Monday, June 27

Payet celebrates year at Hammers with another assist

Yesterday was the first anniversary of Dimitri Payet signing for West Ham and to celebrate Payet picked up another assist, passing wide in the build up to France's equaliser against Ireland. Also good to see Darren Randolph have an outstanding game for Ireland. Wonder if he'll be content to spend another season at West Ham as Adrian's understudy? Now England play Iceland. I'd still have been happier to see Mark Noble in the squad rather than a recuperating Jack Wilshere. And from a WHU perspective the thought occurs that if it's level late on a sub like Andy Carroll might have come in handy…

Friday, June 24

Zaza zoom?

Numerous transfer rumours about West Ham, including the fact that we might be signing 99-year-old actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. Or perhaps striker Simone Zaza, whom the Guardian claims we want to sign from Juventus for £15 million. Sky Sports reports we're in negotiations to loan winger Gokhan Tore from Slaven Bilic's old club Besiktas. Talk Sport claims WHU are after FC Koln's French striker Anthony Modeste, presumably for a Modeste fee, while the Daily Express suggests West Ham have bid £31 million for Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette. There are also persistent rumours Diafra Sakho will be going and that various clubs are sniffing around Reece Oxford. How much of this is agent talk we just don't know but it's pretty clear we'll have an upgrade on Emenike to add to the squad next season. 

Meanwhile, as we've voted for Brexit, presumably West Ham will have to do their best to exit Europe after the two qualifying Europa League ties on July 28 and August 4. We've already had practice at doing this against FC Astra, of course. Onwards and upwards…

Thursday, June 16

Another goal for Dimitri

Another brilliant goal from Dimitri Payet for France last night. The way he dummied two Albanian defenders to create space for himself was sensational and he even managed to kick the corner flag with some style. And some nice table standing from Slaven Bilic in the studio. The only problem is that the whole of Europe is seeing how good Payet is. Can West Ham keep him in a locked room at the OS with no phone signal until September? Dimi signed a new contract last season so hopefully a ridiculous buy-out clause of about £500 million was included. Remember Dimitri, no other club will give you a Billy Ray Cyrus song all of your own.

Wednesday, June 15

Bournemouth are first visitors to the Olympic Stadium

So it's Chelsea away on August 13 and then Bournemouth at home for the first game at the OS on August 20. Bit of an underwhelming first home fixture to open the new era with, but we know from last season that the Cherries can't be taken lightly, having spanked us 4-3 at the Boleyn. The next visitors are Watford on September 10. We finish away to Burnley, but before that have big home games against Spurs and Liverpool. Come on you Irons!

Saturday, June 11

Allez Dimitri!

Fantastic to see a world class player connected with West Ham in the opener of the Euros last night. But that's enough about Romania's Razvan Rat (and credit to West Ham for tweeting a picture of him in his WHU onesie as a tribute). Dimitri Payet had a pretty decent game too. He's one of those players you can't take your eyes off because every touch can produce a piece of magic; and what a sumptuous finish for the winner. Good to see what it meant to him when he went off in tears too. Just hope Barcelona and Real Madrid weren't watching… Another plus for West Ham was Slaven Bilic managing to let slip the 'f' word at half time. Truly a rock'n'roll gaffer.

Today we have the Ginger Pele playing for Wales while Angelo Ogbonna is in the Italian squad and Darren Randolph could start with Ireland. Among the ex-WHU players coming up there's 38-year old Roy Carroll with Northern Ireland, double agent Robbie Keane for the Republic of Ireland and Valon Behrami with Switzerland. Let's hope for a great tournament.

Wednesday, June 8

Is Theo Walcott really what WHU need?

David Sullivan has confirmed that West Ham have five active bids on the table, though his son Jack has denied that we're interested in signing Theo Walcott for £25 million, as claimed in the Evening Standard. I really don't think Walcott is what WHU need and at £25 million he would be vastly overpriced (Jamie Vardy's only £20 million!). 

Yes, he's a great player on his day and a fine impact sub, but he's never done it consistently at Arsenal. He can't make the England squad, suffers a lot of injuries and Arsene Wenger is still unsure whether he's a striker or winger. Last season he scored five goals in 28 appearances, which is decent but not prolific. 

Walcott was a great prospect, as Slaven saw when Theo scored a hat-trick for England against Croatia, but at 27 it looks like he'll never fully fulfil the potential he showed as a kid at Southampton. Perhaps Bilic might finally coax consistent performances from him, but it would only make sense taking a gamble on him if he came at a much reduced fee.

Tuesday, June 7

Selling Upton Park by the pound

Michael McManus reports on last Saturday's dispiriting club auction…

On Saturday (4 June) I spent the evening at the Union Theatre in Southwark. Hang on in there, fellow Hammers, this is relevant … For twenty years the Union has operated in an old, crumbling, dank environment that allows it no room to expand its ambitions. Every show is a sell-out - wonderfully atmospheric but, for the management at least, also frustrating, in equal measure. I have seen some of the most exciting, dramatic, moving theatre of my life in that tatty old room. The new production, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, is the last ever show in the current premises. This summer, the Union will move, quite literally, across the road — about 60 yards. The new premises will be bigger, more comfortable, more accessible… 

Well, you’ll have spotted the parallel and you won’t be surprised to learn that, while everyone at the Union is naturally excited about the move, there is an unmistakable pall of sadness at the place. Will the atmosphere be the same, we mused over our interval bottles of Beck’s? Will we see the same, familiar, reassuring faces? Will something special, intangible, irreplaceable, be lost forever, in the name of “progress”? Yes, the old building has seen better days and who can argue with progress - but magic happened here. 

Earlier the same day I attended a far more sombre — and much less edifying — experience,  as fittings from the Boleyn Ground were flogged off by professional auctioneers, from a temporary structure set up on the pitch. Corner flags, illuminated signs, the 60-feet long images of Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking from the two ends of the West Stand, off they were flogged, each to the highest bidder. 

Only the West Stand was open, with a couple of forlorn snack bars offering pies and hot drinks for the few dozen hardy souls who attended in person. Needless to say, honouring tradition, there was no service whatsoever on the District Line or the Metropolitan and City Line and Fenchurch Street station was closed for the day. I’m not going to lie: this was a miserable experience. The gents was in an appalling state, the pitch had taken a hammering and the ghosts had taken over. 

The auction itself was little short of grotesque. The prices were extravagant (some of the John Lyall gates were withdrawn because insufficient thousands of pounds were bid) — even before the 16 per cent seller’s premium was added, with 20 per cent VAT then piled onto the grand total. The trappings of a great club were indiscriminately distributed, before our eyes, to the highest bidder. It seemed to me that at least half the 200 or so items went to just a tiny handful of people. 

There was no warmth on display, no charm — and, needless to say, no presence at all from anyone who had ever meaningfully represented the club, either on or off the pitch. It was all about money; a microcosm of everything that concerns so many people about the state of our national sport. 

Yes, the money raised would go to the Club Academy, but what does that really mean? Genuinely more investment in young lives or just more money for the merry-go-round that poisons the game? I left feeling faintly nauseous and not only because of the state of the lavatories, though that might have felled a lesser man. Ercan’s fish and chips plus a pint at the Boleyn both served to remind me of the wider West Ham community that will surely decline and die now our club has left its natural home. 

Will I remain an Iron? Of course. Have I bought my season ticket for the Olympic Stadium? Of course I have. Did I bid on anything? No way! This is more than foolish, naive nostalgia though. As we move forward, let us never forget or neglect our heritage, for without it we are nothing. The trinkets that were auctioned off on Saturday were symbols of that heritage, but it’s the spirit that counts. 

And what of the Union Theatre? Their first show in their new space will be a revival of one of their finest productions of recent years - The Fix - and Little Voice proved to be the perfect send-off, with a superbly talented cast breathing new, fresh and invigorating life into a much-loved classic. It wasn’t quite Winston Reid nodding past David de Gea in the 80th minute, but it was the perfect send-off to a theatre of dreams; and they seem to be taking the fittings with them.

Wednesday, June 1

Bacca to the future

The Daily Mail reports that West Ham have bid £16 million for AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca. If nothing else the Colombian international would be good for the headline writers as he would hopefully hit the Bacca of the net a few times. And if he bit a player Suarez-style he'd presumably be Chew-Bacca. Other press rumours suggest that we're after Toulouse's Danish striker Martin Braithwaite who sounds more like a Blackburn Rovers reserve than a great Dane…