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
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.
BYRAM AND BURKE BYPASSED BY BREAKAWAY
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
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
AN IRRATIONAL HATRED OF FC ASTRA
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
“Oh well, it’s only a game,” says a man on the bridge to
“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
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.