Wednesday, November 30

Goodbye to the East Stand

Had a look at the Boleyn Ground while signing at the Newham Bookshop on Saturday. The ground is still intact but the roof of the East Stand has gone. Just wish they'd get it over with quickly now. RIP Upton Park.

Tuesday, November 29

Sakho out for four weeks

You wait all season for a West Ham striker to score a goal and then he's out for four weeks with a hamstring injury. Really bad news to hear of Diafra Sakho's injury, though not uncommon with players who have been out for a long time. Meanwhile the Sun reports that the club are speaking to Simone Zaza's advisers about removing the compulsory buy-out clause in his contract. It would certainly take the pressure off both player and club if it could be removed — and why was it included in the first place? Seems like we'll be needing a combination of Ayew, Zaza and Fletcher over December and we have to hope Simone becomes a different player should he eventually score and regain his confidence. 

Sunday, November 27

Great point for Hammers at Old Trafford

Manchester United 1 West Ham United 1

A great point at Old Trafford and as a bonus Jose Mourinho was sent off again by referee Jonathan Moss. The same ref sent Mourinho off when Chelsea lost 2-1 at Upton Park last season and Jose was taunted in the stand by royal supporter Danny Dyer. 

Finally a West Ham forward has scored this season with Diafra Sakho diving to head home Payet's free kick after two minutes. Collins lost Ibrahimovic for the equaliser, but listening to the match on Radio London it was a well-deserved draw and our fans were loud throughout — particularly the instruction to "f••k off Mourinho!" 

Darren Randolph had to make several fine saves most notably from Rashford and Lingard, but West Ham could have won it late on when Antonio brke fro his own area and sub Ashley Fletcher forced a fine save from De Gea. Sounds like Antonio had a great game on the right and Ogbonna and Kouyate did really well too. This result could be a significant psychological boost after the defeat at Tottenham as it's the first time this season WHU have taken a point off one of the top six. And for once I'm looking forward to watching Match of the Day.

Brought to book in Newham

Thanks to everyone who came to the Newham Bookshop signing yesterday, including loyal WHU fans from Grays and South Woodham Ferrrers. Very honoured to see Goodbye to Boleyn next to Alan Bennett on Vivian' s top table. One writer chronicles a series of eccentric characters with damaged lives and thwarted expectations while the other is Alan Bennett.

Friday, November 25

Bilic deserves time to turn West Ham around

Big piece in the Daily Telegraph this week claiming that the position of Slaven Bilic is under threat. It's fair to say that Sullivan and Gold will be jumpy if they think their new stadium might be seeing Championship football next season. Bilic has certainly made mistakes this season, including bringing on Nordtveit for Payet against Spurs, trying to convert Antonio into a right back and bringing on Andy Carroll in a midweek Europa League tie at Astra, which led to Andy's long-term injury. 

The transfer signings have also been very poor, though it's possible David Sullivan was behind some of the purchases. Gokhan Tore was certainly a Bilic signing as Slaven knew him from Besiktas, while the manager must have had a say in most of the other signings. Far too many squad players were purchased for a Europa League campaign that never materialised.

But having said that, Slaven has a lot of credit in the bank from last season. He's still the same man who seemed to really get what managing West Ham was all about, who recognised the West Ham way and spoke of fantasy and dreams after the FA Cup win against Liverpool. If he is to blame for the current signings then he is also to be praised for the players who came in last season such as Payet, Ogbonna, Antonio and Lanzini. Under Slaven we won at Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City and Everton for the first time in decades. We finished seventh and should have been at least sixth and maybe higher if the refs had been kinder. 

There's been bad luck with injuries to Cresswell, Sakho, Ayew and Carroll and a team trying to adapt to a vast new stadium. Bilic has shown tactical flexibility to try and turn the season round; playing three men at the back with wing-backs and Obiang in midfield has improved results, with only two losses in the last seven matches. We were minutes away from a result at Spurs. It's not a crisis yet, though it might be if West Ham fail to beat Burnley and Hull City in home matches in December.

There aren't a lot of alternatives either. Roberto Mancini is a good manager, but Eddie Howe and Roberto Matinez are not going to leave their clubs mid-season. And the other manager who is an expert at keeping clubs up and is available right now is, erm, Big Sam Allardyce.

Bilic surely deserves a chance to salvage the season and rectify some of the summer's mistakes in the transfer window.

Wednesday, November 23

Goodbye to Boleyn signing at the Newham Bookshop

If anyone fancies a trip to Upton Park this Saturday, Nov 26, I'll be signing copies of Goodbye to Boleyn from 12 noon-2pm at the Newham Bookshop Christmas Discount Day. Also hoping not to shed a tear walking past the rubble of the East Stand. It's 20 per cent off all books on the day so do come along to London's best independent bookshop at 745-747 Barking Road. There's also a chapter on the Newham Bookshop in Goodbye To Boleyn which Vivian might, if pressed, agree to sign.

Tuesday, November 22

Substitute for another guy…

A lot has been said about the substitution of Dimitri Payet on Saturday and one thing the Spurs defeat illustrated was that West Ham might have a decent first X1 but lack quality on the bench. Fernandes for Ayew was understandable as Edmilison looks promising. But replacing Dimitri Payet with Havard Nordtveit was always a big risk; admittedly Payet had been away on international duty and bolstering the defence was sensible at 2-1 up, but Nordtveit has never looked Premiership class and duly gave away the fateful penalty. 

I'd always prefer to keep Dimitri on the pitch as if it does go wrong, as against Spurs, he's the one player who might be able to salvage something in added time with a touch of brilliance. It would have made more sense to take off Lanzini for a defender. 

Diafra Sakho was understandably tired after 61 minutes and was replaced with Zaza, who made a decent break but failed to play in Payet when it could have been 3-1. There's certainly a case for returning misfiring loanees Zaza, Tore and Calleri with their dispatch notes, while Feghouli and Nordtveit look below standard. I'd rather stick with the kids on the bench plus players we trust such as Collins and Fernandes, and when fit Carroll, Byram, Arbeloa, Masuaku and Oxford. 

Sunday, November 20

Heartbreak at the Lane

Tottenham 3 West Ham 2

Another defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. At least I didn’t have to watch this live as Her Indoors had booked us tickets for Giselle at Sadler’s Wells — though I was hoping for some working class ballet at White Hart Lane.

Adrian’s dropped and Sakho plays up front with Ayew. Seems like West Ham play pretty well for most of the game, taking the lead through Antonio who reacts well to head in after Kouyate’s header hits the bar and Reid crosses back in to the box. Randolph makes a decent save from Janssen only to deflect the ball into the path of Winks for a second-half Spurs equaliser. But it looks like West Ham have won the game after the ref gives a penalty for pulling by Janssen on Reid and Lanzini calmly slots home.

A key moment in the game is when sub Zaza shows good skill to beat his man on the counter attack but then delays too long in passing to the unmarked Payet. It’s still 2-1 with a minute to go, but the introduction of Son for Spurs changes the game. The winger beats Antonio and crosses, with Randolph palming the ball out to Kane who can’t miss. Now is the time to respect the point. But two minutes later Son gets through on the left again and sub Nordtveit foolishly goes to ground to make a tackle and his trailing leg catches the Spurs man, who makes the most of it and persuades the ref to point to the spot. Kane converts as expected.

There’s still time for the outstanding Winston Reid to get sent off for two silly bookable offences, though at least he’s showing passion. A sickening result and we’re now really in a relegation struggle, even if there was some promise in the overall performance. I'm now tempted to give up football for ballet as at least you sometimes get to see a tutu.

Friday, November 18

Caps for Cresswell and Edimilson; Sakho close to return

A good week for Aaron Cresswell and Edimilson Fernandes with both making their full international debuts for England and Switzerland. It's been a strange few weeks for Aaron. He's managed to return at Palace, make a goal and get sent off, miss the Sundeland game through suspension, play in the League Cup win against Chelsea and get 11 minutes (plus six of added time) in for England — even if England did give away two goals while he was on the pitch, which must have made him feel like he was back with West Ham. Good to see young Edimilson get a game too as he looks really adaptable and one of our few decent summer signings.

Meanwhile Mark Noble is suspended for the trip to White Hart Lane tomorrow, but better news is that Sakho might even play and Andy Carroll could be back in a week or so. Let's hope Sakho can still score when he wants as no one else can… If we ever do get all our strikers fit there might be the intriguing prospect of having Big Andy flanked by Ayew and Sakho if we're chasing a game. Zaza looks like he's on his way back to Italy and Calleri hasn't cut it, so it looks like we'll be relying on Ayew, Sakho, Carroll and Fletcher for the rest of the season — and a goal from one of them would certainly be long overdue.

Tuesday, November 15

Goodbye To Boleyn out today

Goodbye to Boleyn, my story of West Ham's Final Season at Upton Park and the Big Kick-off At Stratford is published today by Biteback. Expect Ken's Cafe, dodgy beer, Dimitri Payet, claret and blue Barnets and lucky Dukla Prague away shirts in equal measure. It all seems like a different world now, when West Ham were challenging for the top four and we had a fit Andy Carroll, James Tomkins, Mauro Zarate, Carl Jenkinson and Victor Moses and were tonking Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City on their own grounds. Mr Moon was in charge of stadium security and John Lewis was just a bloke in the Bobby Moore Stand. Football moves on very quickly… More info via the link on the right.

Saturday, November 12

Striker light

Looks like Simone Zaza might be going in a swap deal to Napoli according to press rumours and comments from Simone's dad. West Ham would get Napoli's Manolo Gabbiadini in exchange. The whole Zaza deal has been a disaster so far and the 14-game buying clause has heaped pressure on both the player and club. If we get a loan player again then let's make sure it's for the whole season. And will another Italian striker who will take time to adapt be the answer? 

Meanwhile Diafra Sakho should be fit after the international break and may go straight into the first team at Tottenham according to the Evening Standard. If his head is right then Sakho is the best finisher we have at the club. Last season he appeared to be a young man struggling with too much wealth too soon but we have to hope that a failed move to West Brom and a lengthy spell out with a back injury have concentrated his mind.

Just read that West Ham have signed 32 strikers under Sullivan and Gold and very few have been successes. Demba Ba, Ricardo Vaz Te, Ilan and Diafra Sakho all did a job but we've had a lot of failures such as Benni McCarthy, Mido, John Carew, Sam Baldock, Andy Carroll (through injury not lack of talent), Modibo Maiga, Enner Valencia, Emenike, Zaza and Calleri. Andre Ayew might come good, but the next striker we sign really has to be a success. 

Friday, November 11

Trumping the Hammers

Strange that the truly seismic shock of Aaron Cresswell finally being called up for England has been eclipsed by some bar-room philosopher becoming President of the United States. Just hope that Barack Obama didn't mention his visit to West Ham to Trumpy and that The Donald hasn't noticed Jack Sullivan tweeting that he was hoping for a Trump victory. I keep having this recurring nightmare of Trump deciding to buy an English soccer club and turning West Ham into the best golf course in E20. Though admittedly we do have the space for it.

Tuesday, November 8

We've not got Payet?

A lot has been made in the press of Dimitri Payet's comment to French television: “Will I go in January? I’m asking other questions right now but I’ve closed the door to nothing.” We all hope he stays but West Ham will be to blame if he does leave. Having signed our first world-class player in decades he needed to be convinced that we could follow-up last season's seventh place with another season challenging for the top six and having a tilt at the Europa League. 

What would surely have kept Payet happy would have been to sign a top class striker to benefit from Dimitri's service. We've been unlucky having Sakho and Carroll injured but the new signings have been abysmal. Zaza and Calleri have flopped, while Fletcher still looks raw and none of them has scored a goal. Had the Hammers signed a world-class striker, or even a proven PL scorer such as  Christian Benteke, Payet would surely be a lot happier. At present he's seeing his work go to waste and despite two goals and several assists this season he looks dispirited and it's hard to blame him. 

Bilic must convince Payet that things will change during the pair's crisis talks. Though with rumours of a loan move for Cesc Fabregas (who again would need a decent striker to serve) it's not looking promising.

Sunday, November 6

Adrian's rush of blood costs Hammers

 West Ham 1 Stoke City 1

First off it’s a Hardy-esque journey to Ken’s Café with Michael and Matt, only to find its sacred portals closed. At least the Newham Bookshop is open and the Betway Stand is still standing. So it’s the 330 bus back to Stratford and the Clyde Best Café where Lisa bravely tries the veggie burger and Nigel gets locked in the lavatory as we depart.

Our numbers are down; Fraser and Scott are both ill and Steve the Cornish postman is working —  though Michael suggests that he should just deliver his letters a day late as people move to Cornwall for a more relaxed pace of life. Meanwhile Alison’s back from seeing Pub Landlord Al Murray instead of the Chelsea game and her sister Roz has been at a Laindon golf club function with new besties Billy Bonds and Alvin Martin.

The first half is a poor quality game. West Ham look much more difficult to beat with three at the back and Obiang in front of the defence, but also struggle to create against Stoke’s five-man midfield. Lanzini tries a lot of dinked passes but nothing quite comes off while Ayew looks too slight to play the lone striker role.

Kouyate has to make an acrobatic clearance from Walters’ dangerous cross early on. West Ham’s best chance comes from a corner when Grant makes a great save from Ogbonna’s firm header. In added time Payet's free kick goes just over the bar and that’s about it for the first half. The Stoke fans treat us to Delilah and the Christmas onesies on the big screen are quite entertaining.

Bilic has seen enough and brings on Fernandes and Fletcher with half an hour left. Three minutes later West Ham take the lead as Noble feeds Payet on the left and Dimitri’s delicate cross appears to be headed in by Antonio, although his header has taken a deflection of Stoke’s Whelan and it’s credited as an own goal.

West Ham start to look capable of getting a second until Adrian dashes from his line to try to clear a hopeful pass from Adam. With four defenders back there’s little danger but the keeper fouls Walters and should conceded a penalty — but  ref Andre Marriner plays the advantage allowing Bojan to produce a crisp finish from Walters’ cross.

West Ham’s confidence dips and Fletcher, after producing some neat touches, dwells on the ball too long in a couple of late attacks. The ref tries very hard not to book Joe Allen, much to the outrage of the bloke next to us. At the end Charlie Adam almost wins it for Stoke with a free kick that is rather nervously tipped round the post by Adrian.

“I wish I’d stayed locked in the loo at the Clyde Best Café,” quips Nigel.

The good news is that there’s no crowd trouble and none of our players have been chased by armed motorcyclists.

“It’s starting to feel like a proper West Ham season,” muses Michael as we trudge through the chill air past the riot police guarding the shouting tunnel to Stratford, contemplating a relegation struggle.

Then it’s a pint in the Stratford East Theatre’s Workshop bar and the sobering thought that our next four opponents are Spurs, Man United twice, Arsenal and Liverpool.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 4; Kouyate 6, Ogbonna 6, Collins 6; Cresswell 5, Payet 6, Noble 6, Obiang 6 (Feghouli n/a), Lanzini 5 (Fernandes 5), Antonio 6; Ayew 5 (Fletcher 5).

Friday, November 4

Boleyn bound

Exciting moment. The first copies of Goodbye To Boleyn have just arrived and the cover looks great. It's published by Biteback on November 15 and was inspired by this very blog. Click on the link for more info…

Thursday, November 3

Andy Carroll chased by armed motorcyclists

Just another day at West Ham. Andy Carroll has been chased by armed motorcyclists (he says they made gestures indicating they had a gun) as he drove home from training. Slaven Bilic thinks he was targeted and says the villains were after Andy's watch and that he is "a brave man". Luckily Carroll managed to drive back to WHU's training ground at Rush Green and alert the police. 

Meanwhile David Edmonds the chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation has resigned and it's estimated in the Guardian that moving the retractable stands back to football mode in the summer will cost a whacking £8 million instead of £300,000. One thing about supporting West Ham — it's never dull. 

Wednesday, November 2

Having a Mayor

Yet more stadium stuff… Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has ordered an inquiry into the spiralling costs of converting the Olympic Stadium into a football venue. It's emerged that the bill has gone up another £51 million to £323 million. And it turns out that Alto Seating Solutions the company responsible for converting the stadium into different modes has gone bust. Instead of costing £300,000 to convert each time the process has to go out to tender, greatly increasing costs. The cost of the roof was also much more than expected. 

Meanwhile the Evening Standard reports that because of the demise of Alto Seating Solutions West Ham won't be able to play at home next season until September as the stadium has to be converted from the World Athletics Championship. 

Long term you do think it might be better if either the landlords sold the stadium to West Ham or abandoned athletics and just rented it for football, rugby and concerts. That way the stadium could be in permanent football mode and there might even be a way of extending the stands closer to the pitch.