Tuesday, August 30

Transfer window thoughts

My thoughts on the transfer window can be seen in Sunday's Observer. It's all been a bit scatter-gun so far. Zaza should be a good signing, although would we have bought Ayew if Zaza was already secured? Masuaku looks a decent left back and Fletcher is promising, while we haven't seen Fernandes yet. But so far Tore, Nordveit, Calleri and Feghouli don't look significant upgrades on what we already have. But still, there's long way to go. Click on the link to read.

Monday, August 29

Sterling appreciates as Hammers lose at City

Manchester City 3 West Ham 1 

Watched this one at the Wellington at Waterloo with Fraser, Matt, Lisa and latterly Michael the Thespian, hotfoot from a matinee. Matt and Lisa have been looking at conceptual art at the Tate and are wondering if West Ham really exist while the City fans agree that we're not really here.

City should be three or four up at half-time as their tiki-taka stuff bypasses West Ham's five man defence. Playing three centre backs doesn't work as it just leaves more space for City's runners from midfield. We go a goal down early on as Nolito gets free of Antonio on the left and crosses for the unmarked Sterling to stroke home. City double their lead from a free kick as Fernandinho is left unmarked to head in. De Bruyne misses a gaping goal and Masuaku is lucky to avoid a second booking. West Ham's best effort in the first half results from Noble's through ball to Antonio and then Fletcher heading over from Tore's cross.

West Ham improve after the break as Byram comes on for Tore and Antonio plays further up the pitch. We unexpectedly pull a goal back as Masuaku does really well to beat his man and get in a cross and Antonio rises above Clichy at the back post to head home.WHU threaten to sneak an equaliser by forcing several corners and Aguero is very fortunate the ref doesn't spot his elbow into Reid's throat. But City always threaten on the break and seconds after Nasri hits the post Sterling produces a clever finish in added time to make it a deserved 3-1 to the impressive City. But at least we showed some spirit in the second half.

Last season we got a point at Chelsea and won at City, so minus Payet we've gone backwards in our first two away games, though Chelsea and City have both improved. Best news of the day is that Big Sam has called up Antonio to the England squad. A two-week break beckons and a chance to integrate Zazu and get some players back.

Sunday, August 28

Zaza zoom

We've finally got the statement striker the club has been after all summer in the form of Simone Zaza. Loaning him for a season with an option to buy probably suits all parties. And his season's fee of around 5 million Euros isn't that different to Calleri's. Zaza certainly looked pretty tasty in the Betway Cup against us and thinks our stadium is "beautiful". Simone has won the league with Juventus, played for Italy in the Euros (best not mention that penalty) and is a genuinely A-list striker. I'm looking forward to seeing his left foot in action and after the Ayew and Carroll injuries it should give everyone at the club a lift. And he now joins our Z-list of strikers in Zarate, Zamora and Zaza.

Friday, August 26

Brexit for the Hammers

West Ham United 0 FC Astra Giurgiu 1 (Europa League)

Stratford station is struggling to cope with 60,000 fans at commuter time, but after a ten-minute wait on the stairs it’s through the Stratford Centre to the Best Café, which Matt suggests was named after Clyde. In a bid to add colour to the blog Matt and Lisa have been on The Line sculpture tour from the Greenwich Peninsula to Stratford, looking at a Damien Hirst but sadly no Geoff Hursts.

We follow a group of fans down the back streets and go through a warren of back streets, railway lines and tunnels that eventually lead to the Orbital and the stadium. It makes Nigel’s legendary short cut from Green Street to the Black Lion seem a model of directness.

West Ham have yet another injury in Mark Noble and Masuaku is cup-tied, though £5 million new signing Edimilson Fernandes is introduced to the crowd and manages to avoid injuring himself stepping on to the pitch, which is promising. Without nine players, it’s basically a West Ham second X1 and we are overstocked with holding midfielders in Nordtveit, Obiang and Kouyate.

After good work by Reece Burke on the left Calleri fluffs a one-on-one with Lung and that appears to unnerve West Ham. It’s a stolid first half as West Ham struggle to create before Nigel arrives late from the office. Just before the break Bryam doesn’t seem sure what to do on the right and plays an ambitious crossfield ball to Burke. Reece miscontrols with his head, Astra break and from the cross Teixeira has drifted beyond Byram to slot home past Randolph. “What was Byram doing? Why can’t Burke control it, he’s a f**ing professional footballer! Where was our defence?” rails Matt at the unfeeling heavens, pointing out that the scorer couldn’t get anywhere near West Brom’s first team.

At least West Ham have to go at Astra in the second half with Valencia on for Nordtveit. Calleri has a header tipped away by the iron Lung, though he should have scored, and Reid heads wide from a corner. Sub Ashley Fletcher replaces the toiling Argentine and makes a big difference, immediately winning a free kick after running at the defence. Valencia’s free kick is a decent effort but, as they say, a nice height for the keeper.

There’s another big chance as Fletcher turns to shoot against the keeper. Astra indulge in some terrible time wasting (with Lung getting booked for taking forever to take a goal kick) and rolling around the floor, which certainly helps to rekindle the noise among the crowd. The weak ref earns a hearty chorus of, “The referee’s a wanker!”

Tore is dribbling into trouble and the crowd are getting on to him, while Antonio is trying too hard and not getting in quality crosses. It’s all too much for the Vicar’s Son: “What was that? Get it on target! What’s Bilic doing? What is the point of bringing on Collins up front, that’s embarrassing!”

Four minutes of added time lead to the inevitable conclusion. “That’s four games we haven’t beaten Astra in,” concludes Matt. Last season’s work has been undone and we’re not going on a European tour. The first defeat and the first boos at the London Stadium.

“It’s just like walking into a room full of really angry men,” says Alison behind us, reprising her 1988 remark made after walking into the Chicken Run after a long exile in Spain.

“We’ll win at Man City now,” I suggest, rather over-optimistically.

“Oh well, it’s only a game,” says a man on the bridge to Stratford.

“But not a very good one,” replies Fraser.

Michael the Whovian is absent watching The Roundabout at The Park Theatre, so I text him to say that at our show the direction and staging were poor while our cast corpsed on stage.

There's a laser shining from the stadium up into the sky that appears to be the board calling for help from Batman. After a 20-minute walk we find the Railway on Leyton Road, which is a good traditional pub that serves Doom Bar, and console ourselves discussing the smallest clubs we’ve seen West Ham at, coming up with Macclesfield, Crewe, Shrewsbury and Barnet among others

Better news is that we might be on the point of signing Zaza from Juventus, though it could be a mistake and we end up getting 99-year-old Zsa Zsa Gabor.

We desperately need to get bodies fit and someone who can score goals. And to take the positives, we don’t have to play Astra again for at least another season.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Byram 5, Reid 6 Ogbonna 5, Burke 5 (Collins n/a); Nordtveit 4 (Valencia 5), Tore 5, Obiang 5, Kouyate 6, Antonio 5; Calleri 4 (Fletcher 7).

Wednesday, August 24

Sinkhole in Green Street

My pal Michael found this hole in Green Street rather poignant when he visited last Sunday…

Tuesday, August 23

Should we play Andy Carroll in midweek games?

So another injury for Andy Carroll. We feel for him, but it seems Bilic is losing patience.  He said after Sunday's game: "Andy is Andy. He's dedicated now to training, to everything, it's a big blow for us, a big question mark also and big frustration with these things that are happening to him. The worst situation is when you plan, then you can't count on him. All the time." 

With hindsight, the medical team and Bilic should have been much more cautious with him. He played against Chelsea on Monday and then came on as a sub at FC Astra on Thursday, which appears to be more than his body can cope with. I'd always opt for a seven-day gap between his games in the manner of managers who nurse older players through the season. We have the squad to rotate now. It's also possible Carroll has a high pain threshold and because he's brave plays on through injury when he should go off. 

Let's hope he's only out for four weeks. Andy looked in great form against Juventus, and I really hope he can make a success of his time at West Ham. But after this latest blow, he really does have to prove he can stay fit for the rest of the season.

Monday, August 22

Antonio makes history for the Hammers

West Ham United 1 Bournemouth 0

First-off it’s a cultural tour of Stratford where I discover that the Best Café on the Broadway does a Ken’s Café-style egg chips and beans (though sadly there’s no shouting of numbers at the customers). Then it’s a journey down The Grove to view Iron Maiden’s old local the Cart and Horses and then the Railway on Leyton Road, which has a pie and mash and Mrs Flipper stall in the beer garden.

Inside the stadium Michael announces that he‘s been to Ken’s Café. He found it was closed as Ken and Carol were doing the catering for a music festival, but did have an audience with the E13 legends. He also reports that there’s an RAF helicopter parked outside the Boleyn in preparation for the filming of Final Score.

Nigel’s returned from cycling in Burgundy and behind us there’s Alison, her nephew Joe with a pre-hipster beard and Steve from Cornwall who decided at 1.30am that sleep was for wimps and drove up to London. We’re also joined by Nigel’s old mate who used to sit with us at Upton Park, the bloke from the Treasury whom he bumped into at a Stranglers concert.

At first I think Matt is joking when he says Andy Carroll is out for six weeks. But no, a long-term Andy Carroll injury is as sure a sign of football returning as half and half scarves, Mourinho mind games and Wenger parsimony. It seems Andy’s done his knee in during a substitute appearance in Romania. We didn’t even need to bring him on. His last big injury came after playing in midweek at Southampton so surely it would have been safer to rest him at Astra?

Payet is missing too, with a slight knock. Matt worries that this means he’s going to be sold. You wonder if Harry Redknapp will be returning as we’re already down to the bare bones; our squad is minus seven players in Cresswell, Lanzini, Payet, Ayew, Carroll, Feghouli and Sakho.

Bournemouth’s Adam Smith has a tame effort saved and Matt wonders if he was a free market transfer. The first half is memorable only for a decent Valencia effort saved by Boruc. And for Nigel asking us to name the number one 1979 hit from the Charlie Daniels Band. The answer is of course The Devil Went Down to Georgia. For the Cherries Jordan Ibe inexplicably opts not to shoot when through and a great shot by Joshua King is acrobatically tipped over the bar by Adrian.

The side work hard with Masuaku and Byram solid at the back, but Noble and Kouyate struggle to create much, Tore doesn’t get quality crosses in and lone striker Valencia is outnumbered. The atmosphere is more raucous for a league match though, and it helps to have away fans, even if they are chanting, “Is this the Emirates?”

In the second half it takes some heavy-handed stewarding down in the corner by the Bobby Moore Stand to rouse the crowd with hearty cries of “We’ll stand when we want!” as the stewards eject a persistent stander and it all threatens to kick-off.

Michael suggests that Tore might be the next Vaz Te. The game increases in intensity as Antonio crosses and Tore fires a difficult chance into the side netting. Antonio switches  wings with Tore and our formation looks more effective. 

Harry Arter (Scott Parker’s brother-in-law) brings down Kouyate after 77 minutes and is sent off for a second yellow card. Finally West Ham have two strikers as Calleri and Fletcher come on.

It looks like it might still end 0-0 until five minutes from time, when Antonio beats his full back but overhits the cross. Tore retrieves on the left, skilfully beats his man and stands up a superb cross for Antonio to rise above Charlie Daniels and head home. The isle really is full of noises as the fans celebrate the first league goal at the London Stadium. Good end to a difficult week for Michail, who’s finally playing in his correct position.

“One-nil up against ten men what could possibly go wrong?” asks Nigel.

As added time arrives Bournemouth send in a long throw, King gets in a shot and Adrian makes a brilliant save. From the follow-up Winston Reid makes a fantastic block with his head. Phew. Bournemouth’s next long throw sees them lose the ball and Mark Noble set Calleri clear. He cuts inside the defender well but then shoots wide when it should have been 2-0.

Respecting the non-pint
But it’s a gritty win in the end and credit to Adrian for making two outstanding saves. Four years after London 2012 more history has been made at the Olympic Stadium. Fraser, Michael and myself make some more history after that by persuading Nigel to try a hipster bar at Hackney Wick. Crate is too crowded to get served so we try Tank. Indeed, huge tanks of craft beer stand behind the bar. Nigel asks if they do pints. “That’s so last century,” quips Camra-member Michael as we sip our two thirds of a pint glasses of Howling Hops ale. Yes, Tank is so hip it is no longer respecting the pint.

Then it’s on to Number 90, where the lads drink pints of 'Shithouse' and Grolsch and we sit by the canal and watch the Hoegaarden garden barge moor, which is all very different to the Central. In the gents we discover there’s a man handing out towels. We concur that the person handing out towels in the gents at the Central would have had the worst job in the world.

We retreat on to the Overground happy with three points and slightly bemused by Hackney Wick’s Sweeney-esque aura of gentrification. We’re up and running at our new home.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 8, Byram 6, Reid 7, Collins 6, Masuaku 6; Nordveit 5 (Fletcher 5), Antonio 7, Noble 6, Kouyate 6, Tore 6 (Obiang n/a), Valencia 5 (Calleri 5).

Friday, August 19

Drawing drawing West Ham

FC Astra Giurgiu 1 West Ham United 1 (Europa League)

Had to miss the live coverage of this as Her Indoors had booked us into an improving lecture at Somerset House (the perils of being a middle-class football fan). Looking at the highlights it all hinged on the 80th minute when sub Marcus Browne did really well to beat the last defender and race clear down the left, before squaring to Antonio. It looked like Antonio, restored to his rightful position in midfield, had a tap-in. But somehow he managed to stroke the ball into the side-netting. These things happen, but to compound that error a minute later Astra equalised from a corner after Alibec (who according to Matt's incendiary text is "a 20-stone pub player") managed to turn Collins and fire into the roof of the net. So what should have been a 2-0 lead became 1-1. Nobes had scored our first from the spot after Tore's corner saw a defender handball. Antonio had a header off the line and Calleri also had a decent headed chance. From the Facebook posts it wasn't a great performance but it was good to see Burke and Oxford get game time at the back and Byram in at right-back. The tie is now nicely set up for the second leg and as Bilic says, "if we can't win at home then we don't deserve to be in the Europa League."

Thursday, August 18


There goes our £20.5 million signing. David Gold estimates Andre Ayew will be out for four months having injured his quadriceps and the club describe it as a "significant injury". It all seemed a fairly innocuous thigh strain back on Monday night. Presumably Andre had a normal pre-season at Swansea, so it just seems a case of very bad luck. I'm reminded of the time Kieron Dyer joined us for £6 million in 2007 and immediately got crocked at Bristol Rovers — though hopefully Andre will make a much better long-term recovery than Kieron. West Ham have also now lost Feghouli and Nordtveit to injury, with Lanzini out until September and Cresswell out for several months. Even want away Diafra Sakho is injured. Still, this is where the squad has to kick in and Calleri, Valencia and Fletcher all have points to prove to Bilic up front. While we're more reliant than ever on Andy Carroll having a season where he stays fit. Just hope he escapes a Romanian clogging at FC Astra tonight…

Wednesday, August 17

Sit down if you love West Ham?

So the Bournemouth game will be played before 57,000 fans as the jobsworths at the London Stadium Safety Advisory Group and Newham Council have refused to up the capacity to 60,000, claiming there was "dangerous standing" by some fans at the previous two games. Presumably this is in the Bobby Moore Stand area. You'd have thought the authorities might be a bit more lenient when we're trying to avoid a sanitised atmosphere and get some songs going. Long term there's surely a case for safe standing areas as in the Bundesliga. Check out the Football Supporters Federation's campaign here. I can see it might be annoying if you want to sit down and find yourself lumped with people standing up all the time, but you would have imagined things would have sorted themselves out and standing up doesn't feel that dangerous with all the new legroom. But for the time being I guess we have to sit down and get the capacity up to 60,000 before we can really go wild and stand up if we hate Tottenham.

Tuesday, August 16

Costa twists Chelsea dagger as Hammers lose it late

Chelsea 2 West Ham 1

It’s off to the Grafton Arms at Victoria for this one, where Nigel arrives in his white Martin Bell suit to meet Fraser, a tardy Matt and Nigel’s mate Patrick. Nigel’s been cycling in France for two weeks and needs updates on WHU’s many signings and stadium migration. He then asks which West Ham legend sent a twitter message to Matt and himself. Ian Bishop? Steve Potts? No, turns out it was Sir Geoff Hurst who said that he wasn’t ignored at the Boleyn closing ceremony but had a longstanding prior engagement so he couldn’t make it.

We’re not sure why Feghouli and Ogbonna are missing, but Collins and Ayew come in. West Ham are on the defensive from the off. It all looks ominous for the Irons when star signing André Ayew plus up with a thigh strain and has to go off after 35 minutes. Lisa texts Matt to say that Ayew’s a true West Ham player. Chelsea dominate though West Ham defend reasonably well with Masuako looking solid at left-back. Adrian tips over a Willian free kick and Oscar has a dodgy penalty appeal turned down and that’s about it.

West Ham’s performance is worrying; Nordtveit looks off the pace in midfield, Noble and Kouyate don’t really effect the game against Kante, Valencia goes missing, Tore doesn’t make any impact from the bench and a frustrated Andy Carroll is completely isolated.

Michael the non-Whovian texts from the corporate section at Chelsea to say that Noble is having a ’mare. I make the mistake of going to the gents during the ad break and come back to discover it’s a penalty to Chelsea in the 46th minute. Antonio has tried to dribble out of defence when he twice could have cleared. He’s lost possession and then panicked to bring down Azpilicueta.

The plastic Chelsea fans at the other end of the pub celebrate as Eden Hazard fires home. The penalty is further evidence that Antonio is not a natural defender. Bilic replaces him with Byram —who does well and plays sensibly — soon after that error, though I’d rather see Antonio pushed up to midfield. Mikhail’s a fine player on the wing. Shouldn’t we just do the simple thing and play him there?

It looks like a case of keeping the score down against a motivated Chelsea as Adrian makes a fine save from Willian. Our only hope is Payet, who replaces Nordtveit after 67 minutes. Ten minutes later Payet’s free kick is deflected wide for a corner. From Dimitri’s corner Collins' initial header ricochets off Valencia into the path of James Collins who lashes the ball home, much to the glee of the away fans. There’s dancing in the seats of the Grafton. It’s our first shot on target from the Ginger Pele.

Can we hold on? Diego Costa is lucky to be on the pitch, having already been booked and then going in very late on Adrian. So it seems inevitable Costa will then score. With a minute to go Batshuayi wins a header and Chelsea's Captain Haddock lookalike is given too much time just outside the box and fires a low shot into the net.The ball goes through Collins' legs, but as it wasn’t right in the corner you do feel the otherwise excellent Adrian might have got a hand to it. Chelsea gaffer Conte showboats by leaping into the crowd. Payet has a late effort straight at the keeper then it's over. Chelsea deserve the points having dominated the game, but having got in a position to grab a bonus point we shouldn’t have let it go.

It’s only the first game but this looked like we were going backwards and two shots on target isn’t good enough, as Bilic admitted. It’s now vitally important we put in a shift at Astra and get three points against Bournemouth.

Monday, August 15

The battle of Stamford Bridge

Went to Battle Abbey this weekend where we learned that King Harold came unstuck against William the Conqueror after first winning the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 against a Jose Mourinho-inspired team of Vikings. Not sure what warriors King Slaven will pick tonight but I'd anticipate that King Arthur Masuaku will make his debut at left back and that Antonio will continue at right-back, though I'd still rather see Byram in that position. With Payet likely to be on the bench after his exertions in France and Lanzini out until September it seems likely that Havard Nordtveit will anchor the midfield behind Noble and Kouyate and that Sofiane Feghouli will continue on the right wing. It's likely that £20m Andre Ayew will come in to partner Andy Carroll up front, though Bilic might start with Enner Valencia who has looked sharp in pre-season, despite some erratic finishing. It's going to be a very difficult match though, with Chelsea out to impress new boss Conte and fielding new signing Kante in midfield and having new striker Batshuayi, a West Ham target, on the bench after the Euros. Let's hope we get something out of this. Irons!

Saturday, August 13

More strike power for the Hammers

Another striker has arrived at West Ham in the form of 22-year-old Jonathan Calleri. The Guardian reports that WHU had to pay £4 million to secure him on a year-long loan in a complicated economic rights deal with the Stellar Group. An Argentina Under-23 international, he made his name with Boca Juniors and then Uruguayan side Deportivo Maldonado (not a team from Maldon, Essex). 

Meanwhile Jermaine Jenas in the Evening Standard picked out Andy Carroll as one of his Premier League players with something to prove. And it seems like his "missus" Billi Mucklow is having a good influence. After the Juventus game Andy revealed in the Standard: “It started probably when my missus got on my case. I thought, ‘I have to listen to her’... I’ve had to take a step back, go in the gym, do some lighter work or have a second recovery day where before, I would be out there on the pitch and wanting to be there all the time. With my second goal against Juventus, I took out four players including some of my own team-mates. I used to do that in training as well which wasn’t very good for me – or our players." Wonder if there's a place for Billi on our coaching staff

Tuesday, August 9

Ayew signs for club record £20.5 million

West Ham have finally signed Andre Ayew for a club record £20.5 million. It's a bit worrying when a player who scores 12 goals in a season is worth that kind of money, though in the age of Pogba that's probably the going rate. Should WHU eventually manage to sell Diafra Sakho for £15 million we'll get most of the fee back. A lot of Ayew's Swansea goals came in the first third of last season and he scored four in the final three matches when not too much was at stake (including one against West Ham in the 4-1 home defeat to the Swans). But he's undoubtedly a good finisher and provided quite a few assists from out wide too. 

My pal Huw who's a Swansea fan says Ayew looked impressive in away games, though those who watched him every week at home were more sceptical. He's played 67 times for Ghana and scored every fourth game for Marseille (160 appearances, 44 goals). At 26 Andre should be coming into his peak years and with a strike force of Carroll, Ayew, Valencia, Fletcher and possibly Sakho we now have plenty of strength up front.

Monday, August 8

Hammers sign king Arthur

Good news is West Ham have finally signed a new left-back having completed a four-year deal for Olympiakos's Arthur Masuaku. At 22 he's won the title twice with Olympiakos and has played in Ligue 1 for Valenciennes. He's also played in the Champions League and for the French Under-19 side so should be real competition for Cresswell. As it is he's guaranteed four of five months in the side while Cresswell recovers so should have plenty of time to bed in. Meanwhile Swansea have accepted West Ham's £20 million offer for Andre Ayew, but Swansea appear to be waiting to sign a replacement before the deal goes through.

Sunday, August 7

3-2 in our cup final…

West Ham 2 Juventus 3 (Betway Cup)

It’s an experimental journey to Hackney Wick with my elder daughter Lola, who is impressed by the hipster quotient outside the station. Walking from the Overground is easy enough, past the Copper Box and then up to the sculpture of a giant bell, inscribed with Shakespeare’s lines from The Tempest, “Do not be afeard, the isle is full of noises.” Well, Shakespeare did come from Stratford.

The stalls outside the ground are predictably expensive, and we pay £6 for a pastie and £3 for potato wedges. But the branding is looking good and an hour before kick-off fans are posing before the crossed hammers and “We’ve got Payet” murals.

Inside the stadium each seat has a “commemorative plastic bag” that we hold up at kick-off to make a giant "come on you Irons". Matt, Lisa and Michael the Renaissance Fan are with us, with Michael pleasantly surprised by the stadium on his first visit. The opening ceremony sees all-white clad dancers holding up letters spelling out “Thank you founders” and giant claret and blue and Oxford blue Thames Ironworks shirts on the pitch. Then there’s lots of flames and fireworks and a woman singing God Save the Queen (not the Sex Pistols' version).

It’s difficult to read too much into the game as it’s essentially a pre-season friendly and with unlimited subs both teams change virtually their entire starting elevens. But it’s a pleasure to see stars such as legendary goalkeeper Buffon, Dani Alves, Dybala and latterly Higuain and Chiellini. Matt reveals that he last saw Buffon give way a rubbish goal for Italy Under-21s at Bristol City in 1988, not that he remembers every game.

Juventus play some really nice passing football early on and after Valencia hits the post, Juventus go ahead through the impressive Dybala. Winston Reid goes to ground for the second as Mandzukic finishes well.

“We can’t lose our own cup!” says Lola at 0-2 down.

“Well, we might get runners up medals,” I suggest.

Should we make a comeback we wonder if the Betway Cup will be added to the list of three honours on the Betway Stand. Fraser is still upset the Intertoto Cup hasn’t been included.

But better news for the Irons is that Andy Carroll is looking sharp. Byram’s cross sees Buffon make a great save from Carroll’s header, but Andy is sharp enough to poke home the rebound.

At half-time we retreat to the concourse where Lola and Michael discuss the musical Hamilton and Matt wonders why there’s a musical about Ukip’s leader in Wales.

The second half sees sub James Collins raise the crowd with some timely clearances and Andy Carroll score with another thumping header from Noble’s free kick. The dream is back on. A bewildering number of substitutions follow but it’s good to see the likes of Reece Burke, Marcus Browne, Martin Samuelson, Ashley Fletcher and the lively Domingos Quina get work-outs. Though the biggest cheer is reserved for sub Dimitri Payet. When “We’ve got Payet!” rings round the stadium there’s some hope for a real atmosphere developing for future games.

Ginger Pele gets a huge cheer for tackling Higuain, meaning Collins is worth at least £100 million. But Juventus still continue to threaten and Simone Zaza hits the winner with five minutes left after the West Ham defence fails to counter a high ball.

We stay to see the Betway Cup presented to Gianluigi Buffon. “He might have won the World Cup, but the Betway Cup is the big one,” suggests Matt.

We find the walk to Hackney Wick is easy, though we discover that Number 90 doesn’t admit anyone in football shirts. The hipster bar Grow with its waterside terrace is more inviting for future visits. The station is surprisingly crowd-free and we even get a seat on the Overground.

We might have lost our first cup final of the season, but it’s been a fairly relaxed afternoon in the sun. Next week the real stuff begins.