,000 to £60,000 a week, which would be a lot but surely be worth paying to keep one of the country's top prospects at Upton Park. He will only increase in value if he keeps his head down and out of trouble, though there is still the risk of his behaviour problems re-emerging.

Morrison has only 18 months left on his current contract and the sooner we can tie him to a new one the better. Ten million would certainly be a very decent profit on a player we signed for £650,000, but selling him to a relegation rival would send out all the wrong signals. And why would he want to go to a smaller club like Fulham or Cardiff? If he won't sign a new deal then fair enough we might have to sell him, but surely not until he's helped keep the club up this season.

We should believe in Carlton Cole

Carlton Cole's three-month deal expired yesterday and we still haven't re-signed him, while QPR and Palace are sniffing around. West Ham are still awaiting the work permit hearing result on signing giant Monaco striker Lucina Traore on loan, but even if we get Traore the club should surely invest in Cole for the rest of the season as cover for Traore and Carroll. It's going to be several weeks before Carroll can complete full matches. Carlton has scored four goals in his second spell with the Hammers and is much more of a physical presence than Maiga up front. He also appears to care about the club and there's no risk to signing him. We should pay him a decent wage, even if it is above the going rate, to keep him at the club.

Monday, January 13

Andy for Nando's

Breaking news. Lisa spotted Andy Carroll and his girlfriend dining at the Canary Wharf Nando's on Sunday night - though she emphasises she wasn't dining there herself, you understand, just walking past. Clearly Andy knows how to celebrate a Hammers' away win in style. Let's hope he didn't get Peri-Peri sauce stuck in his beard…

Saturday, January 11

How s••t must you be? We're winning abroad!

Cardiff City 0 West Ham 2

It’s on to the 10.36 train to Cardiff, followed by a 40-minute walk down Ninian Park Road to Cardiff’s new stadium. There’s a crowd gathered to watch the West Ham coach arrive and I’m excited to see that He has risen – there’s the Biblically-bearded Andy Carroll walking on tarmac and looking like an extra from The Life of Brian.

At Gate 7 the steward asks me if I have any books in my bag and discovers a hard-backed Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties by Mike Marqusee. Despite such pugilistic reading matter, he decides to let me take it in when I tell him it’s very good. Inside the concourse I find Nigel and his cousin’s son Anthony, a Watford fan from Brussels. We’re a couple of rows from the back and have fine views of the endless electronic red adverts for Malaysia, which must be a small town in Swansea.

Diame is out and Collison and Taylor in, with Adrian keeping his place in goal and the Irons playing two wingers. West Ham begin with some intent, actually passing the ball around having abandoned the nullify-the-opposition-first approach that has failed in most away games. After two minutes Downing’s cross goes through the area and hits the post, with Tomkins forcing a Marshall save from the rebound. We’re closing defenders down and the lads look like they’re playing to save Sam Allardyce’s job. They’re doing everything that didn’t happen at Manchester City and look hurt by the recent criticism.

Cardiff fire in a dangerous cross and Johnson collides into Demel resulting in a long stoppage, during which the West Ham fans serenade the home crowd with “You’re shagging your livestock!’ to the tune of Seven Nation Army. Demel is stretchered off with concussion, face and elbow injuries and spends the night in hospital. It’s more terrible luck with injuries and we hope Guy makes a full recovery, but in a way also a positive sign that the defenders are clattering each other in an effort to clear the ball.

That commitment is shown again as substitute McCartney races out to block Noone’s goalbound shot. The defence looks much better with two specialist centre-backs in Tomkins and Johnson, Collison is having a decent game in midfield, while Mark Noble is excelling in front of the defence. Carlton Cole goes close as he muscles the City defence away before falling over at the crucial moment.

Noone gets in some good crosses and on the half hour Cardiff nearly go ahead as Kim’s shot deflects off Johnson and on to the bar with the ball bouncing on the line. Adrian is then barged over the line, but the goal is correctly disallowed.

On 42 minutes we take the lead. Taylor dinks a fine ball over the Cardiff defence to Jarvis, who sends in an inviting cross for Carlton Cole to lose his marker and fire home. Cue pandemonium in the away end and a chant of “Always believe in Carlton Cole!” Followed by: “How shit must you be, we’re winning abroad!” We have a shot just past the post before the break and it’s a very satisfying conclusion to the first half.

The Hammers look lively at the start of the second half too, with Jarvis running between the centrebacks and firing just wide. Cardiff come back into it and throw everything at the Irons. Substitute Craig Bellamy crosses for Campbell to shoot and Adrian pulls off a brilliant reaction save. How tense is this going to be?

We survive a couple of penalty appeals, but the defence is blocking everything and when Cardiff do get a shot they tend to fire straight into Adrian. Let’s praise the maligned Roger Johnson too, who is winning some good headers and interceptions. Jarvis and Downing are also offering attacking outlets and Noble is brilliant at cleaning up and starting counter attacks.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon comes on 72 minutes as Andy Carroll replaces Carlton Cole, who gets an ovation from the Hammers fans. “Are you Jesus in disguise?” chant the Hammers’ fans. It’s good to see him bouncing around the pitch again in his white boots. Carroll wins his first header, but then miscontrols a couple of times, looking a bit rusty as you might expect.

Then comes another disaster. Tomkins has already been booked for some silly arguing with a linesman before going for a ball with Campbell. He misses the ball and his boot accidentally catches Campbell in the face. It’s another yellow and he’s off. Oh no, another plucky 2-1 defeat coming up. Diarra comes on and does a decent job at centre back and even with ten men we still look threatening on the break. Adrian still looks solid and now has his own chant of, erm, “Adrian, Adrian, Adrian!”

Cornelius puts a City header wide. We get a corner and Andy Carroll holds it up. Four minutes of added time. Oh no. But here’s Andy Carroll on the right wing, playing in Mark Noble with a finely weighted pass. Nobes is through the Cardiff defence and fires into the corner. Allardyce is hugging Kevin Macdonald and Noble disappears under a mass of white shirts.

“Ten men, we’ve only got ten men!” sings the Hammers’ end. The West Ham players hug each other at the end like they’ve won a Cup Final and salute the away fans. Adrian comes over and pumps his fists, looking like he might soon become a cult figure. Andy Carroll hugs Mark Noble then treks off to preach the Gospel on the Barking Road.

It’s a happy journey home for once and by Reading the West Ham fans have drunk the bar dry on the Paddington train. At Paddington puzzled travellers on the concourse are told that Carlton Cole is indestructible. Not over yet, but a big win.

Team ratings: Adrian 8; Demel 6 (McCartney 7), Johnson 7 Tomkins 6, Rat 6; Noble 9, Taylor 7; Downing 7, Collison 7 (Diarra 6), Jarvis 7; C Cole 7 (Carroll 6)