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
Monday, May 16
Missed chances cost Hammers at Stoke
Stoke City 2 West Ham United 1
It’s off to Stoke on the 10.20am from Euston and a meeting
with my second cousin Terry who’s secured tickets among the Stokies – my mum
came from Stoke before meeting my dad (an Essex Man). Terry takes me to the
Gardeners Retreat where they serve a nice pint of Pedigree, but it’s under new
management and the crush at the bar resembles the Central. I purchase a copy of
The Oatcake fanzine and various Stoke fans in replica shirts reminisce about
leaving the Victoria Ground. Matt doesn’t make it to the Gardeners as being a
man of culture, he’s delayed looking at the pottery museum and art gallery in
It’s a lovely day and there’s a rare sighting on the sun in
Stoke as we head past the incinerator and over the motorway, across the
reclaimed colliery site and up “cardiac hill” to the Britannia, where David
Gold’s Roller is prominent in the car park. We’re in the Stoke fans next to the
away section where we have a fine view of the artistic designs mowed on to the
pitch and can see the hills of Stoke through the corner of the ground by the
Boothen End. The home fans also seem very keen to tell West Ham where to stick
their effing bubbles. The Hammers fans are having a party when Tottenham fucked
it up. Though the bad news is Payet’s out with an injury picked up against Man
WE'VE NOT GOT PAYET
Despite the absence of Payet, West Ham completely dominate
the first-half against a pedestrian Stoke, as Kouyate immediately races down
the wing to won a corner. We take the lead after 20 minutes as Reid gets his
head on to Lanzini’s corner and Antonio is allowed to turn by the Stoke defence
and shoot past Given. Europa League here we come. West Ham should get a second;
Sakho chests down Antonio’s cross but shoots wide and Kouyate shoots over when
Meanwhile news comes through that Man United’s game with
Bournemouth has been postponed after a bomb alert. Turns out it’s a training
device not cleared away by their equivalent of Mr Moon. Still, at least no fans
from Manchester will be affected.
Antonio has been excellent on the wing and at the start of
the second half he races down the right and presents a perfect cross for Sakho
who seems certain to score. Instead he allows veteran Given to pull off a fine
save and you wonder if that moment is crucial.
OFF THE LINE
Sure enough, Hughes has had words with Stoke, and a
determined run by Shawcross raises the crowd. Ten minutes into the second half
Imbula is allowed slightly too much space and fires home a low shot from the
outsidethe box. Perhaps Randolph should
have done better.
But West Ham still press for a winner, though Bilic
surprisingly takes off Carroll and replaces his with Valencia, while Emenike
replaces Carroll and the Stoke fans suggests Andy’s off to the bar. News come
through that Spurs are getting thrashed at Newcastle and the West Ham fans are
all having a party when Tottenham f**ked it up.
Adam nearly scores from the hallway line only to be foiled
by the alert Randolph. There’s a tremendous flurry of pressure from a corner as
Emenike and Antonio are foiled by two brilliant parries from Given on his line.
Valencia heads a chance over the bar that Carroll might have scored and then
gets in an overhead kick that Kouyate heads goalwards. Most of the ball is over
the line bar half an inch, but Whelan somehow manages to clear. I start to
think that, knowing football, Stoke will now score a winner as we’ve done
everything but score.
WE'RE NOT GOING ON A EUROPEAN TOUR?
Two minutes from time Stoke win a corner. Sub Diouf is
unaccountably unmarked and powers home a header before doing a double
somersault and running into the crowd. That should improve their lap of honour,
but we really should have won this easily. "It's the first time we've scored from a corner this season," reveals Terry.
The Stoke fans chant “You’re not going on a European tour!”,
more suggestions about Bubbles and “You’re f**king shit, you’re f**king shit!” Delilah booms out. Forgive me West Ham, I just couldn't take any more.
The game ends after five minutes of added time and we’re now
relying on Man United beating Palace in the FA Cup and have snatched seventh
place from the jaws of sixth. But it’s still been a season that was better than
anyone suspected and I’ve been pleased to see us play today; after the Boleyn
farewell seeing the lads on the pitch was tangible proof that the club goes on.
So it’s back to the station where I finally manage to meet
Matt who’s witnessed a West Ham fan banging his dreadlocks into the concrete wall after Sakho’s miss. Luckily Matt has Roger Protz’s programme notes on Stoke and
we walk to the Titanic-themed White Star pub (the Titanic’s captain came from
Stoke) for a very palatable pint of Titanic plum porter, which is rather an apt
brewer considering our European hopes might just have been holed. Matt has the
pleasing fact that has we reached the FA Cup Final it would have been the longest
season in PL history. It all started on July 2 against FC Lusitans. So now we’re
all going to have to support LVG’s men on Saturday before we can finally relax…