Friday, July 3
Andorran stroll for Hammers
West Ham 3 FC Lusitans 0 (Europa League Qualifier)
Surely definitive proof that West Ham have the best fans in the Premier League. What other club would get 34,000 on July 2 for a Europa League Qualifier? Sadly I’m away in Norfolk for this one as my sister is visiting from Australia and has foolishly booked her ten days in England without considering the chance of West Ham qualifying for the Europa League via the Fair Play league. Very poor planning indeed from the Antipodean section of the family. At least Matt is able to report from Ken’s Café that Carol has the iced lattes ready and the air conditioning is on (Billy waving a rolled up copy of the Standard).
Super Slaven Bilic is introduced to the crowd before the game and then takes a seat in the stand. Matt’s texts alleviate any nerves during our curry in Kings Lynn. “Slowish start. No easy games at this level. At 40 mins I am getting worried. Diafra then got a header, then a tap in, both made by Zarate.”
Tomkins adds a third in the second half, scored from a Matt Jarvis cross (when did Matty last get an assist?) to complete the 3-0 win. There’s also some nice crowd banter aimed at FC Lusitans’ porky coach and another debutant, sub Josh Cullen, hits the bar late on.
Looking at the line-up the Europa League seems a benefit at this early stage. Sixteen-year-old Reece Oxford has become the youngest player to ever play for the club, making his debut in midfield. Lewis Page, another Academy graduate, makes his debut at left back too. Sakho and Tomkins are returning from injury and need games while the rest of the side consists of players who didn’t play much last season and should be fresh, in the likes of Joey O’Brien, Jarvis, Poyet and Amalfitano. There’s also the intriguing prospect of Mauro Zarate possibly resurrecting his career at the club under a new gaffer.
There’s a little manufactured controversy at the end when the Lusitans gaffer criticises Slaven Bilic for not taking charge and letting Academy coach Terry Westley sit on the touchline. In fairness, Westley did do all the preparation while we were waiting to appoint a manager, so he surely deserves his moment in the dugout. Now we just have to hope that WHU can survive the away leg in front of 1000 fanatical Andorrans…