West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul, Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals and Goodbye to Boleyn
Sunday, May 8
Hammers forget to turn up for Saturday farewell
West Ham 1 Swansea City 4
Green Street is full of nostalgic fans with cameras
photographing the John Lyall gates for our last Saturday match at the Boleyn. First
off it’s a visit to the Newham Bookshop where a Belgian Iron wants copies of Hammers in the Heart and Irons in the Soul. Then it’s on to the
huge queue at Ken’s Café, where all the glory hunters are wanting a taste of
Ken’s chips and I take phone orders from Lisa, Matt and Michael for various
combinations of cheesy chips and big breakfasts with no chips but an extra egg
and lightly sautéed mushrooms.
A Swansea fan in the Café thanks me for writing Hammers in the Heart, which is nice. Nicola
B, top WHU Hillsborough campaigner, arrives in her West Ham shirt but minus a
ticket. Sadly for her, she does eventually get one. DC arrives with his wee men
and instead of his usual cameo performs a veritable three-act play as he stops
at least five minutes for souvenir pics of the team that meets in caffs. Then Michael presents Carol with a bottle of the finest wine known to humanity for all her services rendered and is rewarded with a rare appearance from Ken himself and a photo opportunity with Carol and Ken.
Then it’s on to the stadium. After a hearty Bubbles from the shirt-sleeved crowd
West Ham start off as if it’s going to be a stroll. Payet puts a free kick on
to the roof of the net and Lanzini has a good shot tipped away Fabianski.
KI MAN LEFT UNMARKED
But Ki is getting a lot of space on the left and West Ham
start to look strangely lethargic. After 25 minutes Antonio loses the ball and
is caught out of position, Ki crosses to Naughton on the other flank, Cresswell
is missing and from the cross an offside Routledge taps home, having lost our
Six minutes later full back Kingsley powers past a static
Moses, Antonio doesn’t close him down and from his superb cross, Ayew is
quicker than Ogbonna and Reid and flicks it home. A sudden silence descends
over Upton Park as the Swansea fans sing Land
of my Fathers and “Are you Villa in disguise?”
Our struggles are summed up as Carroll fires across the box
and Lanzini shoots over the bar from a foot out while lying on the ground.
ARE WE VILLA IN DISGUISE?
At half time Start
Me Up coms on the PA, with its refrain of “You’ll make a grown man cry!” On the
East Stand concourse actor Donald Sumpter stands behind us texting for help
from the High Council of the Time Lords. Matt who has been marooned in Row Q
for the first half, launches a long diatribe at the hapless Victor Moses and
Bilic for not starting with Sakho.
We’re 3-0 down after 51 minutes as Barrow skins Antonio and
crosses for the unmarked Ki to fire home first-time. The Vicar’s Son concedes
that perhaps he was wrong to ridicule my suggestion of shoring up the defence
by bringing on Tomkins at right-back. Nigel suggests we’ll struggle to get a
point. Swansea are playing really well and look more like the side of two seasons ago.
The pitch is still awash with party detritus. “We need to
get that big fat balloon off the pitch,” says Matt.
“But Nolan’s already left,” quips Fraser.
There’s a brief flurry as Antonio has a shot saved and
Carroll fires just wide. But it’s been a very strange West Ham performance; Antonio
is not a natural defender, Lanzini has had a ‘mare, Kouyate looks clumsy, Noble
has been anonymous, Carroll isn’t dominating the defence and even Payet is
We pull a goal back as Payet crosses and Antonio (who has looked
good going forward) has a header saved by Fabiankski. In the resulting melee
sub Sakho appears to prod home though Kingsley is credited with the last touch.
Bizarrely Bilic refuses to bring on Tomkins and push Antonio
further up the pitch and Swansea’s fourth sums up our afternoon. From a West
Ham corner, Andy Carroll turns with the speed of a super-liner and is
dispossessed. Swansea break with two players against Mark Noble and after a
swift one-two Gomis nets before doing his silly crawling celebration.
The only consolation is that our party have agreed to go to
a very packed Black Lion. As we pass number 664 Barking Road Nigel repeats his
Iron Maiden joke that it belongs to “the neighbour of the beast” at number 666.
Thankfully it’s the last Saturday he’ll ever do this.
HITTING THE DOOM BAR
Still, perhaps the sound of boos at Upton Park and a
rumbling sense of disappointment are a more fitting historical tribute to most
of our years spent at the Boleyn rather than the anticipated tonking of the
It takes forever to get served in the sweaty back bar of the
Black Lion but at least the Doom Bar is good as we discuss the election and Michael’s
planned claret and blue rinse, anything rather than the match. Bilic has it
right when he says we didn’t perform off the ball at all and had too many
passengers. You can’t just turn up and expect to win a PL game without working.
After ten matches unbeaten we forgot the basics; let’s hope
for a proper performance against Man United on Tuesday.