Sunday, January 31

Randolph earns Hammers replay

Matt and Lisa's view from the away end
Off to the lucky/unlucky pub The Hole In The Wall at Waterloo where our posse has seen West Ham both win at Arsenal and get thrashed at Spurs. Fraser and myself opt for the Jurassic ale, which has kept pretty well over the millennia. Matt and Lisa are at the game having opted for a romantic mini-break in a boutique hotel with a bonus trip on the 26 bus to Anfield, soft lad.

There's not much to report when Michael arrives close to half-time, bar Randolph making a great save to tip Brannigan's shot around the post and Obiang volleying just wide after O'Brien's cross is cleared. The ref has also missed a double handball by Caulker in the box. And we've accrued the usual injuries; Tomkins has got a bleeding face after a clash of heads and Kouyate looks like he's done his knee. So we get a very rare sighting of Joey O'Brien.

It's not a great game and for much of the game Fraser is left rehearsing his cowboy accent for the reading of his Western to a bunch of goddam literary agents, while Michael is high on steroids for his sinus condition, which is probably just as well.

Liverpool are playing squad players and kids, though Smith, Branagan and Teixeira all appear promising and in the second half they look more dangerous against almost our strongest line-up. Even Payet has an off-day. Randolph has to make a good stop from Teixeira and towards the end makes a great triple save denying Benteke and then blocking two follow-ups. We've got a quality back-up for Adrian, who's in Spain for the birth of his first child. 

Antonio heads against the post at the death but Cresswell's cross had already gone behind the line. It ends 0-0 which is a good result, though also a missed opportunity as only Mignolet and Clyne were Liverpool regulars. Though perhaps also a sign of progress to be upset at not beating Liverpol for a third time in one season. So now it's back to Upton  Park, though Liverpool will surely play a stronger team in the replay.

Friday, January 29

The world wakes up to Dimitri

A little worrying that Match of the Day is starting to wake up to the skills of Dimitri Payet and the Evening Standard's Patrick Barclay has suggested he should be in the running for the Footballer of the Year trophy. We don't want to alert the world's elite clubs to just how good he is. I'm still trying to work out what he did when beating three defenders at Bournemouth to create Valencia's goal, which looked like a back-heeled nutmeg. 

But the problem is the Champions League clubs must also be looking at Dimitri enviously. He would certainly improve Man United or Liverpool and would fit into the Arsenal and Man City teams easily enough, as well as most of Europe's elite sides. Thankfully Slaven Bilic has said that "no money in the world" would tempt West Ham to sell Payet and Sullivan and Gold must realise that we have to hold on to him at all costs. We also have the lure of the Olympic Stadium to keep Payet at the club and the possibility of European football. And he seems genuinely moved by the love of the fans; there surely isn't another club that would give him his own song to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart.

Tuesday, January 26

Jenkinson out for season

Bad news is that Carl Jenkinson is out for the season following his injury against Manchester City. The Daily Mirror says it's his cruciate ligament. Jenks has now returned to Arsenal. A real shame, as although he's not been as impressive as last season, he's always given it everything and has scored twice this season. Just as well West Ham have signed Sam Byram and have James Tomkins ready to fit in at right-back too. And there's always Joey O'Brien although he seems to have been out for ages too. Let's wish Carl a full recovery from a devastating injury.

Meanwhile the Evening Standard reveals that Alex Song removed his Edgar Davids-stytle protective glasses because he couldn't see well enough in them against Man City. He certainly had a great game without them. Song has had an "eye problem" and has been told by doctors to guard against infection by wearing the specs.

Sunday, January 24

Enner Valencia double almost does it for Hammers in City classic

West Ham 2 Manchester City 2

In Ken’s Café Matt has forgotten his unlucky Dukla Prague away shirt, while Nigel and CQ have forgotten CQ’s not-very lucky aniseed balls. Michael the Whovian has got his big breakfast in early, but is not impressed with Steven Moffat’s successor as Doctor Who showrunner. We discuss the death of David Bowie and wonder if David ever liked football. He went to a game once apparently, but was put off by too many programme ch-ch-changes.

I’m with my daughter, 17-year-old Lola, who becomes quite tearful thinking this might be the last time she visits Upton Park and has egg chips and beans with two slices and a cup of tea in Ken’s. Today we’re in borrowed seats in the West Stand, provided through the efforts of West Ham Till I Die.

On the way to our new seats we bump into my old school mate Steve, up from Cornwall for the match — though I’m not sure if he’s in a box with Russell Brand and Noel Gallagher, he could just be with Alison and Scott.

It’s the usual slow start. Kouyate leaves Toure looking as mobile as the Belly Busters burger stall on Green Street as he speeds past him on the left and crosses into the box. Valencia is lurking on the edge of the box and prods home under Hart. After a mere 53 seconds. “It’s not always like this!” I tell me disbelieving daughter. Upton Park bounces to our new theme song of “We’ve got Payet!”

The thought occurs that we might have just made City angry. They play some crisp, fluid stuff going forward and Aguero produces a brilliant lob that bounces off Adrian’s post, before Reid chests it back to the grateful custodian. After seven minutes Aguero breaks on the left and Jenkinson takes player and ball for a softish looking penalty. Aguero duly dispatches and the City fans sing, “We’re not really here!” Some start to the game.

Instead of crumbling the Hammers come right back into it. Payet looks better than De Bruyne, Toure and Silva and all City’s superstars. In our borrowed West Stand seats we have a great view of the managers. City’s Pellegrini stands on the touchline with the air of a kindly uncle watching the young folk dancing at a wedding, while Slaven Bilic is much more animated. He stands right on the line, pumping his fists, waving his arms and sitting on his haunches. In his black suit and tie he looks rather like a City trader who’s just seen all his Chinese shares shorted and is complaining about it to the fourth official.

Jenkinson only lasts another couple of minutes before departing with what looks like a muscular injury. On comes young Sam Byram to replace him. “Dad, he looks about 12!” protests Lola. Sam’s first touch is to instantly control a strange high ball from Payet and play it 60 yards back to the Reunion man. Byram looks instantly at home against City and we might have a player. He’s not averse to clattering the odd winger either and picks up a yellow card later on.

Kouyate gets fouled and requires treatment, which the ref completely ignores, earning a chorus of “You’re not fit to referee!” After half an hour Payet plays Antonio through with a brilliant shimmy and pass. Demichelis is lucky to be only booked as he brings down the flying Shakespearian character on the edge of the box. Antonio would surely have got a shot in. From the resulting free kick, Hart produces a brilliant one-handed save to stop Payet’s effort going in the top corner.

We go in level and at half-time we have a good view of Jack Collison being interviewed on the pitch. Matt texts to say the ref is having a shocker.

Delph shoots against the outside of the post for City after the restart, just after Mr Moon has left the stadium. Strange he should scarper, as it's a cracking game. The busy Antonio heads wide of the left post after a West Ham corner. Ten minutes into second half Antonio takes a long throw, Otamendi is caught looking for planetary alignments in the night sky and Valencia nips behind him to prod past Hart. That’s four in three games for Enner now.

It looks like being another famous victory. Noble has an immense game and is all over the pitch. Song is inspired, breaking up numerous attacks on the edge of WHU’s box, while Kouyate is having a fine game too.

But City bring on £50m Raheem Sterling and Iheanaco and always look dangerous. When Victor Moses comes on for Antonio we briefly have Moses and Jesus on the same pitch, enough to please the Vicar’s Son in the East Stand. City equalise when Iheanacho makes a run into West Ham’s box, the ball inadvertently rebounds off Creswell and the City striker shows his class to balance himself and chip over Adrian.

It’s end to end for the final ten minutes, but we can be proud of the way West Ham have matched the Champions. In added time Aguero puts a chance straight at Adrian. With seconds to go, Moses is brought down by Fernando. From the free kick Kouyate heads against the top of the bar with the last action of the match.

What a game. It feels like one of those classic draws from 1970s where the crowd have gone home thoroughly entertained and the fact we haven’t won doesn’t matter too much. There’s a hubbub of drained excitement and Lola and myself trek through a never-ending alleyway to Plaistow. A good day to be a Hammers fan and another sign we’ve got a team here.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 7; Jenkinson 5 (Byram 8), Reid 7 Collins 7 Cresswell 7; Antonio 7 (Moses 6), Payet 9, Noble 8, Song 8, Kouyate 8; Valencia 8 (Jelavic 6).

Saturday, January 23

Kevin Nolan heads to the Orient

Best of luck to Kevin Nolan as player-manager of Leyton Orient. Yes, he was played when way past his best last season, but we can't really blame him for that. He never complained despite a lot of abuse from the stands, always tried his best and was clearly a very good captain. In the early years his goals helped us win promotion from the Championship and then consolidate in the Premier League. We won't be missing his clucking chicken dance though. Hope he does well in the far East.

Friday, January 22

Zarate kid departs

Mauro Zarate has been sold to Fiorentina for a fee of around £1.5 million. I'd have liked to have kept him as back-up for the rest of the season, particularly with Sakho and Carroll out. Presumably this means West Ham are moving for a loan striker, with Fenerbache striker Emmanuel Emenike a possibility. This seems to be likely as Emenike has tweeted a still from the film Green Street - though perhaps someone should tell him that neither Elijah Wood nor Frodo Baggins are West Ham fans in real life. 

Should we have let Zarate go or kept him for the rest of the season? Mauro was clearly trouble for Big Sam, Harry Redknapp and Chris Ramsey last season, but under Slaven has looked a player again. He's scored quality goals against Arsenal, Chelsea and West Brom, got the equaliser at Leicester in the League Cup and netted a fine solo effort against FC Astra in the Europa League. He also scored a great volley at Palace last season, so has provided us with some good moments. And at times, as against Stoke, he's looked a real quality player, though in bother matches he could be infuriatingly selfish and drift out of games. 

Presumably Zarate's been moved on to make way for Sam Byram, a younger player who provides a different sort of threat on the flank, and possibly Emenike. Still, any player who helps defeat Arsenal and Chelsea will get a cheer from me. Thanks Mauro, and good luck in Italy. 

Thursday, January 21

Byram the Essex Man

Good to discover that new signing Sam Byram is an Essex Man, born in Thurrock though his family later moved to Yorkshire. He should have a feeling for the club as there are quite a few Irons in his family. Sam says, ""My uncle and my cousin are big West Ham fans and have bought their tickets for the new stadium. My uncle was down here yesterday getting a shirt with my name on the back." 

My Leeds-supporting pal is gutted that Byram is leaving and apparently there have been comparisons with Gareth Bale due to his surging ruins down the right. He;s scored three goals foe Leeds this season including a tasty effort at Forest and a header at Fulham. Looking forward to seeing Sam in action…

Tuesday, January 19

Sakho hits the wall…

Full-page in tonight's Evening Standard on Diafra Sakho crashing his Lamborghini through a garden wall in Hornchurch after colliding with another car and spinning off the road. Thankfully no-one was hurt though Diafra's motor is a write-off. And it turns out the garden wall he crashed into was at the home of a West Ham fan, who immediately recognised him. Perhaps WHU should just get him a nice Ford Fiesta to potter around Essex in.

Hammers bag Byram?

Several papers today claim that West Ham have beaten Everton to the signature of Leeds' right back Sam Byram fore £3.7m. The promising defender is only 22 and can play in midfield too, though right-back is his preferred position. This would seem to indicate that Carl Jenkinson will be returning to Arsenal after his season-long loan at Upton Park and that Byram will compete with James Tomkins for the right back spot, with Joey O'Brien presumably moving on as well. Slaven Bilic has come up with quite a good system in recent games of playing Tomkins early on and then bringing on Jenkinson when we need to chase games, as at Bournemouth and Newcastle. With Byram, Jenkinson, Tomkins, Ogbonna, Reid, Collins and Cresswell all competing for defensive places we'll certainly have options at the back.

Sunday, January 17

Toon end Hammers' unbeaten run

Newcastle United 2 West Ham United 1

Oh well, guess WHU's unbeaten run had to end somewhere and a freezing afternoon in Newcastle always looked difficult. Received the bad news while in Cookham at the Sir Stanley Spencer art gallery — middle-class football fans, eh?

We were unfortunate to come across Newcastle's new £12m signing JonJo Shelvey — a Harold Wood boy as well as a Voldemort doppelgänger — with a point to prove to Swansea and new boss Steve McLaren. West Ham don't get going for the first half, indicated by Noble dithering early on, resulting in a chance for Newcastle.

The Toon take the lead with a great goal; Shelvey's probing pass finds Wijnaldum who lays it off first-time for Perez to blast a fine effort into the corner. The Irons almost equalise when Cresswell gets in a great low centre only for Antonio to be thwarted by a fine block from Coloccini. But it's two after 15 minutes when Shelvey plays a great 60-yard pass to Janmaat on the right, who centres for Wijnaldum to beat Collins to the ball and flick home. Shelvey then shows the other side of his game, being lucky to stay on the pitch for an elbow on Valencia.

A bit strange of Bilic to play Valencia alone up front in the first half — presumably so that he could play both Obiang and Kouyate together — as Enner's never looked suited to the lone striker role. Jelavic comes on for the second half and scores with his first touch, when he gathers Mbemba's poor back pass, rounds the keeper and slots home. The Hammers play better in the second half, though Newcastle have chances to get a third as Adrian makes two good stops from Mitrovic and Wijnaldum slews wide. Late on Jelavic gets in a great centre and Kouyate's header is saved by Eliot's knee.

So the Wally With The Brolly has finally beaten Super Slav, watched by Alan Shearer and Ed Sheeran, who just might be the Geordies' version of Chas and Dave. Had we avoided defeat it would have been a club record nine matches undefeated in the Premier League. Hard to complain too much after our recent run, but now it's time to regroup for Man City.

Thursday, January 14

Carroll out for six weeks

Bad news is that Andy Carroll is out for up to six weeks with his hamstring injury — just when he was starting to look a force again. At least he'll be back for the final ten games or so. It now means we'll have to keep hold of Jelavic in the transfer window and hope Sakho returns from his hamstring injury soon. On the plus side, Enner Valencia has started scoring again, although he's clearly not suited to playing as a lone striker. Moses and Antonio could also do shifts up front, so this is where the squad has to show its worth. And with Payet in the side we can surely overcome any handicap…

Wednesday, January 13

Payet enjoys a midweek break in Bournemouth

Bournemouth 1 West Ham 3

It seemed like everything was going wrong for the Hammers when Andy Carroll went off after 12 minutes with what looked like a hamstring injury and then Harry After twisted and turned on the edge of the area to score with a shot that perhaps Adrian might have done better with. The home side should go two up when Afobe heads over from two yards out. The Hammers did have a few chances in the first half with Boruc making a great save from Jelavic's deflected cross and then tipping over from Payet. 

Second half it all came good though thanks to the genius of Payet. The Reunion man fired an incredible Beckham-esque fee kick over the wall and in off the underside of the bar, before being booked for celebrating with the WHU fans. Goal of the season so far and great to hear the resouiding choruses of "We've got Payet!" on Radio London. The French magician then manages to twist past three defenders on the right and present Valencia with a tap-in. Payet goes off to a big hug from Slaven in his beanie hat. 

Not to be outdone, Enner Valencia then fires another duping free kick over the wall and into the net leaving the bemused Artur Boruc looking like a man whose bus has completely ignored his request to stop.

Unbeaten in nine games now and a great three points on the south coast. We're fifth and our season is back on course. And a bad night for Nigel's mum's hairdresser who was taking his new girlfriend to the match on a hot date… only to see his boys receive a right haircut.

Monday, January 11

Exeter or Liverpool away

Oh well, just have to hope West Ham can get the usual 3-0 win at Anfield to keep our FA Cup run going. Though Exeter away would suit me as never been to their stadium. If we are going to get to Wembley in our last year at the Boleyn looks like we'll have to do it the hard way…

Did Lanzini return too soon?

Bad news is that Manuel Lanzini is out or another six weeks, following his tendon injury against Liverpool. He'll be a big loss and you do worry it might be a case of rushing a player back to action too soon. West Ham seem to have learned to be patient with the likes of Andy Carroll — we're seeing the benefit of his having a late 'pre-season' before returning — but we have to be carful with Dimitri Payet too. Perhaps we should give him a few more run-outs as sub before he returns to the starting line-up.

Sunday, January 10

Jelavic sees Hammers through

West Ham 1 Wolves 0 (FA Cup)

It’s off to the Newham Bookshop where Brian Williams, author of Nearly Reach the Sky, is with his wife Di signing books amid Vivian’s Dickensian towers of literary tomes. Brian even buys a copy of my own Flying So High and between us we might soon have the complete lyrics to Bubbles in book titles. As we leave I nudge one of the piles of books and a literary avalanche causes momentary chaos as I’m buried in West Ham books and stocking fillers. Thankfully Vivian soon restores order to her shelves.

Then it’s on to Ken’s Café, where Michael the Whovian has actually got his big breakfast in early, but Matt, Lisa and Nigel are left waiting till 2.45pm. We’re joined by Nigel’s mate Adrian, a devoted Wolves fan (and reader of Hammers in the Heart) who travels from Exeter to Molineux for every home game. Such is his dedication that not even Ken’s big breakfast can delay his arrival in the away end. Then it’s a late dash to the East Stand for the rest of us.

The first half is pretty tedious, though astonishingly enough the scoreboard is working again. Presumably it’s a bit like my radio alarm clock, it’s taken four weeks for someone to re-set it, and then they had to get a teenager to do it.

Wolves have come to frustrate us and Afobe, their best striker, is out of the side about to move to Bournemouth. WHU have too many holding midfielders and Jelavic is starved of service and doesn’t look sharp. Obiang has a shot saved and late on Jenkinson — whose crossing has been poor— has a fine shot tipped over by Ikeme, and that’s about it.

At half-time the PA plays Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love with lead vocals by Robert Plant, a well-known Wolves fan who was once accused of Satanism at the US border because he had a Wolves sticker on his luggage, explains Nigel. Matt remains strangely positive and says the ref is having a great game. “Can we have the old Matt back, please?” asks Nigel.

When Mr Moon arrives and leaves the stadium early in the second half the Wolves fans amuse themselves by singing, “Who the fuck is Mr Moon?” and “Mr Moon is a wanker!” — which is a bit much.

“Just imagine, this could be the last time we watch West Ham struggle to beat a lower division side at the Boleyn,” I muse, with a tear in my eye. James Collins then has to make a fine last-ditch clearance to deny Wolves.

Payet comes on and so does Andy Carroll, which immediately improves the Irons. Payet hits a free kick on to the roof of the net and Obiang has a shot just wide.

Just as I’m saying that Jelavic is down to four out of ten and they’ll be dancing in the streets of Exeter, the curse of Mystic May strikes in the 85th minute. Carroll finds Jelavic on the edge of the area and the Croatian strikes a sublime half volley into the corner of the net. A class finish and more like the Jelavic we remember from Everton days. 

“We never doubted you, Captain Jelavic,” suggests Private McManus, who had earlier thought we’re all doomed. To think that the Vicar’s Son had suggested Jelavic would never score for the Hammers…

“How shit must you be, it’s only 1-0?” chant the away fans.

There’s time for Le Fondre to put a good chance wide at the end and then that’s it, we’re through to the next round. Fraser wonders if Millwall are still in the draw.

Nigel and Adrian are up for the Cuppa in Ken's
We head to the Central where for once they’ve got enough staff on. After all these years they’ve discovered why all these strangers keep turning up on a Saturday afternoon. 

Michael confesses that he’s resisted the January sale in the souvenir shop — even the WHU dog bowls. Adrian arrives from the away end and accepts defeat stoically before he and Nigel head off to a Swedish-themed pizza restaurant in Kew (perhaps they play Abba?) So, just another four games to go before it’s Cup Final breakfast round at Nigel’s…

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Jenkinson 5, Collins 7, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Antonio 5, Noble 5 (Payet 6), Obiang 7, Song 5, Zarate 5 (Carroll 7), Jelavic 6 (Oxford 5).

Friday, January 8

James Collins: Is he Gandalf in disguise?

Garth Crooks says that James Collins reminds him of Gandalf. Indeed, with his mighty ginger beard, James does look like he should be a character in The Lord of the Rings repelling rampaging Orcs. Perhaps he should apply for special dispensation to play with a staff in his hand?

Wednesday, January 6

Upton Park Memories

I'm enjoying reading Upton Park Memories, edited by Ex's Tony McDonald. This hardback coffee-table book is a brilliant compilation of memories by the fans, including a few contributions from myself and several other West Ham authors.

It's packed full of fascinating old photos; of the squad training on the flooded forecourt of the old East Stand, countless flat-capped geezers on a roofless North Bank, the old wooden Chicken Run, the bomb-damaged East Stand in WW2 and a "Greenwood Out — West Ham Holiday Camp" banner.

My favourite picture is of Harry Redknapp taking a corner in 1970 with all the fans clearly visible, clad in a mixture of Austin Powers shades and sensible jackets. There's a chapter on pre-match rituals with pictures of all our favourite pubs (and the Central).

Another chapter by the fans is on Upton Park characters, such as Monty who used to direct the traffic, those roasted peanut sellers, 'Lino' in the Chicken Run, Clicker Bacon, Mr Moon and many more. Plus memorable matches and goals and lots of full colour pictures of programmes, tickets and collectibles. Upton Park Memories is £25 from the Newham Bookshop on match days, or can be ordered from the Ex website or from Amazon. Well worth a nostalgic perusal.

Tuesday, January 5

Slaven's dogged attitude to management

Good interview with Slaven Bilic in the Daily Telegraph last weekend in which he compared managing West Ham to buying a dog. When asked about the risks of possibly tarnishing the fans' memories of his West Ham playing career, Bilic replied: "When you are buying a dog you find like this – ten reasons not to buy it. Because you can’t go out more, if you are travelling it’s a problem, he’s going to pee there and there until he learns. He’s going to bite your cat, he’s going to leave your place smelly. But there is one reason that’s good – he loves you, he loves you. He gives you love. Every time you come home it’s like it’s the first time he’s seen you… So like this with West Ham. There was, there still is, and it’s always going to be (a risk).”

Interesting analogy, particularly when you remember Mad Dog Martin Allen. Think we've all felt at times that West Ham was a mutt who had done something unpleasant in our driveway… though the lads deserve an extra portion of Winalot after Saturday's victory.

Slaven also spoke a lot of sense on not complicating the game with philosophies and methodologies: “So I can use those scientific words every day and people will probably think ‘oh, yeah’. But I prefer to talk simply. Because for me football is a very simple sport. But people are trying to, for some reason, and obviously because there is so much money in it, make it like ‘big-time complicated’." Click on the link to read the whole interview.

Monday, January 4

Super Andy Carroll

A really impressive performance from Andy Carroll against Liverpool. it wasn't just his goal; he looked more mobile than he has for a long time, terrorising the Liverpool defence and also doing some great defensive work at corners.

Though as several papers have reported, there was a post-match warning from Slaven Bilic to keep working hard: “He looks really good and fit and it’s all about him now. Is he going to maintain and progress and look after himself, or is he going to go the other way? He has history in that and I’m not his dad, I can’t demand things from him. But I’m expecting that to be fair.”

The Guardian also notes that Sam Allardyce said in his autobiography of Carroll: "He treats life too casually. He also gets himself into situations off the pitch which a manager can do without – and so can he.”

There's a hint of Frank McAvennie about Carroll. I like the fact that he plays football with a smile like the working-class players of old and dates Towie babes and seems to have a new bairn every other month (that's two now with Billi). We can't all be boring James Milner. But clearly at 26 such an injury-prone player also has to work really hard from now on in. If he continues to play like he did on Saturday he can be unstoppable and he might finally develop into the complete striker that we've been looking for.

Sunday, January 3

Carroll's revenge as Klopp kops it at Upton Park

West Ham 2 Liverpool 0

Football really has changed. On the district line there’s a middle-aged West Ham couple in Barbours discussing buy-to-let deals, as you do. Then it’s in to Ken’s Café at the unseasonal time of 12.30pm, where Michael the Whovian is still waiting for his big breakfast before the imminent kick-off. 

DC’s been in dispensing New Year greetings with his three wee men. Nigel arrives late, mourning Lemmy and declaring that, even if he’s too late for Carol’s tea, “that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever!” Sadly, Nigel’s mum’s hairdresser on the south coast hasn’t come up with any tickets for the game at Bournemouth, despite Nigel offering to book us all in for a claret and blue rinse.

Inside Upton Park there’s an expectant atmosphere with Payet on the bench. Ibe shoots just past he post early on but West Ham proceed to have a dominant opening. On ten minutes Antonio makes what looks like a great tackle to deny Moreno (it’s actually a foul the replay on MOTD suggests) just outside WHU’s box. From there West Ham counter swiftly with Kouyate finding Valencia on the right. Enner plays in a sumptuous cross for Antonio, who has rushed the length of the field, to stoop and head powerfully into the net. A great goal. Mikhail’s starting to look like the finest Shakespearian character ever to play for the Hammers. And as the Bard night have pointed out, the quality of Mersey is strained…

Michael the Whovian arrives just after Antonio’s goal having finally eaten his big breakfast, but claims to have seen it on the monitor.

Lanzini then jinks inside to send a swerving shot against the post, leaving Mignolet a bemused bystander. Andy Carroll is having a great game, winning the ball in the air against Lovren and Sakho and leading the line superbly. Noble too is all over the pitch. The only downside is when Lanzini has to go off with what appears to be more ligament trouble.

Liverpool do end the half with a lot of possession though, and after a nice passing move Can leans back to ping a shot on to West Ham’s bar.

At half-time we discuss the gegenpressing issues of the day, such as Nigel’s suggestion that Matt is carrying a man-bag — Nigel prefers a more prosaic plastic bag himself. Michael points out The Lord High President of the Timelords, Donald Sumpter, in the bowels of the East Stand.

The Hammers start the second half well too as Klopp gets wetter in his black anorak. When the ball falls to Noble on the right he swings in a perfect cross. Andy Carroll rises like the Angel of North Essex to shove Clyne and Valencia out of the way and power in an unstoppable header into the corner as Mignolet tries to hail a bus home. AC runs to the East Stand and slides into the corner flag, leaving two great ruts in the pitch. Lovely moment for Big Andy. The Bobby Moore Stand enjoys a rousing chorus of “Andy Carroll — he left ‘cos you’re shit!” aimed at the Scousers.

It gets better when Payet comes on for Valencia after 64 minutes to a rousing ‘We’ve got Payet!” Purist Matt becomes rather agitated that the song speeds up at the end, in violation of the original Billy Ray Cyrus tune. I explain that rather like Elvis Costello, the West Ham fans like to constantly rework old songs and challenge themselves musically.

Dimitri’s first touch is to feint past three Liverpool players and bring gasps of delight from the crowd. It feels like a special season again now Dimitri’s back. Payet then sets up Creswell for a cross. Andy Carroll’s header is pawed away by Mignolet; Antonio shoots from the rebound but the keeper blocks it again. Close.

We cede a lot of possession to Liverpool and they improve a bit when Smith and Lallana come on. Noble has to head off the line and Allen heads a good chance wide. But at the other end Payet plays a fine through ball to the onrushing Kouyate who fires at a good height for Mignolet to save.

Sub Jenkinson fouls his man when he should hold it up in the corner prompting a brief tirade from Matt, until he remembers that he’s being positive and mutters, “unlucky Jenks!”

By added time we’re confident enough to sing,” Can we play you every week?” West Ham’s first league double over Liverpool since 1963 is accompanied by Twist and Shout on the PA.

Recovering from flu, I shun the pub as the Central’s beers might finish me off, but do drop in to the Newham Bookshop to pick up a copy of the excellent book Upton Park Memories. And we’ve just seen another of those memories today. Not sure what there is to moan about now. We go sixth. And it’s after Christmas…

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Tomkins 7, Ogbonna 7, Collins 8, Cresswell 7; Antonio 8 (Jenkinson 5), Noble 8, Kouyate 7, Lanzini 7(Obiang 7); Valencia 7 (Payet 7), Carroll 9.