Sunday, November 29

Drawing drawing West Ham

West Ham 1 West Brom 1

There’s a big queue outside the Newham Bookshop for Danny Dyer’s book signing before the match. Vivien at the shop says he's been a real charmer. Then it’s on to Ken’s Café, which has been mentioned in an Observer feature, including my comment that Carol is the best manager West Ham never had. Diego Costa wouldn’t dare throw a bib at her.

Matt’s arrived at 1am in his not-very-lucky Dukla Prague away shirt. He’s been working nights and is about to fly to San Francisco for a fortnight. Meanwhile, Michael the Renaissance Man, Playwright and Whovian is arriving back from New York, but is currently marooned at Heathrow. Nigel arrives later, telling us the tragic news that CQ has dropped and broken his favourite Enfield FC mug. I remind Matt about my bet that that Rickie Lambert will score more goals than Modibo Maiga — a wager that will come back to haunt me. Thanks to the 2.05 kick-off time Matt’s food arrives late and he is forced to miss the kick off.

Inside the stadium none of the clocks are working. Added to the demolition of the “Don’t kill your wife, let us do it” sexist clockface outside the dry cleaners in Green Street, it’s growing evidence of a time rift in E13 caused by West Ham’s impending move. Carroll and Tomkins have been dropped for Ogbonna and Zarate.

We start off fairly well against a team with four giant centre backs in defence, with Obiang looking solid in front of the defence, having replaced the suspended Noble. Rondon shoots just wide for WBA but that's their only threat. Lanzini sets up Zarate who fires into the side netting when he should hit the target. On 17 minutes the ref does well to spot McAuley holding Sakho and Zarate curls a lovely free kick into the top corner. When he plays he usually scores and it’s the best goal of Zarate’s Hammers’ career, Fraser says we’ve now won it, as in every game under Pulis, only one team has scored.

Kouyate heads a good chance wide and Myhill saves with his legs as Lanzini shoots from distance after picking up a misplaced Albion pass. The rebound could easily have fallen to a WHU striker. Zarate skilfully sets up Lanzini, who produces another good save from Myhill. Can’t Get Enough by Bad Company comes on the PA half-time, which impresses Nigel, and it all seems to be going well.

Albion bring on Rickie Lambert after the break and the big striker’s arrival immediately brings results. The burly striker fires a hopeful shot that deflects off Winston Reid’s arm and veers into the net. It’s a fluke goal, but boosts Albion as West Ham’s confidence falters.

Michael the Transatlantic Whovian arrives like an impending harbinger of dropped points just after WBA equalise. Lambert has a free kick palmed wide by Adrian and the keeper then saves Rondon’s free header with his chest.

Plan B is resumed with Carroll coming on for Obiang. At least West Ham come back into it as Moses makes a great run from his own half and finds Sakho who looks sure to score. But McAuley makes a great challenge and Sakho goes down with what looks like a hamstring problem, and is replaced by Jelavic.

A week of night shifts, a late lunch, missing seeing Greenland’s top indie band Nanook (unlike CQ) and watching West Ham trying to break down an eight-man defence proves too much for Matt, who memorably tirades at the ref, Jenkinson, Jelavic and me for predicting that Lambert would turn his season round against West Ham. Will a fortnight in the Hotel California with Lisa see him return with a more chillaxed attitude to West Ham’s frailties and the negative karma of no Payet? Probably not if he has to still visit E13.

Near the end Moses flashes a volley wide and it ends at 1-1. We walk to the Black Lion, where Gary O’Neil is on the box playing for Norwich and the Ridley's Old Bob is like nectar compared to the Central’s offerings. We retreat to a windswept back bar covered in tarpaulins as the remains of Hurricane Barney batters the East End.

Fraser wonders if we will we win any games without Payet. A draw against a difficult Tony Pulis side isn’t a disaster, but West Ham should surely have scored more in the first half. Now we just have to win at Old Trafford.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 7; Jenkinson 6 Ogbonna 6, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Obiang 6 (Carroll 5), Lanzini 7, Kouyate 6, Zarate 7 (Antonio 5), Moses 6; Sakho 5 (Jelavic 5).

Tuesday, November 24

Are West Ham a one-man team?

We had an interesting discussion in the pub during the Spurs debacle on whether any other club relied on any one player as much as we have relied on Dimitri Payet this season. Everything has been going through Dimitri and with numerous assists and five goals he's obviously going to be a massive loss for the next three months. Man City rely on Aguero a lot, Spurs would miss Harry Kane and Everton Romelu Lukaku, but few teams have had such an obvious star. 

Still, you suspect the effect is psychological more than anything else, and our main problems were at the back against Spurs. We have some very good players to replace Payet. Manuel Lanzini is already having a fine season, Alex Song or Mauro Zarate can come into the midfield, Valencia will return in January, and there's the option of playing Carroll and Sakho together. Plus there's £7 million Antonio and Jelavic desperate to get games (and Jelavic did well to set up Lanzini's goal on Sunday). 

But what we do need is a bit more creativity from Noble, Kouyate and Moses to make up for his absence. And as Match of the Day pointed out, when teams press like Spurs did, we need to sometimes play the long ball out from the back to bypass them. Even without Payet we still have one of the strongest West Ham teams in many seasons, so for the moment let's remain positive.

Sunday, November 22

It hasn't happened again…

Foolish pre-match optimism before we meet our Waterloo
Tottenham 4 West Ham 1

It's off to the not-quite-so-lucky pub, The Hole In The Wall at Waterloo, for this one. Fraser and Gavin in flat caps, Matt, Lisa, and Nigel are all present. There's a fine selection of real ales at the bar and the Gold Rush and TEA are both splendid compared to the Central's beers. Matt, Nigel and The Gav reminisce about Hatfield band Babe Ruth, as featured on BBC4's Rock of the Seventies. Nigel's been to see Everton versus Aston Villa yesterday and Matt and Lisa have watched the WHU kids at Little Heath. The only problem is that we now have to watch a football match with West Ham Seniors.

Eriksen forces a good save from Adrian but it's fairly even early on, with West Ham forcing a few corners, until Spurs get their first after 23 minutes. There's a goalmouth melee and Harry Kane spins past Jenkinson too easily and fires into the roof of the net. It gets worse ten minutes later when Alderweireld loses Reid at a corner. Winston bumps into Sakho, Andy Carroll can't halt him either and the Spurs centre back heads number two. West Ham do hit the bar, with an acrobatic overhead kick from Kouyate, even though the ref should have flagged for offside. Matt insists he would have scored that one — at least in his dreams.

Alli heads against the bar and Kane slices wide when he should score while an Andy Carroll header is easily fielded by Lloris. Half-time arrives with much depression as The Gav and Fraser head outside for a cigar break. Scott Parker is on the TV and I suggest he'll be our man of the match again. The game's over after 50 minutes. Adrian plays a dangerous short ball out to Tomkins and James then passes straight to Eriksen. He finds Harry Kane who shoots home through Adrian. "I'll settle for a point now," suggests Nigel. And so much for Kane's goal drought. We just can't cope with Spurs' high pressing.

We're really missing Payet and as Bilic has said he's been making the other players around him raise their game too. It's hard to find anyone who's played well. The only plus is a late appearance from Alex Song. It's four when Walker pokes home after 83 minutes as Reid is again slow to sense the danger and Cresswell has left too much space on the left. Spurs then hit the post and we're just keeping the score down.

"Jelavic will never score for us… What is Jelavic going to do with that?" opines Mystic Matt as the late sub finds Lanzini with a fine through ball and Manuel shoots into the top of the net. A consolation at least, as Matt is ribbed by all the TEA drinkers.

We're left to rue a very poor performance against a Spurs side that is going really well and hasn't lost since the first day of the season. Our party wonder why Payet was allowed to play on against Everton (did it make the injury worse?) and reminisce about great West Ham injuries (Ashton, Dyer, etc). We quiz Fraser on his least favourite bosses, who turn out to be Pulis, Allardyce and Warnock. No-one can answer Matt's trivia question about who was the Spurs and England forward who signed for West Ham in the Championship. Turns out it was David Bentley.

West Brom now becomes a must-win game again and we have to get over the loss of Payet quickly. It's hard to believe the whole side will play as badly again next week, we hope.

Friday, November 20

Goodbye to Boleyn

Very good programme called Goodbye to Boleyn on Radio 4 this morning, dealing with the impact West Ham's move to Stratford will have on the environs of Green Street.. It includes interviews with Nathan's pie and mash, burger sellers, programme sellers, Gary Firmager of Over Land and Sea fanzine, Cynthia the hairdresser who works in David Gold's old house at number 442 Green Street, local residents, market traders and singing nuns Sister Immaculate and Sister Patricia who live near the stadium.  It was broadcast as part of Radio 4's Lives in a Landscape series and credit to producer Mark Burman for a great half hour of radio. Click on the link to listen.

Tuesday, November 17

Randolph makes the Euros

We've got a 'keeper at Euro 2016. Congratulations to Darren Randolph on playing in Ireland's 2-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina last night, the game that saw the Irish qualify. Certainly looked an emotional night. I thought Randolph did really well in the three games he played when Adrian was suspended, against Bournemouth, Liverpool and Newcastle. He'll benefit from international football too and it's encouraging West Ham now have two top class goalkeepers. And there's now a good chance Randolph might replace Shay Given and David Forde (a former Hammer) as Ireland's number one goalkeeper.

Monday, November 16

Who bought Ken's Cafe?

Anyone know who bought Ken's Cafe? A ceramic model of Ken's Cafe has sold for £150. It was part of the Tower of Babel exhibition by Barnaby Barford, on display in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum. If anyone does know who purchased the pottery Ken's then Carol at the real Ken's Cafe in Green Street would be interested in talking to them and acquiring it for posterity. Any leads very much appreciated…

Friday, November 13

Vaz Te signs for Charlton

Ricardo Vaz Te, who will always have a place in Hammers' folklore (and my pal Michael the Whovian's heart) for his Play-Off Final winner, has signed for Charlton until the end of the season, having been released by Turkish club Akhisar Belediyespor. His record of 19 goals in 61 games for the Hammers is pretty respectable and he scored a great goal off his knee at White Hart Lane just to wind up Spurs. Vaz Te never fully convinced as a Premier League striker, but he scored 12 in half a season during our promotion season of 2011-12. If he could repeat that for Charlton, currently 22nd in the Championship, he could prove to be an inspired signing.

Thursday, November 12

Andy Carroll needs time to get back to his best

Quite a lot of criticism of Andy Carroll on social media after the Everton game. Think we need to remember that he was up against the best young centre back in the country in John Stones and he is recovering from a long-term injury. Andy's still the same player who scored against Chelsea and he's only had two full games so far. He's not had a pre-season and I'd expect us to see the best of him after half a dozen or so matches. It will take time to recover his sharpness. Sakho doees look a more mobile option up front, but there's no reason Carroll can't get a lot of game time this season and as Bilic recently said, when he gets in certain situations, as he did against Chelsea, he can be unstoppable.

Tuesday, November 10

Life Lessons with Danny Dyer at the Newham Bookshop

Here's something to cheer us up after Dimitri Payet's injury. It's Christmas shopping day at the Newham Bookshop on Saturday Nov 28, with 20 per cent off all books. While uber geezer Danny Dyer, EastEnders star and scourge of Jose Mourinho, will be signing copies of his book Danny Dyer: Life Lessons from the East End on Sunday Nov 29 at 11.30am before the West Brom game. Can't be many actors who have got their own chant — remember Man United fans singing "Where's your famous Danny Dyer?" at Upton Park a few seasons ago. The answer is in the Newham Bookshop in Barking Road. Click on the link for details.

Monday, November 9

We've lost Payet, Dimitri Payet…

Disastrous news. Dimitri Payet is out for three months with an ankle injury after being scissor-tackled by Everton's James McCarthy. That tackle could surely have been prevented if referee Paul Tierney had clamped down on some rough Everton tackling early in the game and issued a yellow card. Payet was running the midfield before being targeted by a reducer, for which McCarthy was only booked.

The only vaguely positive news is that at least we have two number ten-type players capable of playing Payet's role in Manuel Lanzini and Mauro Zarate, while Alex Song and Pedro Obiang will soon be available to boost the defensive midfield.

The key to West Ham's season will be how the side and manager react to this. We can't feel sorry for ourselves —it's time for the big squad to move into action and minimise the loss of a player who has been sensational so far. Not easy, but that's what the squad's for. Last season injuries gave the players an excuse to coast after Christmas — we can't let it happen this time.

Sunday, November 8

Payet crocked as Lukaku haunts Hammers

West Ham 1 Everton 1

Heavy rain saturates Green Street on an unseasonably humid day as I arrive at Ken’s Café clad in Gore-Tex. Matt and Nigel are discussing old horror films as Matt becomes possibly the first person ever to utter the word ‘portmanteau’ in Ken’s. Meanwhile Michael the Renaissance Man (and Whovian) maintains a Zen-like calm insisting that his big breakfast will arrive before kick off, despite the fact he’s arrived at 2.15pm.

Meanwhile Carol’s granddaughter is the latest family member to have been recruited on cup-collecting duties, while Carol herself is still trying to trace the person who bought the pottery model of Ken’s Café from the V& A exhibition by Barnaby Barford — my money’s on Charles Saatchi. There’s time for late appearances from my Facebook pal Nicola, Big Phill and Big Joe and then a dash to the East Stand, with Matt and Nigel making their obligatory trek to the recycling bins behind the away coaches with their Saturday papers.

We arrive to find squaddies in West Ham scarves on the pitch, a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day and The Last Post. Winston’s in for the suspended Collins and Sakho is still injured so Andy Carroll starts two successive games for the first time since January.

The sides appear pretty evenly matched, but West Ham make a decent start. Payet finds Moses who shoots into the side netting. Everton are unexpectedly physical and Kone clatters Moses without being booked. Another fine ball from Payet finds Jenkinson who shoots at the keeper rather than crossing. From the rebound off the keeper Cresswell curls a good effort just over. Michael wonders if Moses will deliver his commandments on tablets of Stones. The Everton centre back is impressive throughout, dominating Andy Carroll, and earns a tuneful chorus of “Money can’t buy me Stones” from the away fans.

The Irons take the lead after half a hour. Payet finds the impressive Moses who scuffs his shot from the edge of the box. The ball rebounds off Stones to Lanzini on the edge of the box and curls a lovely effort into the top corner before running into the corner to celebrate.

Payet has already delighted the crowd with one pirouette away from Everton’s midfield on the halfway line, provoking a chorus of “We’ve got Payet!”,  but is then injured after being crocked by McCarthy with a scissors tackle. The Everton enforcer plays a bit of the ball, but also clatters the man and it could easily be a red card, but ref Paul Tierney only books him. We are tempted to state a McCarthyite witch hunt.

Two minutes before the break Everton equalise, just after Mr Moon has left the stadium. Payet loses possession and Deulofeu plays a great first-time ball though to Lukaku. The Everton striker has got behind Tomkins and Reid too easily, but uses his pace and strength to round Adrian and tap home. That’s his seventh goal in seven games against West Ham.

At half-time we doubt if even Nigel’s lucky banana can save us from the usual Everton comeback. Meanwhile Fraser’s having to rewrite the start of his Western novel as for some reason his tutors want to tweak his plot of ransoming a portly sheriff called Big Sam to an outpost in the north-east.

Payet only lasts five minutes of the second half and is replaced by Valencia. Enner looks sharp and combines well with Lanzini, curling in a fine cross that Moses just fails to connect with. But his cameo only lasts ten minutes. Coleman makes a fair tackle, but Valencia falls awkwardly and has to be replaced by Zarate.

The ref continues to perplex. Lanzini shoots narrowly wide and West Ham’s best chance comes after Moses wins a corner. Winston Reid’s header is just over the bar. At the other end Lukaku pokes a Galloway cross past the post.

At least we don’t concede the usual late goal in the four minutes of added time and if Payet hadn’t been crocked we might surely have won. The game ends in a draw and in a nod to Bilic’s heavy metal football, the PA plays Black Sabbath’s Paranoid (a tribute to Jose Mourinho?) and Deep Purple’s Highway Star, which pleases Nigel no end.

I walk with Nigel to Plaistow and we agree that at least point keeps the season ticking over and we are way ahead of relegation-certainties Chelsea. In fact we go up to fifth, which causes a lot of celebration, as when I meet my family for a bit of a do in Warwick Avenue there are fireworks going off all over London. Two weeks’ international break now (third of the season so far and surely too many?) and the chance to get Payet, Sakho (who we’ve missed) and Valencia fit.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Jenkinson 6, Reid 6, Tomkins 6, Cresswell 6; Lanzini 7, Payet 6 (Valencia 5, Zarate 5), Kouyate 5, Noble 5, Moses 7; Carroll 5 (Jelavic 5).

Saturday, November 7

The Boys of '86 in Blowing Bubbles

This month's Blowing Bubbles Magazine celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Boys of '86 with interviews with Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie.

In his column for the monthly magazine George Parris explains why their partnership was so special: "They just had one of those seasons where everything clicked. So much so they could’ve scored with their backsides! Every time we walked out to play, you just felt one of them was going to score. Even if they only got one chance, you just knew they’d take it." He also reveals: "I think it will be very tough for West Ham to match our third place finish. Winning the FA Cup would be just as good a feeling though."

Elsewhere Sky Sports' Bianca Westwood reflects on her recent interview with Andy Carroll and how he has hailed the Bilic factor as we all dare to think big. "The biggest thing I took away from my interview with Andy was that whenever he spoke about Slaven, it was clear that he really has this likeability factor about him," she says. "He said the players respect him and they did  so instantly. He has this aura about him and he is a manager they all look up to because of what he has achieved."

Meanwhile, Blowing Bubbles has a moving piece by the Yellow Advertiser's reporter Brian Jeeves on his father's West Ham passion.They've also got a report from a Bradford City fan on how they've fallen in love with Reece Burke and how great he has been for them this season. "Even at this relatively early stage in the season, it’s probably not hyperbolic to cast him among the front-runners for the Player of the Year award, he’s been that good," says Bradford fan Katie Whyatt.

Blowing Bubbles' writers also give their views on Amalfitano's exit,  this summer's Saido Berahino sage ahead of our game against West Brom, and ponder whether Big Sam can get Sunderland out of relegation trouble.

The latest issue of Blowing Bubbles Monthly is now available to read for FREE on your computer, tablet or mobile phone. Just click on the link to read.

Friday, November 6

You're getting Sakho in the morning…

Diafra Sakho is not going to face any charges, having been arrested in August and now cautioned by the police for criminal damage. Though Slaven Bilic will presumably have spoken to him about getting into the wrong situations and damaging the reputation of the club. Having said that, he's had a very good season so far without getting the plaudits of Payet and co. He's worked tremendously hard as an unselfish lone striker and has been foraging in the channels right up to the final whistle, as we saw when he won a late corner at Arsenal. It's no coincidence we slumped at Watford without him. Andy Carroll might need a few more games as an impact sub and perhaps at some stage a Sakho/Carroll partnership might be worth a try as it worked well against Swansea last season. Hopefully Diafra will now concentrate on football and avoid any off-field shenanigans, because he can be a key player at WHU this season.

Thursday, November 5

Keep the Boleyn Tavern going next season

Interesting flyers handed out in Ken's Cafe last week on how the Boleyn pub plans to keep going. For an annual fee of £120 you can become a member and receive free return coach trips from the pub to the Olympic Stadium and get a discount at the bar for home and away matches. The Boleyn might get a bit packed and noisy before matches, but take a look around and you'll find it's a lovely old London pub with some great fittings and it would be sad to lose it. It's also included in CAMRA'a National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. More details at or from 0208 472 2182.

Wednesday, November 4

Let's go effng dental

West Ham's footballers may have dodgy teeth. The WHU players were among eight clubs surveyed by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. As today's Guardian reports (complete with a picture of four West Ham players with sugar cube heads) the results of the survey showed that the footballers had on average more cavities, erosion and fillings than the rest of the population. It's not clear why, though theories include footballers having lots of sugar-high sports drinks and the fact some might come from developing nations were dental care is poor. Or maybe they're just a bit rubbish at going to the dentist. Soon we may have a literally toothless attack. All this is a good excuse to try to get together a West Ham Dental XI (shame we never signed Andre Wisdom). Though so far I've only been able to come up with Paul Brush, Scott Minto, Jaws Parris and Paul Rinse.