Saturday, January 31

Where will Darren Fletcher play?

Darren Fletcher is having a medical at West Ham. Still not sure where he'd play with Song, Kouyate and Noble playing well in central midfield, though he could certainly replace Kevin Nolan in the squad. Or are we resigned to not signing Alex Song when his loan spell ends in the summer? Some disturbing reports today suggesting that Noble might be moved on to make way for Fletcher, which would be a mistake, as Nobes is the heartbeat of the side and connects the team and supporters. But hopefully that is paper talk.

On the plus side Fletcher has lots of medals: one Champion's League winning medal, one runners-up, five titles, one FA Cup and two League Cups. Sir Alex Ferguson clearly liked him a lot and Van Gaal says he respects Fletcher as a human being. My concern would be that we're signing a 30-year-old player on the way down, whereas all the successes this season have been with newly-signed hungry young players. Though Fletcher seems thoroughly professional and will surely maintain his motivation having done tremendously well to overcome ulcerative colitis. Could he do for Big Sam what veterans Campo and Djorkaeff did at Bolton? Will be interesting to know what Man United fans think of his departure.

Meanwhile Hamilton's left-back Stephen Hendrie has signed a pre-contract and will be joining WHU next summer. Should improve the quality of the snooker at Chadwell Heath…

Friday, January 30

What if Kim Sears supported West Ham?

Kim Sears in the news today for some feisty swearing while supporting her fiancé Andy Murray at the Australian Open. Thanks to my pal Matt for pointing out that it's lucky Kim's never been to Upton Park. As Matt says: "And she watches one of the world's elite tennis players. If she'd spent a lifetime suffering the likes of Mido, Titi Camara and Iain Dowie she'd have something to swear about…"

Thursday, January 29

The sad demise of Ravel Morrison

Ravel Morrison is in talks with Lazio and it looks like he'll be leaving WHU in the summer. After Sir Alex Ferguson decided he had to get Ravel out of Manchester it now seems the idea is to get him out of the country. Looked like he was becoming a real player after that superb goal at Spurs, but Big Sam gave up on him later in the season. Harry Redknapp coaxed some goals out of him at QPR, but revealingly he isn't interested in signing him now. While Cardiff's Russell Slade sent him back to West Ham after an unsuccessful loan period this season. There's been a dispute about fines this season and a court case (he was found not guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend) and Ravel has been relegated to training with the kids. On ability he should be starring in our side right now. Lazio really is his last chance.

Monday, January 26

West Brom away in the Cup

Shame to get another away draw, but it could be worse as WBA will surely be concentrating on survival. And if Adrian plays like Phil Parkes did at WBA in 1980 it might be an omen… Three away draws in a row so if we are going to get to Wembley we'll have to do it the hard way.

Sunday, January 25

Diafra Sakho… He scores when he wants!

Bristol City 0 West Ham 1 (FA Cup)

Able to watch this one at home as my front room becomes an imaginary pub. The first half is as might have been predicted. City really come at West Ham and to make it worse they have a Time Lord up front in Matt Smith. When not waving psychic paper at our defence Smith has a header cleared off the line by first Mark Noble and then another header brilliantly headed off the line by Andy Carroll. Overlapping left back Joe Bryan also shoots across our goal. West Ham come into it a bit more for the last 15 minutes but the only half chance is when Jenkinson gets in a cross but Andy Carroll, under pressure from Flint, prods straight at the keeper. Tomkins is the pick of our defenders and Bristol are lucky to escape bookings for a couple of agricultural challenges on Reid and Jenkinson.

We show a bit more energy in the second half, though Smith heads over when he should have done better. Downing gets across the box to fire over. Sakho and Amalfitano replace Valencia and Song. The subs improve things. Amalfitano has a curling shot easily gathered byFielding. Sakho goes very close after a brilliant lob over Ayling's head and then a dipping shot on to the top of the bar. It looks like we might have to settle for a replay until the 81st minute when Andy Carroll bulldozes his way down the right and does really well to lob in a cross. Sakho has a lot to do at the far post but heads in off the underside of the bar before running to our 1,100 fans.

There's one late Smith herder wide, but we see out time as our fans sing "Diafra Sakho…He scores when he wants!" and "Que sera sera…" Plus "Is there a fire drill?" as there City fans sneak off early.  Not a great performance, but a professional one. We could easily have been embarrassed on a cold January afternoon at a three-sided stadium in the West Country. All that hard work against Everton hasn't been wasted; what matters is that we're in the draw for the next round.

Friday, January 23

Ass twitching with WHU

Luis Van Gaal says the Man United bench was left "twitching our ass" after switching to 4-4-2 against West Ham. There can't be many times West Ham have left anyone twitching their ass in recent years, so it's presumably a sign of progress. Though we did normally make Tony Adams look like an ass or possibly even a donkey.

Thursday, January 22

Fletcher coming?

Today's Evening Standard suggests Man United's Darren Fletcher is coming on loan for the rest of the season. He was certainly a player that Sir Alex Ferguson trusted, but I'm always reticent about signing players from Man United as they invariably disappoint on the way down from Old Trafford. Look at Rio Ferdinand at QPR and Tom Cleverley at Aston Villa, though Teddy Sheringham is the exception to this rule. To be more positive, Fletcher is 30 and having overcome serious illness should have a few years left and might be useful as cover for Song and Kouyate.

Meanwhile the Mirror claims that Winston Reid wants to leave if Arsenal bid for him in the window and that Arsenal have quoted a whopping £12 million for Carl Jenkinson. Might there yet be a straight exchange of the pair? Though Arsenal are also said to be interested in signing defender Gabriel Paulista from Villareal, which might scupper any Winston deal.

Tuesday, January 20

Farewell Vaz

Ricardo Vaz Te has had his contract terminated by mutual consent, but like all Hammers fans I'd like to thank him for providing the best moment of recent years with his winning goal against Blackpool in the 2012 play-off final. Returning to Marylebone station that night the platform was echoing to choruses of "Ricardo Vaz Te, he scores when he wants!" He scored 12 goals for us in the second half of that season and was a big factor in our promotion. Vaz never quite looked like a Premier League player though and wasn't helped by two bad shoulder injuries, but moments I'll remember include his first PL goal at QPR and scoring the second in the 3-0 win at Tottenham last season. Good luck in the rest of your career, Ricardo.

Monday, January 19

London 3 Hull 0

Big Andy salutes the East Stand…
West Ham 3 Hull City 0

Inside Ken’s Café Michael the Whovian is clad in black to mark the departure of his hero Ricardo Vaz Te. He's so traumatised he almost doesn't finish his big breakfast. The 1.30pm kick-off means there’s a big rush to eat before kick-off and I find myself comprehensively out-tactic-ed by Matt, who though ordering chips and beans only, rather than my egg, chips and beans, finds himself bumped 20 places up Carol’s ticket system.

Outside the East Stand we're asked by stewards if we have any deodorants in our bags; whereas once it would have been Stanley knives. Fraser joins us in the stadium and Nigel arrives five minutes late, still in shock at missing a mere 21 goals on Tuesday night. West Ham look sluggish in the first half, with Song and Noble looking way off the pace, though Valencia impresses with his work rate. Is it fatigue from the 120 minutes on Tuesday night? Our passing is way off beam.

Hull could score three times. The dangerous Aluko crosses for Elmohamady to shoot wide from a very presentable chance. Aluko spins away from Collins and Tomkins only to hesitate and be prevented from scoring by a great Collins tackle. Then Aluko gets though again, but bizarrely elects to pass rather than shoot. West Ham can only offer a dangerous cross from Andy Carroll, a Tomkins header over the bar from a corner and a looping Valencia header that is tipped on to the bar.

At half-time Matt asks what’s Enner Valencia done this season that no other West Ham player has done? The answer is score in all three of West Ham’s kits. The boy’s on fire in the trivia stakes. Nigel asks how do you identify the sex of an ant? Answer: “If it floats in water it’s a bouy-ant.” When I announce that I’m going to suck a Fishermen’s Friend, he suggests trying a cough lozenge instead. A comedy contract from Big Joe surely awaits.

West Ham return to the pitch, presumably having had a rollicking from Big Sam. Winston Reid is on for Collins and we look much better with Downing at the tip of the diamond rather than out wide, though we’re helped by Hull losing Chester and Bruce to injury. Nolan shows good technique to fire a volley narrowly over the bar from Downing’s cross.

We take the lead on 49 minutes as Valencia unleashes a dipping shot from the edge of the box. McGregor can only parry it into the danger area, Curtis Davies is slow to react and Andy Carroll is alert enough to prod home his fifth goal of the season before running into the arms of the faithful in the Bobby Moore Stand.

Then the West Ham scoreboard stops working so we have no idea how long is actually left. Or is it some sort of tribute to mark the success of the film The Theory of Everything, suggesting that all time is relative when Hull are in danger of being swallowed by a black hole? We go close again as Valencia wastefully shoots into the side netting after a terrible Dawson pass. 

Hull's defence is finding Enner's speed difficult to contain. On 69 minutes it’s settled as Song finds Valencia who controls quickly and has the vision to find substitute Amalfitano. Morgan dinks a lovely finish over the keeper. Two minutes later we score again as Song plays a through ball from the half way line and Downing pierces a statuesque defence to finish confidently.

Adrian has to make one good save but the rest of the game is Fancy Dan stuff as West Ham pass it around at last with even the odd “ole!” After another good ball from Downing, Nolan hits the bar from an acute angle and Andy Carroll almost prods home another chance home. Even Joey O’Brien gets a run-out. Another boost for the Irons is that Matt has stayed positive throughout the game, even encouraging Kevin Nolan.

Three-nil will do us and a much better second half. Thirty six points. We’re almost safe! And a big contrast to the game against Hull last season. Our run of six games without a victory (if you discount penalties) has ended and now comes the chance to cement a place in the top eight.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Jenkinson 6, Tomkins 5 (O’Brien 5), Collins 6 (Reid 6), Cresswell 6; Song 6, Noble 5 (Amalfitano 7), Nolan 6, Downing 7; Valencia 8, Carroll 7.

Saturday, January 17

Where's our sponsor gone?

Not often you see a picture of Adrian doing a knee-slide on the financial pages of the Guardian. West Ham's shirt sponsor Alpari has gone bust as a result of the currency markets turmoil after the Swiss central bank abandoned pegging the franc against the euro. So we need a new shirt and stand sponsor. Not the first time this has happened. Back in 2008 after the credit crunch our shirt-sponsor XL went bust, resulting in West Ham playing at West Brom with bizarre white patches over our sponsors' logos, possibly made from Gianfranco Zola's mum's old curtains. Shame we couldn't have kept XL as it might have looked good on Benni McCarthy. Any suggestions for a new sponsor? 

Wednesday, January 14

We're on the march with Adrian's Army!

West Ham 2 Everton 2 (FA CUP) (West Ham win 9-8 on penalties)

The East Stand faithful enjoy a 21-goal thriller
Strange goings on at Upton Park. There’s a retro 1991 programme cover, based on the fact this was the year when we last played Everton at home in the FA Cup. It’s nice to see the return of pen-pictures beneath each player, where Mark Noble “can tackle, create and pass with aplomb” and Carl Jenkinson has “searing pace”. Needs a few more references to custodians and stoppers though.

The other shock is that we’re playing in our iffy third choice purple and gold kit, which is a bit Towie. Are we really going to wear this in all our FA Cup ties? Lucky we didn’t leave the kit choice to Andy Carroll though, otherwise we might have been playing in pink.

It’s down to Matt, Lisa, Fraser and myself as the Everton fans sing “Shall we fill a stand for you?” Nigel’s preparing to fly to the US and Michael the Whovian is away adjusting his chameleon circuit, hoping to materialise in Braintree. The 25,000 fans present make a lot of noise, though we could do without the retro fan in front of us constantly questioning Leighton Baines’ sexuality. 

Everton look a more confident side than at Goodison and the first half ends goalless. The best chance comes when Valencia does well to nick the ball off Stones but waits a second too long allowing Robles to block his shot. Andy Carroll heads the rebound against the post but is flagged offside from the second phase.

It all kicks off in the second half. West Ham take the lead on 51 minutes with a classy goal. Andy Carroll plays a decent through ball to Valencia. Enner outpaces Stones and expertly clips the ball past Robles and into the corner. That goal will give him the confidence boost he needs and it’s the first time Carroll and Valencia have really looked like a partnership.

It gets better as Everton’s McGeady is sent off after 56 minutes for a second yellow after clattering Noble. Though this is West Ham. “It’s always difficult playing against ten men…” we mutter. Mirallas comes on for Besic and makes a huge difference with his direct runs at the WHU defence. Lukaku crosses and Tomkins has to make a fantastic block to deny Mirallas. Are we going to lose the lead for the fourth game in a row?

The Hammers almost make it two as Collins gets a thumping header in from a corner, only for Robles to tip it over. “There’s only one Ginger Pele!” chants the Bobby Moore Stand.

Song, still weak after a virus, is replaced by Nolan. Matt vows to be positive, shouting “unlucky Kevin!” when his pass doesn’t come off. But can his positivity last?

We have a bad feeling as Collins gives away a free kick on the edge of the box after 82 minutes. Baines normally scores these, but this time it’s Mirallas who curls a brilliant swerving free kick into the corner. “We shall not be moved!” sing the Sixties revivalists in the away end. You could perhaps question Adrian’s positioning, but it looks an unstoppable effort to me.

West Ham respond and are a little unlucky not to win it at the end. Valencia wins a foul on the edge of the box and Mark Noble’s free kick is saved at his near post by Robles. Then Kevin Nolan gets in a superb overhead kick that Robles tips over with a brilliant save.

So it’s extra time. Jenkinson is flagging on the right and it’s from there that Everton score a second. Mirallas weaves past Nolan, Jenkinson and Collins and provides Lukaku — who always scores against us— with a tap in.

Carroll’s header is blocked and Collins slices over the bar, but Matt never loses faith, apart from a five-minute Malcolm Tucker-esque rant at Jenkinson and Big Sam’s stupid substitutions. With nine minutes left Big Sam makes another dodgy substitution, taking off Collins for Carlton Cole and playing three at the back and three up front. Mystic Massey and Mystic May agree that Carlton probably won’t get a touch as Everton always win at Upton Park.

Two minutes later West Ham win a corner. Downing’s corner finds the head of Tomkins who heads back across goal for Carlton to prod home. What a substitution! Always believe in CC…

There’s still more drama late on. Tomkins miskicks a clearance and Lukaku is allowed to run at the defence and poke just wide when he looked certain to score. There’s then a bizarre fracas between Noble and Tomkins as the pair argue over the chance and Nolan and the ref step in. Still, maybe a good sign if we want to win that much.

Back come the Hammers as Cole finds Amalfitano in the box but he shoots too close to Robles who parries. Amalfitano then plays a great ball through to Valencia who advances on goal but rather than shooting tries to find Carlton Cole with the ball being poked wide after another almighty scramble. And then it’s over and penalties. Phew.

It’s not in doubt that Mirallas will score the first penalty but Noble equalises. Adrian uses some gamesmanship on Naismith, whispering something in his ear and then superbly tips his penalty over the bar. Nolan, Carroll and Creswell all convert and at 4-4 it’s left to Stewart Downing to win it for the Irons. Except his effort is saved by Robles. It’s low and in the corner but not powerful enough. Sod it. So now it’s sudden death. Everyone scores with Cole, Valencia and Amalfitano scoring for the Hammers.

As Everton have had a player sent off we’ve only been allowed ten penalty takers and Tomkins has dropped out, so it’s Robles versus Adrian. The Everton keeper takes a strange wobbly run-up and thumps the ball against the bar, to massive cheers from the home fans.

Adrian walks up to the spot and in a masterstroke of psychology, throws his gloves to the ground, implying he won’t be needing them after this. He coolly dispatches the ball into the corner with, as the retro programme might say, some aplomb. The Boleyn Stadium goes mental. Being the self-effacing sort of character he is, Adrian runs to the photographers and performs an epic knee-slide before being mobbed by the other players. Never in doubt!

We’ve never lost when Adrian has scored. 9-8 on penalties. We text Nigel to tell him that he’s only missed 21 goals…

We retreat to the Central, where Bubbles is on the PA, for a late pint of IPA. On the District line home there’s a spontaneous chorus of Bubbles. What a cup-tie. Could our name be on a Post-It note sticking precariously to the FA Cup?

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 8; Jenkinson 5, Collins 7 (Cole 7), Tomkins 7, Cresswell 6; Song 5 (Nolan 6), Noble 7, Downing 6, Jarvis 5 (Amalfitano 6); Carroll 6, Valencia 7.

Sunday, January 11

Carroll's super-strike earns point

Swansea City 1 West Ham 1

Watching this on Match of the Day it seems Swansea have the better of the early exchanges with West Ham opting to contain by starting with three centre-backs. Gomis just fails to connect with a dangerous cross and Sigurdsson shoots tamely at Adrian when well-placed.

West Ham take the lead with a moment of brilliance from Andy Carroll. Downing crosses and Carroll controls with his head and chest, drifting across the box before bamboozling two defenders with a quick shift of his feet and a shot into the top corner. Proof that he's much more than just a big striker who's good in the air. If that goal had been scored by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic it would be replayed endlessly. AC celebrates by cocking his ear to the Swansea fans who've been giving him grief about his pony-tail and being a donkey. West Ham remain one-up at the break thanks to a fantastic tackle by Carl Jenkinson which denies Routledge a goal.

In the second half Gomis shoots over before the big striker equalises from a corner. It's unfortunate that Colllins is off injured, as Gomis gets a run on Nolan and heads on to the post and in off Noble's leg. A good response from the Hammers though. Fabianski tips over a curler from Downing and then has to parry a fierce Jenkinson long range effort. We almost win it at the end when Cresswell's free kick is spilled by Fabianski, who recovers just in time to tip away Carroll's effort from the rebound.

It's a difficult ground to get anything at so a point is a decent result, though it's our fourth league game without a win. WHU now really have to bag the three points against striker-less Hull on Sunday.

Friday, January 9

Andy Carroll's kitchen casualty

After Andy Carroll injured himself "kicking the ground" in training, resulting in his missing the Everton game, he's now posted a picture on Instagram of the finger he injured with a knife while making lunch. Dangerous place the kitchen. Last year I slashed my finger with a serrated plate edge while washing up, but still made the Cardiff game. Let's hope Andy makes a similar recovery and is back tomorrow and able to give Swansea the metaphorical finger.

Thursday, January 8

Twitter ye not!

Some strange goings on with Dave Sullivan Junior's twitter account. Yesterday's Evening Standard reported on two hastily-deleted comments after the Everton game, reading: "How the f*** Nolan is playing above League 2 amazes me. Gives us all hope. Can we leave Nolan in Liverpool seriously." There was also a tweet reading, "Livid how Sam says Zarate isn't good enough to play for West Ham and Nolan is somehow." 

Sullivan Junior later apologised, tweeting: "I would like to apologise on behalf of my family and myself as I do not think I have represented them fairly by my tweets yesterday. I am also sorry to kevin nolan, who doesn't particularly deserve my comments. I hope everyone will forgive me and this sort of situation will not happen again. Thank you for your understanding COYI." 

Sounds like Dave Sulley has been eating too many post-Christmas chocolates and got a bit over-excited. Meanwhile big brother Jack Sullivan does better at following the WHU line, tweeting: "Anyone who read the Standard article 'Sullivan son in twitter rant' it was NOT me it was my brother! I could never be critical towards the club captain."

Just another day in the Sullivan household, though don't worry too much, @DaveSulley, you should hear what the Vicar's Son in the East Stand had to say to Maiga last year and when Whovian Mike gets started on Vaz Te… 

Wednesday, January 7

Lukaku denies Hammers

Everton 1 West Ham 1 (FA Cup)

It’s off to the lucky-ish Grafton Arms at Victoria for the FA Cup tie, accompanied by Matt, Lisa and Fraser (channelling his inner David Essex with a green neckscarf). The Grafton has a selection of six real ales and is where The Goons wrote some of their early scripts.

Carroll, Sakho, Tomkins and Kouyate are all missing. West Ham knock it about quite well in the first half and look the better side without offering any real penetration. The impressive Downing has a shot tipped over but a series of corners create nothing. Matt remarks that James Collins isn’t as effective as Tomkins at set pieces and needs to contribute some goals. When Lukaku drives at the defence West Ham look worried and Adrian spills a powerful shot. A bad pass from Nolan almost lets in Everton again and Naismith drives just wide.

Lone striker Valencia doesn’t threaten in the box, spending most of his time out wide, while Jarvis gives a masterclass in the art of getting lots of crosses in that always find a defender’s head. Amalfitano is a strange mix of good and bad, hitting a rebound wastefully over the bar.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, a devoted Evertonian, is spotted in the Grafton, perhaps looking for a political football or wondering if Everton failing to beat West Ham is an NHS-style ‘major incident’.

In the second half Mirallas lobs over, and Jenkinson forces a good save from Robles after a great run into the box. From Amalfitano’s resulting corner Collins loses his defender to score with a thumping header after 56 minutes. Perhaps he’s been listening to Matt.

Everton look angry after that, with Lukaku leading the charge. But West Ham have another key chance when Noble plays a corner back into the box and Valencia has a header tipped over the bar by Robles. It’s a great chance and Enner should have scored.

Everton have a Lukaku header disallowed for pushing and the second half seems to last an awfully long time as the Belgian striker just fails to connect with another cross and we nervously sip our Doombar. Big Sam’s substitutions make West Ham worse. Bringing Joey O’Brien into a five-man defence invites Everton to attack, while Cole doesn’t see much of the ball and Poyet doesn’t get into the game.

But still we threaten to hold on for a history-defying victory until the 91st minute. Oviedo crosses after Reid and O’Brien lunge in. Lukaku controls and shoots home in the six-yard box to spark mass relief among the Toffees’ fans.

So we’ve never seen West Ham lose in the Grafton, having watched the Hull game there too. We’ve never seen them win either though. Better news comes after the game as Sky Sports News breaks the news that Alex Song is retiring from international football and will now be available for WHU. Clearly he couldn’t cope with the idea of his place going to Kevin Nolan. 

Despite the late disappointment it’s a good result and one we’d have settled for at 7.45pm. Can Everton be as bad again in the replay? Maybe not, but let’s hope our chance hasn’t gone and the return of Song and possibly Carroll inspires a Cup run.

Tuesday, January 6

Zarate out

Mauro Zarate has completed his loan move to QPR despite late interest from Crystal Palace. A shame, as he looked to be a decent flair player, though his relationship with Sam Allardyce appears to have completely broken down. Had he wanted to stay and fight for a place he'd have surely got some games in January with Sakho injured and going to Africa. As it is, we might need to sign another loan striker to support Carroll, Valencia and Cole. Meanwhile, just how many ex-WHU players do QPR have? Zarate joins old Irons Rob Green, Bobby Zamora and Rio Ferdinand.

No future for Winston?

Sounding rather like he's channelling the Sex Pistols, Sam Allardyce predicts that Winston Reid has "no future" at West Ham. He told the press: “There is no future for Winston Reid at West Ham United at the moment because his contract finishes on 30 June. He hasn’t said he is going to sign, and he hasn’t said he isn’t, but you would err on the side that he isn’t by the feel and the look of it at this moment in time, by the knowhow in the football world I have been talking to – other managers and so forth – about the situation. So I would say it is highly unlikely that Winston is going to sign for us based on what people are saying to me.”

Big Sam also suggested that Reid might have been already enticed by overtures from agents. At least Allardyce has said there's no need to sell him now unless a huge offer of £20 million comes in. With each Premier League place worth £1, 236,000 in merit money it makes sense to keep Winston and try to finish as high as possible, have a tilt at the FA Cup and maybe even make Europe. There's also the slight chance that if Arsenal, Man United or Liverpool don't follow up their rumoured interest he might choose to stay.

Meanwhile Alex Song has been called up by Cameroon after first being omitted from their provisional squad, Kouyate has gone to Africa and Diafra Sakho may or may not go depending on his back injury. So we're presumably back to Nolan and Noble in midfield and Carroll and Valencia up front at Everton tonight.

Sunday, January 4

Henry the Hammer

West Ham have signed Canadian international Donell Henry from Cypriot club Apollon Limassol. The positive is that he comes recommended by Ryan Nelson, Big Sam's captain at Blackburn and an underrated centre back, who should know a good defender when he sees one. On the debit side Henry's only played for Toronto in the MLS and Limassol in the Cypriot league, so will need time to adapt to Premier League football and is more one for the future. But then Winston Reid didn't have much top league experience when he signed for us either… and Henry should provide some valuable back-up to Tomkins, Reid and Collins.

Saturday, January 3

"Adrian! Adrian! Adrian!"

Thanks to John Silk, currently teaching in Seville, for this snippet: "A friend of mine saw an older guy at his local gym in Seville wearing a West Ham jacket. This provoked plenty of curiosity from my perplexed friend so he asked: 'What on earth are you doing wearing that jacket?' To which the older man responded: 'My son gave it to me. He plays in goal for West Ham.' " It's also Adrian's 28th birthday today, so many happy returns Mr Adrian San Miguel del Castillo.

Friday, January 2

Hampered Hammers drop New Year points

West Ham 1 West Brom 1

The day begins with “West Scam United” emblazoned on the front page of the Sun. Apparently a representative of Daley & McCann Festive Gifts Plc arrived at Chadwell Heath offering cheap Fortnum & Mason hampers. The lads duly parted with their cash and the iffy hampers never turned up. Meanwhile Big Sam’s told the press that moaning Mauro Zarate wasn’t good enough to make the team more often and that his dropping of Kevin Nolan is evidence of his ‘clinical’ team selection.

Inside Ken’s Café Fraser has made a rare appearance and Nigel has been at the quiz books, asking Michael, Lisa, Matt and myself to name the 12 capital cities in the world with only four letters. We get Lima, Oslo, Doha and a few others before losing the will to live.

West Ham make a bright start to the game, going ahead with a fine ball. Downing chips a good ball through to Amalfitano who does well to find Cresswell on the left. He puts in a good cross and Sakho beats two defenders to glance home. “Diafra Sakho he scores when he wants!” chants the Bobby Moore Stand.

Downing makes another good break down the left but elects to shoot rather than find Sakho and we wonder if this might be costly against a Pulis-inspired Albion. Sessegnon looks dangerous whenever he breaks and slowly WBA edge back into it. We receive a warning when Adrian makes a great save from a Baird volley. Kouyate is having a bit of a ’mare, and Song is off form too, as they fail to shield our defence. Then West Ham commit too many men forward and it’s a two versus two break from Albion. Berahino finds Sessegnon on the left and runs into the middle to get behind Reid and covert with a calm finish.

WHU look really jaded in the second half as Malumbo hits the side netting. Cresswell miscontrols it a couple of times on the flank and Jenkinson’s crosses aren’t finding their man. Three games in a week looks too much for Andy Carroll who has his least effective game since his latest comeback and is easily marshalled by the impressive Lescott.

West Ham’s best chance comes when Sakho is brought down and Cresswell thumps a fine free kick against Foster’s post. There’s also a scramble around the line as Sakho nearly puts it in only to get kicked in the back and leave the field injured. Sub Matt Jarvis makes a difference and does well to beat his men and get in a couple of dangerous crosses, only to play the ball just behind the strikers. It’s a mystery why Big Sam doesn’t bring Noble on to improve the midfield.

But it’s generally poor fare and Albion continue to impress on the break as Collins makes several late interventions. In the end a draw looks a fair result. Teenage Kicks comes on the PA, but there haven’t been many kicks today, teenage or otherwise.

We retreat to the Central, with a guest appearance from The Gav and Michael waiting for his mate Godot, who mysteriously fails to show. Matt rages at the PA for playing Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel who are bloody useless. Quite right, apart from changing the face of 1960s popular music and Paul Simon’s 12 Grammys over a 40-year career what have Simon and Garfunkel ever done for popular music? Nigel quips that Matt thinks the Beatles are overrated too. Rather than discuss the game we then return to trying to name those four letter capital cities.

Being charitable, at least we got something out of the game against a desperate side trying hard to impress Mr Pulis. But that’s one point out of nine now. Sakho, Kouyate and possibly Song might be going to Africa so we need to regroup quickly to aim for that top six finish. Though at least we're unbeaten this year.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Jenkinson 5, Collins 6, Reid 5 Cresswell 6; Amalfitano 5 (Jarvis 6), Kouyate 5, Song 5, Downing 5; Carroll 5 (Cole n/a), Sakho 6, (Valencia 5).