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.

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 centre backs. 

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.

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 toiling.

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.

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 Welshmen.

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.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Antonio 4, Reid 5, Ogbonna 5, Cresswell 5; Payet 5, Noble 4, Lanzini 4 (Valencia n/a), Kouyate 4 (Emenike 5), Moses 4 (Sakho 6); Carroll 5. 


matt said...

I am never going to question your judgment again.

Pete May said...

I will admit I was wrong about Rickie Lambert though…

mj said...

To be fair, our bit of the Betway upper wanted Tomkins on and Antonio off after10 minutes! Did I see 4 strikers and kouyate at left back/ centre half? Nah must've been a mirage due to the doombar dehydration

mj said...

Moses off that is

Pete May said...

I'd have taken Moses off, put Tomkins at right back and shifted Antonio to being a winger again and then replaced one of the midfielders with Sakho. And Byram must be an option at right-back too.. Antonio's had a great season but isn't a natural defender...