Thursday, March 31

Boys of '66 signing at Newham Bookshop

John Rowlinson will be signing copies of his new book The Boys of '66 before the Crystal Palace game, on Sat April 2 at the Newham Bookshop in Barking Road at 1pm. Rowlinson's new book tells "the unseen story behind England's World Cup Glory' and has plenty on Moore, Hurst and Peters and the other eight players who helped West Ham win the World Cup. Click on the link for details.

Wednesday, March 30

Mark Noble: he's West Ham through and through…

West Ham United 6 West Ham United All-Stars 5 (Mark Noble Testimonial)

Despite the best efforts of Tfl closing Upton Park, 35,000 fans made it to Mark Noble's Testimonial and were rewarded with West Ham beating West Ham All-Stars 6-5. First it was a long walk from West Ham station and then a swift trip to Ken's Cafe where Michael, Matt and Lisa were in attendance. Great atmosphere in the ground and a bewildering array of old faces. Craig Bellamy still looked fit and scored the opener for the All-Stars. "Come on, we can't lose to a team like West Ham!" was my quip. Mark Noble got the first for West Ham and Adrian ran the length of the field to bag one as well.

Anton and Rio Ferdinand played together in defence; Dean Ashton was a few stones above his playing weight but scored a cracking overhead kick; Paolo Di Canio still had a great touch and feigned a dodgy back in one touchline run; Carlton Cole still suffered from dodgy control; an early cameo from Dicksy got a lot of cheers and Trevor Sinclair needed some extra large shorts for his presenter's posterior. "Oh Christian Dailly you are the love of my life!" greeted the legendary football genius and he still looked match-fit too as he strolled through the game like a latter-day Beckenbauer.

Twelve-year-old Freddie Sears had a lot of energy from his Easter Eggs and a bulkier Marlon Harewood celebrated a goal (subsequently disallowed) by reprising his short-off semi-final celebration. John Moncur made some typically late tackles. We also got to see the return of Jimmy Walker, though sadly no return of Walker's World in the programme, where Lisa predicted he would be writing about, "Alex Song having himself with his dodgy gear." Ludek Miklosko came on to the obligatory song from the Bobby Moore Stand and kept a clean sheet. Another highlight was Diafra Sakho groping down his shorts to find a phone and take a selfie after scoring. So the game may not have been entirely serious.

It all ended in a penalty shoot-out which West Ham both won and lost. Adrian managed to shoot over the bar but still slid on his knees to celebrate as he did against Everton.

Our walk to West Ham tube afterwards was mitigated by a stop at the Black Lion, where the Old Bob was particularly fine and Michael confessed that he's planning on dying his hair claret and blue for the final home match at the Boleyn.

Not often you get to see a stress-free West Ham game — even Matt didn't get too cross with the ref —  and a lot of money was raised for three charities. Well done Nobes and thanks for being such a stalwart Hammer.

Sunday, March 27

Observer Easter report on West Ham

My — unusually positive — Easter report on West Ham's season so far can be found in today's Observer. Nothing much to complain about so far in what's been a great season. Click on the link to read.

Friday, March 25

Lanzini signs

Great news that Manuel Lanzini has signed a permanent contract for a reported £9 million. We've done really well to get Lanzini for £9m and Payet for £10m when other clubs gave wasted shedloads of money. Man United spent £25 million on the underwhelming Memphis Depay, Man City squandered £42m on defender Eliaquim Mangale and Liverpool spent £28m on Christian Benteke (who can't make their team but might be interesting West Ham). Lanzini hasn't been noticed as much as Payet but his goal at Chelsea proved his class. Credit Bilic and the scouting system for realising that a player handed the number ten shirt as a youngster by River Plate had to be a bit special, even if he was on loan at Al Jazira in the UAE.

Thursday, March 24

Olympic Stadium capacity up to 60,000

Encouraging news with today's announcement that the capacity at the Olympic Stadium has been increased from 54,000 to 60,000. Not sure where they're going to put the seats, can only assume the club has borrowed a few extra wooden chairs from Ken's Cafe. Sixty thousand seats gives us parity with Arsenal's capacity at the Emirates Library and is maybe a sign we can become bigger than the Gunners. The Evening Standard recently had a worrying feature pointing out that clubs moving to a new stadium often have a dip in home form so it's important we move to the OS after a great end to the season with everyone buzzing. But hopefully with 60,000 fans singing the Payet song it's going to be something special.

Tuesday, March 22

Time Lord at the Boleyn Ground

Good to see that West Ham fan Donald Sumpter gets his own picture disc in the new dvd of Doctor Who Series 9. Here is Sumpter as Rassilon, the Lord President of the High Council of Time Lords (he gets banished by Peter Capaldi's Doctor in the series' closer Hell Bent). My pal Michael spotted Donald in the East Stand and had a chat with the thespian Hammer, who proved to be a decent and self-effacing chap. Though sadly he can't go back in time to have a word with Lionel Scaloni in 2006. We once numbered the King of Norway among our fans, but having a President of the Time Lords surely tops that. And for any West Ham Whovians (Whuvians?), more reminisces about Doctor Who, including the time Catherine Tate's Donna told David Tennant she learned to whistle "up West Ham", can be found in my Kindle Single book Whovian Dad: A Doctor Who Fan's Travels Through Time and Space.

Monday, March 21

How do we cope with being successful?

It's difficult this business of being near the top of the league. Should we be grateful at getting a point at Chelsea or fuming because an incorrect penalty decision cost WHU two points and kept West Ham out of the top four? Should we be grateful to get a draw at Man United in the FA Cup or fuming that the ref missed Schweinsteiger's push on Randolph, this contributing to our fixture congestion and affecting our Champions League bid. Should we be really annoyed when envious teams like Man United and Chelsea raise their game against Champions League contenders? Should we be targeting the Cup, the Champions League or the Europa League? And is it safe to say we're too good to go down yet? I'm confused, as I guess a lot of fans must be.

Saturday, March 19

Dodgy penalty pegs back Hammers at the Bridge

Chelsea 2 West Ham 2

A couple of seasons ago WHU were delighted to get a backs-to-the-wall 0-0 at Chelsea, now we're disappointed not to win. Couldn't get a ticket but sounds like a great game. Fantastic strike from distance by Lanzini for the first and a good finish by Andy Carroll for the second from Payet's pass. Not much anyone could do about Fabregas's free kick (though the ref had the wall 12 years back instead of ten) and Chelsea's late equaliser came from a penalty, when in fact Antonio committed the offence outside the area. 

At 1-1 Cresswell shot wide after a great move and back heel from Lanzini, and then hit the bar.  After scoring the second Carroll had a header off the line and almost reached Emenike's cross late on, and it's a game we should have won. Still, another decent result. Unbeaten at Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Chelsea will do me.

What's also fantastic to see is that we have four strikers who can come in and change things in Sakho, Valencia, Carroll and Emenike, which reminds me a bit of Man United in the days of Cole, Yorke, Solksjaer and Sheringham. And, of course, the game was a credit to the Premier League; it's always good to see a small team like Chelsea with nothing to play for raise their game against Champions League contenders…

Friday, March 18

The Boleyn's Rib Man makes the Observer

Never expected the food stalls on Green Street to suddenly become trendy with foodies. But Mark Gevaux, the Rib Man who runs a stall from the back of the Boleyn has just made it into the Observer magazine's Food and Drink section. Mark's a one-legged former butcher from Essex who spends much of the night preparing his ribs. His speciality is his aptly-named Holy Fuck sauce, made from Scotch bonnet peppers and naga chillies. Gevaux is a massive West Ham fan, but has recently found fame among the hipsters of Brick Lane market and is now being courted by restaurateurs, foodie writers and Master Chef winners. Click on the link to read the piece.

Wednesday, March 16

Trains not taking the strain in Manchester

Good to see that the Manchester Evening News, The Sun and Daily Mail reported the chaos at Manchester Piccadilly station on Sunday night. The problem was that with too many fans for the trains, the police kettled us behind the glass doors on to the platform. The crowd was kept behind barriers in a winding line and the crush grew very heavy threatening to knock people over and becoming positively scary. We were kept there for an hour and rather than let people with reservations on to their trains the police let people through on a first-come first-served basis. I was there at 7.20pm for the 7.35pm train, but no-one was let through at all.

Despite chants of "Hillsborough!" and "You don't know what you're doing!" the Transport Police didn't make any announcements and nothing came over the PA, so the passengers waiting got angrier and angrier. Eventually a barrier got kicked over and there was a rush for the doors when the police tried to let people through in single file. There was a lot of pushing and shoving and one woman said she was accidentally hit when a policeman aimed a punch at a man who ducked. I eventually made it on to the 8.21pm train.

It was terrible policing, though not all the West Ham fans behaved well either. The transport police on the train had to prevent some fans stealing beer from the closed bar, while the police then seemed to favour a quiet life when a group of drunken Herberts sang anti-Semitic Spurs songs for the final part of the journey.

So it was a pretty shoddy journey all round — and certainly not worth £82 as I had to stand up all the way on the outward journey from London too. The fact that there was a football match and 9,000 West Ham fans were travelling to Manchester should not have taken Virgin Trains and the police by surprise.

Tuesday, March 15

A sense of belonging

What was really encouraging about West Ham's draw at Old Trafford was the way we looked so confident and took the game to the home side. Admittedly Manchester United are looking stolid compared to the Fergie years, but it's still an intimidating arena to come to. We looked like we believed we belonged in such an arena, and after wins at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City and two draws at Man United we are entitled to believe. You got the sense that WHU are developing into a really good, mentally strong, side. Even when United equalised, Bilic and the team still believed they could win it.

It was a little worrying that Payet said he was overjoyed to score a great goal in one of the "most beautiful" stadiums in the Premier League. Hopefully that wasn't a come and get me plea to Man United, but rather an appreciation of United's stadium architecture — and if Dimitri really is such a connoisseur of stadiums, he'll surely stick around to see the fixtures and fittings at the Olympic Stadium  and our new state-of-the-art retractable stands, presumably built with a job lot of shopping trolley wheels from Green Street market.

So it could be Everton if we beat Man United, a repeat of the 1980 FA Cup semi-final. But nothing will be easy and I just hope the lads can cope with the expectation that is building towards our last home game in the FA Cup. Though we've got the distraction of going for a Champions League place. Words I can't believe I'm writing… Irons!

Monday, March 14

Plucky United take mighty West Ham to replay

Man United 1 West Ham 1 (FA Cup)

“We’ve got Payet!” echoes around Euston as it’s on to an utterly packed 11.20 train to Manchester. Seems like all 9,000 West Ham fans are on this particular train and I have to stand all journey. Next to me are two computer geeks, a Frenchman and American, who don’t really like football but have been offered free corporate prawn sandwiches by the Mancs.

From Manchester Piccadilly it’s on the X50 bus to Old Trafford. Outside the Bishop Blaize pub there’s a flag reading “Chelmsford Reds”  — some of United’s more local fans. Inside the stadium the 9,000 West Ham fans are making a lot of noise and seem to think that we have acquired a Reunion midfielder. I’m with Big Joe’s mate John and his son and the atmosphere is hugely expectant.

West Ham start really confidently, with the excellent Noble again looking worthy of an England call-up. Andy Carroll plays Emineke through and the striker hits it wide when he should surely score. Creswell crosses for Carroll to head powerfully over from a long way out and then another excellent move involving Noble, Payet and Cresswell sees Emenike head Aaron’s cross into De Gea’s arms. Carroll would surely have buried that one. United look stodgy going forward, and their best effort sees Herrera balloon over when well-placed.

West Ham continue to play well in the second half as Reid makes a great block, with United claiming handball (it bounced off his thigh on to this elbow). Payet pokes the ball past the immobile Fellaini and goes down in the box under a challenge from Rojo. It looks a clear penalty, though replays later show that after minimal contact, Payet dived, which I don’t like to see and Dmitri’s surely better than that. It could have been a second yellow too for Payet as he’d been booked in the first half.

The West Ham fans amuse themselves with chants of, “Carlos Tevez - he left ’cos you’re shit!” 

On 68 minutes Payet wins a free-kick some 30 yards from United’s goal. Surely he can’t score from here? Dimitri pings in a sumptuous free kick that goes up and over the wall and into the net off the post, before running to the far corner. Brilliant. On this form he could both defeat Donald Trump and bring peace to Syria. Cue lots of backslapping and we’ve got Payeting in the away end.

It looks like a famous victory, though United improve when the bring on Schweinsteiger. Bilic still goes for the second, bringing on Sakho and Valencia.

It’s never easy at Old Trafford though. Herrera gets in a cross from the right, and Martial gets in at the far post to head in from a narrow angle. The replays show that Schweinsteiger barges Randolph into the net as he goes for the cross and the goal should not have stood

Commendably West Ham still think they can win at at the end, wining a series of corners. Antonio takes the ball from the corner flag and dribbles into the box before sending in a low shot that De Gea pushes wide at full-stretch. Great effort.

“Is there a fire drill?” chant the Irons fans at the Mancs heading for the Lancashire Silverlink.

The whistle blows and although it’s a chance lost it’s a final FA cup game at Upton Park. Still, it’s nice for a small club like United to get the money from a replay.

“We’ll race you back to London!” chant the West Ham fans as the United fans leave. The same chant is heard at the tram station along with “My name is Ludek Miklosko…” and, ”Oh Christian Dailly you are the love of my love!”

There’s time for a pint of Pendle Witches Brew in the Piccadilly pub and some food in Go Falafel (falafel in Manchester?) before arriving at Piccadilly station, where there’s a huge crush as the transport police put everyone in a queue outside the glass doors rather than let them on to the platform. It’s gets angry and nasty as a big crush develops, but after a 40-minute wait and chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing!”, some knocked over barriers and a punch thrown by a policeman we eventually get through to make the 8.20 train.

At least there’s a seat on the way home and a chance to reflect upon a very encouraging performance. Watford, Palace and Everton await the winners of the replay. Is there one more glory night at Upton Park to come?

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 7; Antonio 7, Ogbonna 7, Reid 7 (Obiang 6), Cresswell 8; Lanzini 6, Noble 8, Kouyate 7, Payet 8; Emenike 5 (Sakho 5), Carroll 7 (Valencia 5).

Wednesday, March 9

West Ham on BT Sport

Spent yesterday morning being filmed in Ken's Cafe by BT Sport for a forthcoming feature on West Ham's FA Cup run and leaving the Boleyn. They spent a lot of time filming me buying a cup of tea from Carol and walking through the door of Ken's — so perhaps Ken's will end up with the action thriller look. Though they chanced their arm a bit when they asked Carol to turn down the TV when she was doing her knitting. The item also features an interview with Aaron Cresswell and should be going out on Thursday. Also had a good chat with Carol and Ken about the history of their cafe from 1967, including stories about bikers, car crashes and Frank Lampard Senior enjoying bacon butties, which I'll be featuring in Hammers in the Heart soon...

Saturday, March 5

Hammers are comeback kings!

Everton 2 West Ham 3

When was the last time West Ham came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 away from home? Or won away to Liverpool and Everton in the same season? Or scored three goals in 12 minutes? Big Joe's at the game and has just texted, "According to 2,999 gentlemen (and ladies) next to me, We've got Payet!" As indeed we have.

A bizarre game in that we could have been 4-0 down. Lukaku, predictably enough, gave Everton the lead after rolling Oxford and firing in off the post. Mirallas was rightly sent off for two bookings, but even so WHU go two goals down after good link play between Lukaku and Lennon. Everton then get a penalty (even though Song fouled outside the box) and Lukaku's tame effort is saved by Adrian, while the Hammers' keeper prevents another in a one-on-one with Lukaku.

But credit to Bilic for bringing on Carroll and Sakho in the second half. Big Andy causes panic in the Everton defence for all three goals. Antonio heads home Noble's cross to give Hammers hope with 12 minutes left and then Payet crosses for Sakho to get between two defenders and head home. The winner is a lovely goal. Cresswell crosses from deep, Carroll heads down, Sakho produces a great back flick and Payet anticipates to strike home. Football, bloody hell. Irons!

Antonio: workaholic winger with a touch of class

If Dimitri Payet wasn't certain to win the Hammer of the Year contest, then Michail Antonio would be making himself a prime contender. You can feel the hunger of  Antonio every time he plays; he chases back to surge into tackles and celebrates goals like they're still a novelty. 

Born in Wandsworth, he's certainly had to work for his career, starting off at Tooting and Mitcham, then signing for Reading, where he had loan spells at Toooting again, Cheltenham, Southampton and Colchester. After signing for Sheffield Wednesday, he then moved on to Nottingham Forest where he scored 16 goals in 50 appearances and became a big hit with the fans before moving to the Hammers for £7 million. 

At West Ham he didn't complain when he wasn't in the team and since breaking into the side has shown an ability to play as emergency right-back, wing back, winger and striker. But beyond the workrate and his ability in the air, there's been real skill, such as the cushioned volley against Liverpool and that mazy dribble and curled finish against Sunderland. He's still just 25 and Antionio is surely a player who can only get better.

Friday, March 4

Where's our scoreboards gone?

It's a bit disconcerting not to have anything to moan at. The only thing I can think to complain about is that the scoreboards are still not working at the Boleyn. Does anyone know why this is? Are they too complicated or expensive to fix? Perhaps the board should do what I do with alarm clock, phone and computer issues —   just get a teenager to re-programme them. Sure one of the Sullivan boys could sort them out in seconds.

Thursday, March 3

Tottenham Hotspur… it's happened again!

West Ham 1 Tottenham 0

There’s another big queue in Ken’s Café, but Lisa and myself get our orders in by 6.30pm hoping to avoid another missed kick-off. There’s a bloke opposite us who says that he’s been coming in Ken’s since 1979 and wonders when it first opened. I’m able to tell him that according to the newly-discovered Ken Café Facebook page, it’s been going for 47 years, since 1969. We then discuss the absurdity of selling half and half scarves for this game.

Michael the Renaissance Fan arrives carrying a Rough Trade bag containing X-Ray Audio, a book about Russian music fans who made bootlegs on x-ray plates. Bit of a niche market that. His big breakfast arrives suspiciously quickly and we suspect that he might finally have qualified for VIP treatment from Carol.

Then there’s a late appearance from Nigel, who’s been warm weather training in Dubai, where he managed to see Toto live. He’s also very pleased to have watched the Metropolitan Police play at Imber Court, where they presumably got out of jail after some criminal defending.

We try to get to the East Stand only to be turned away by riot police. It all seems a bit over the top, with the Moore, Hurst and Peters statue being boarded up and police vans all the way up an unnecessarily congested Green Street. Even Fraser misses the kick off for the first time in living memory.

It’s a cracking atmosphere, as chants of Bubbles, “Come on you Irons!”, “Who are yer!” and “Lasagne…. whoooah!” ring out in the riotous theatre of E13. We score after just seven minutes. Lanzini forces a corner. From Payet’s kick Antonio loses Chadli to head in off the post, with Lloris slow to react. Michail runs to the Chicken Run and does another strange dance routine — apparently the Carlton Dance from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as Upton Park erupts.

 “This is almost as good as watching the Met Police,” suggests Nigel.

It’s a really impressive first half from West Ham. Bilic has made a clever tactical tweak, playing Kouyate in the back three with Antonio and Cresswell as wing backs. The team work immensely hard and out press Tottenham at their own game. Emenike closes down Lloris and almost forces an error to show our intent. Noble has another long-range humdinger pushed wide and only a last-ditch tackle denies Antonio. Emenike works the channels well, with Wimmer booked for bringing him down. 

We’re a bit mystified as to what to complain about at half-time, though Nigel, munching a lucky smoked salmon bagel, counsels caution as Spurs will surely improve in the second half.

Sure enough, Spurs start brightly with Adrian having to parry Alderweireld’s long-range effort and Kane missing the rebound. Eriksen then cuts in from the right to force another save from the Hammers’ custodian. But we retain our work rate with Obiang and Noble excelling in midfield and Antonio never stopping running. Emenike is brought down by Wimmer, when he could possibly get a shot in, and the crowd demand a red card. Instead the ref awards a free kick to Spurs. Good job Matt, working on the night shift, wasn’t here to see that. “Fie on your face, referee!” suggests Michael, our resident Shakespearian.

Antonio prods a Payet free kick over the bar, before James Collins has to go off injured to be replaced by young Reece Oxford. A big test for the youngster in the last 25 minutes but he’s assured throughout. Then we’re getting Sakho in the evening as Diafra replaces Lanzini and Andy Carroll comes on for Emenike. Harry Kane slashes a cross wide to the derision of the home fans as cries of “Super Slaven Bilic!” fill Upton Park.

There’s four minutes of added time as Cresswell shoots over and the Bobby Moore Stand break into a rousing, “Fuck all! You’re gonna win fuck all!” Sakho runs it into the corners, which he’s good at.

The whistle blows to huge acclaim as Slaven’s men leave the pitch. That’s our last ever Upton Park win against Spurs and it’s been some night. Fraser suggests we’re making a late bid for the title. And I think we’re definitely safe now on 46 points…

We retreat to the Central where the barmaid is baffled by a request for Old Speckled Hen and we’re joined by Nigel’s chastened Spurs-supporting mate Andy and his son Tom. Michael suggests that standards are dropping at the Central as there’s no woman selling dodgy dvds and no clearing the tables early for backpackers’ breakfasts. Nigel offers support for this by saying he’s discovered soap in the Gents. But we're so happy we can cope with anything. Meanwhile the TV provides astonishing proof that we’re only one point off fourth sport.

As we leave the Central and traipse past the illuminated stands of the Boleyn, Fraser lights a celebratory cigar. Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happened again…

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 8; Kouyate 9, Ogbonna 8, Collins 8 (Oxford 8); Antonio 9, Payet 8, Noble 9, Obiang 8, Lanzini 8 (Sakho 7); Emenike 8 (Carroll 7).

Wednesday, March 2

Top Eleven West Ham Goal Celebrations

Mikhail Antonio's bizarre Homer Simpson 'grass dancing' routine against Sunderland has to be one of WHU's top goal celebrations. Here's a personal choice of some other memorable celebrations, in no particular order: 


I'm dreaming of a Frank Lampard, just like the one at Elland Road… Early pole dancing for bearded blokes. After scoring a header against Everton that took us to Wembley in 1980, Frank ran to the corner flag, grabbed it and ran round it in circles.

There are still ten-foot deep ruts in the turf by the corner flag where Carroll did his belly flop slide after scoring against Chelsea, Southampton and Liverpool. Pretty worrying if you’re sitting in the corner of the Chicken Run and see Carroll sliding towards you like a runaway Virgin Pendolino.

When Tevez scored his first ever goal for the Hammers with a sublime free kick against Spurs in 2007 he promptly took his shirt off and ran bare chested into the West Stand where he was mobbed by ecstatic fans.

Whenever Nolan scored he would look like he wanted to lay an egg as he flapped his arms up and down. Something to do with Nobby going on a weekend do with his mates and someone dancing like a chicken.

Adrian scored in a penalty shoot-out against Everton in the FA Cup in 2015. First he threw his gloves to the ground, implying he wouldn’t be needing them after this, then  coolly dispatched the ball into the corner. Being the self-effacing sort of character he is, Adrian runs to the photographers and performs an epic knee-slide with his arms outstretched, before being mobbed by the other players.

When Fedddie scored with a header at Everton in 2011 he leapt over a hoarding and ran into the celebrating West Ham fans. However he’d already been booked and was then sent off by Jobsworth ref Peter Walton. Combining scoring with a red card takes a bit of style.

After scoring against Sunderland in 1989 Dolan ran to the North Bank, jumping up and down from leg to leg while alternately pumping his arms up and down, followed by an Irish jig. He then celebrated his second with a Dambusters-style flight to the Chicken Run.

When Wrighty scored against Southampton in 1998-89, he and Neil Ruddock imitated Paolo Di Canio’s infamous push on referee Paul Alcock. Wrighty brandished an imaginary red card, Razor gave him a light push, and Ian duly tumbled over.

After beating a taxi-hailing Fabien Barthez at Old Trafford in the FA Cup in 2001, Paolo ran to the West Ham fans near the corner flag, slid to his knees with his arms aloft and mouthed “I can play away!” at the camera.

After scoring his first goal for West Ham at Watford in 2005 and securing a play-off place Anton ran the length of the field to the West Ham end and threw some shapes in the fashion of David Brent.


After dummying two Eintracht Frankfurt defenders and scoring a lovely goal to send West Ham to the Cup Winners' Cup Final against in 1976, Brooking ran to the West Side and held an arm in the air as if waving goodbye to a maiden aunt at Shenfield Station. Which for Trev was him getting pretty excited.