Tuesday, May 31

Statue to stay?

Rumours reach me from E13 that the statue of Moore, Hurst and Peters winning the World Cup might yet be staying in Barking Road. That would surely be the right thing to do as the trio achieved it all while playing at the Boleyn Ground. There won't be anything left of the Boleyn so at least one link to the past would remain if it did stay. Surely the club has the money to build a replica or even a new representation (plus a bust of Christian Dailly if I could put in a request) if they really want a statue at the Olympic Stadium?

Friday, May 27

Blue is the colour?

The Daily Telegraph reports that West Ham are under fire for donating £12,500 to the Conservative Party through taking sponsors Betway out to a Tory fund-raising dinner. Local Labour MPs Mike Gapes and Jim Fitzpatrick have been quick to complain and it's surely important, particularly as we've just rented the Olympic Stadium from the government, to remain neutral as a club. If Karren Brady, David Sullivan and David Gold want to support the Conservative Party as individuals then that's fine, but please not with my season ticket money. Will the club now donate to the Labour Party as well? I expect some gratis Goodbye Boleyn mugs must be in the post for Jeremy Corbyn… and Robert's Green party might like something as well.

Thursday, May 26

Gatekeeping at the Boleyn in the 1930s

A nostalgic tale of life at the Boleyn Ground comes via the poet and working glasses hero John Hegley. John's mate Terry Allchin tells this story about his grandfather:

"My family connection with the club was through my Granddad, my mum Elsie's dad. (Elsie is soon to be 101-years-old.) My grandad was a gate-man, steward, painter of white lines on pitch, erector of goalposts and any other jobs going in the 1920s and 1930s at the Boleyn Ground. This was the era when footballers earned a couple of quid a week (supposedly) and it was his delight to have the task of slipping them an envelope with something extra inside on their way out after the game. On Sundays there was a standing invitation for any of the team that wished to come round to our place in East Ham, just a few streets away from the ground, for afternoon tea (and beer) and Mum says the front room was always packed during the season. This went on till the Second World War when he was killed in an air raid."

Love the story about the players all coming over for Sunday drinks…

Wednesday, May 25

Will West Ham have a ground for Europa League qualifiers?

Pretty difficult trying to plan holidays with the Europa League 3rd Round Qualifier to factor in. Does anyone know where we're likely to play the home leg? There are press suggestions the Olympic Stadium won't be ready for the legs on July 28 and August 4 (the draw is only made two weeks before the games) as it takes seven days to convert the stadium from being used as an athletics stadium. Will be playing at the OS, a half-bulldozed Upton Park, Wembley, Leyton Orient or the Memorial Recreation Ground?

Saturday, May 21

Come on you Reds! We're all going on a European tour….

Not living in Manchester, I feel entirely at home supporting Man United today… and it seems to have worked thanks to Jesse Lingard. We're all going on a European tour! Ot at least looking forward to getting knocked out by some Romanians in the third qualifying round in August. Irons!

Friday, May 20

Buy a leather-effect seat in history

Everything must go. A former box holder has passed this flyer on, remarking that, "it seems more Romford Market than the upper echelons of the Premier League." We're selling Upton Park by the pound, including the boxes. Like the line about "leather effect chairs" — though for a grand I think I'd prefer real leather.

Thursday, May 19

Lou Macari's rough sleepers in Stoke

Thanks to Matt for sending in this picture of the Lou Macari Street Retreat, a shelter for homeless people in Stoke. Matt remarks that, "it's strange how some football figures are real heroes in some places, as Macari is in Stoke, but total zeros elsewhere, as Macari is at West Ham." Judging by the superb drama about Stoke fan Neil Baldwin, Marvellous, Macari — who had a son who committed suicide — is a good guy with a social conscience. He suffered at West Ham through not being John Lyall and was only given six months in charge before leaving after a betting charge, which these days would surely result in a mere fine. Though he did bring us Morley, Bish, Mad Dog and, erm, Colin Foster. Would he have succeeded at West Ham if given more time? We'll never know now, but credit to him for his work in the Potteries. Wonder if we'll see a Julian Dicks Street Retreat — though as Matt says, "Julian Dicks would never retreat." 

Wednesday, May 18

Time Lord at the Academy

Here's a picture of my pal Michael the (possible) Whovian with actor Donald Sumpter at the final home match with Man United. Sumpter played Rassilon the Lord High President of the Time Lords in the last series of Doctor Who, before being told to "Get off my planet!" by Peter Capaldi. He also played a captain in the Jon Pertwee story The Sea Devils back in the 1970s and I remember him having quite a saucy role in The Buddha of Suburbia. Donald had a season ticket in the East Stand so let's hope he'll be bringing his Time Lord regalia to the Olympic Stadium next season along with a few mates from Gallifrey to heal any time rifts. 

Tuesday, May 17

Too good for England…

Meanwhile not sure what Mark Noble has to do to get selected for England. Hodgson has named Jack Wilshere who only plays one game a season for Arsenal and Man City reserve Fabian Delph in his provisional squad rather than select Nobes. Anyone who saw Noble's performance against Man United would surely agree that he could do a job for the national side and I'm not even sure that Danny Drinkwater, who had a great season foe Leicester, is a better player. And surely Aaron Cresswell should have been considered too. You can perhaps understand Hodgson not opting for Carroll with Vardy, Kane, Rooney and Rashford in the squad, but it would have been nice to have at least one WHU player in there

Hammers to sign Norway's Nordtveit

Encouraging signs that West Ham are already adding to the squad. Norwegian defensive midielder Havard Nordveit will sign on July 1 after his contract with Borussian  Munchengladbach expires. The 25-year-old Nordvelt has 28 caps for Norway and helped Borussia finish fourth last season so could be a decent purchase and will presumably replace Alex Song in the squad. He also had three years at Arsenal as a youngster so should be familiar with London life.

Meanwhile the silly season has started and today's media has West Ham interested in signing Newcastle's Andros Townsend and Georginio Wijnaldum and bidding £25 million for Bournemouth's Callum Wilson and Matt Ritchie, not to mention the usual Theo Walcott rumours. Seems like we're going to be signing five players a day for the rest of the summer at this rate.

Monday, May 16

Missed chances cost Hammers at Stoke

Stoke City 2 West Ham United 1

It’s off to Stoke on the 10.20am from Euston and a meeting with my second cousin Terry who’s secured tickets among the Stokies – my mum came from Stoke before meeting my dad (an Essex Man). Terry takes me to the Gardeners Retreat where they serve a nice pint of Pedigree, but it’s under new management and the crush at the bar resembles the Central. I purchase a copy of The Oatcake fanzine and various Stoke fans in replica shirts reminisce about leaving the Victoria Ground. Matt doesn’t make it to the Gardeners as being a man of culture, he’s delayed looking at the pottery museum and art gallery in Hanley.

It’s a lovely day and there’s a rare sighting on the sun in Stoke as we head past the incinerator and over the motorway, across the reclaimed colliery site and up “cardiac hill” to the Britannia, where David Gold’s Roller is prominent in the car park. We’re in the Stoke fans next to the away section where we have a fine view of the artistic designs mowed on to the pitch and can see the hills of Stoke through the corner of the ground by the Boothen End. The home fans also seem very keen to tell West Ham where to stick their effing bubbles. The Hammers fans are having a party when Tottenham fucked it up. Though the bad news is Payet’s out with an injury picked up against Man United.

Despite the absence of Payet, West Ham completely dominate the first-half against a pedestrian Stoke, as Kouyate immediately races down the wing to won a corner. We take the lead after 20 minutes as Reid gets his head on to Lanzini’s corner and Antonio is allowed to turn by the Stoke defence and shoot past Given. Europa League here we come. West Ham should get a second; Sakho chests down Antonio’s cross but shoots wide and Kouyate shoots over when well placed.

Meanwhile news comes through that Man United’s game with Bournemouth has been postponed after a bomb alert. Turns out it’s a training device not cleared away by their equivalent of Mr Moon. Still, at least no fans from Manchester will be affected.

Antonio has been excellent on the wing and at the start of the second half he races down the right and presents a perfect cross for Sakho who seems certain to score. Instead he allows veteran Given to pull off a fine save and you wonder if that moment is crucial.

Sure enough, Hughes has had words with Stoke, and a determined run by Shawcross raises the crowd. Ten minutes into the second half Imbula is allowed slightly too much space and fires home a low shot from the outside  the box. Perhaps Randolph should have done better.

But West Ham still press for a winner, though Bilic surprisingly takes off Carroll and replaces his with Valencia, while Emenike replaces Carroll and the Stoke fans suggests Andy’s off to the bar. News come through that Spurs are getting thrashed at Newcastle and the West Ham fans are all having a party when Tottenham f**ked it up.

Adam nearly scores from the hallway line only to be foiled by the alert Randolph. There’s a tremendous flurry of pressure from a corner as Emenike and Antonio are foiled by two brilliant parries from Given on his line. Valencia heads a chance over the bar that Carroll might have scored and then gets in an overhead kick that Kouyate heads goalwards. Most of the ball is over the line bar half an inch, but Whelan somehow manages to clear. I start to think that, knowing football, Stoke will now score a winner as we’ve done everything but score.

Two minutes from time Stoke win a corner. Sub Diouf is unaccountably unmarked and powers home a header before doing a double somersault and running into the crowd. That should improve their lap of honour, but we really should have won this easily. "It's the first time we've scored from a corner this season," reveals Terry. 

The Stoke fans chant “You’re not going on a European tour!”, more suggestions about Bubbles and “You’re f**king shit, you’re f**king shit!” Delilah booms out. Forgive me West Ham, I just couldn't take any more. 

The game ends after five minutes of added time and we’re now relying on Man United beating Palace in the FA Cup and have snatched seventh place from the jaws of sixth. But it’s still been a season that was better than anyone suspected and I’ve been pleased to see us play today; after the Boleyn farewell seeing the lads on the pitch was tangible proof that the club goes on.

So it’s back to the station where I finally manage to meet Matt who’s witnessed a West Ham fan banging his dreadlocks into the concrete wall after Sakho’s miss. Luckily Matt has Roger Protz’s programme notes on Stoke and we walk to the Titanic-themed White Star pub (the Titanic’s captain came from Stoke) for a very palatable pint of Titanic plum porter, which is rather an apt brewer considering our European hopes might just have been holed. Matt has the pleasing fact that has we reached the FA Cup Final it would have been the longest season in PL history. It all started on July 2 against FC Lusitans. So now we’re all going to have to support LVG’s men on Saturday before we can finally relax…

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Tomkins 6 (Moses n/a), Ogbonna 6, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Lanzini 7, Noble 6, Kouyate 7, Antonio 8, Sakho 5 (Emineke 6), Carroll 6 (Valencia 6).

Saturday, May 14

And now the end is near…

A strange sensation to be going to Stoke tomorrow when it feels like the season has ended and we're homeless. But away games at least prove that West Ham is a moveable feast. We're still West Ham even up in the Potteries. Perhaps WHU is more of a concept, a state of mind, than a club tied to a stadium. There were 10,000 fans outside the ground on Tuesday night, so crowd control was always going to be difficult (and this Guardian piece has some sensible points such as why wasn't Green Street closed to traffic?). Get those extra 10,000 fans inside the Olympic Stadium (minus the bottle throwers) plus another 15,000 fans on top of that and the noise of 60,000 fans should be frightening, at least if the new roof does its job.

It's been a long season, we were initially at Upton Park in July for the Europa League qualifiers. But at least next season we'll be talking about firsts rather than every game being the last something or other. It's been an emotional marathon, but if we can go out on a win then Europa League football is guaranteed — a real achievement. Irons!

Friday, May 13

Please no play-offs!

BBC Sport raises the possibility that there might have to be a play-off for a Europa League place between West Ham and Liverpool if West Ham lost at Stoke 1-0 and Liverpool won 2-1 at West Brom, as both clubs would then have identical points and goal differences. It would also hinge on Liverpool losing the Europa League Cup Final to Sevilla. Any play-off would have to be at a neutral ground, which is just as well as Upton Park is minus a few seats and signs now. Even though I'm going to Stoke on Sunday it feels like the season should end now since the Boleyn has gone. Let's hope it's all decided one way or another on Sunday. 

Thursday, May 12

Philosophy football at WHU

Philosophical fans at the Academy
And here's a pic of our regular East Stand party at the Man United game, apparently known as 'The Philosophers' to the row in front. Enjoyed my philosophical pal Matt's tweet that it was like the last helicopter out of Saigon running for East Ham tube. Expect they will still be finding marooned fans at Upton Park in ten years' time…

Wednesday, May 11

Winston wins it in (almost) perfect Boleyn send-off

The last supper in Ken's Cafe
West Ham 3 Manchester United 2

So it’s one last trip on the Hammersmith and City line to Upton Park. Green Street is full of fans with cameras during my walk to the Newham Bookshop at 5pm. A large crowd of fans are singing “We’ve Got Payet” round the World Cup statue and the word is they’ve been drinking since noon. Vivian and John are dispensing bottles of pale ale to the favoured. I sign two of my books for one of the Belgian Irons, a lecturer called Ivan from Antwerp. Then a fan from Sweden says he’s enjoyed them too and my suggestion is that Britain must surely remain in the EU to maintain these Newham/Europe links.

It’s on to Ken’s Café for a final egg chips and beans, bread and butter and cup of tea. Michael has decided to add some literal colour to the blog by dying his hair claret and blue. Even more controversially, he’s wearing a shirt with Jonathan Spector’s name on the back (which is liked by Mrs Spector on twitter). Matt’s there minus his unlucky Dukla Prague away shirt but in an early 1960s WHU top, along with claret-clad Lisa, who’s got a ticket from DC (who stops to eat, so momentous is the occasion). Nigel is in his claret-hooped away shirt for “the London derby” against MUFC. Big Joe arrives with Candy on a romantic dinner date while Phill Jupitus eats one last isotonic liver, bacon and mash, scarpering before Carol sees that he’s not finished his mash. As we leave for the match Carol dispenses kisses to us all.

Spector at the feast
Walking past the bus station to the East Stand Matt and Nigel recycle their papers behind the away coaches and in a middle-class fan dilemma wonder where the recycling facilities will be at Stratford.

Inside the East Stand we find free t-shirts, wrist bands and flag cards on our seats. Though Fraser refuses to compromise his mid-period Dexys look by wearing the shirt over his caret and blue neckerchief.

News come through that the kick-off has been postponed until 8.30pm because the Man United coach has been bottled. Lisa, in the Alpari, texts to say that it’s chaos in Green Street. I start to envisage FA bans and playing behind closed doors at the OS next season. The coach attack is inexcusable and stupid and is surely the result of people without tickets drinking all day; though as David Sullivan says, why couldn’t United have arrived earlier instead of close to 7pm? Everyone knew there would be huge crowds and traffic congestion. It also seems the police have lost control of the large numbers of fans. The bottle throwing is deplorable, but an early arrival would have minimised the security risks. My MUFC friend Robert texts to ask if it’s an ICF reunion.

Is it Javier Margas?
So the DJ has another 45 minutes to fill, which tests his CD box, though Nigel is pleased when Iron Man by Black Sabbath comes on, presumably borrowed from Slaven’s personal collection. We get My Way with a video, but no sign of Fraser’s legendary version of Bubbles by Frank Sinatra.

The sister of the bloke from the Treasury in front of us asks for a picture and reveals that we are known as ‘The Philosophers’ to her party. Must be Matt’s Socratic dialogues on Mark Clattenburg.

A brass band makes a reappearance at Upton Park for the first time since the 1970s (my dad would have enjoyed that) and plays a moving Abide With Me as pictures of our late stars are flashed up.

Lisa's view from the Alpari Stand
At kick-off there’s a hugely emotional Bubbles with the crowd divided into claret and blue blocks through wearing the free t-shirts. The misty, damp night adds to the atmosphere. It’s the loudest I’ve heard a West Ham crowd, beating the atmosphere of Ipswich in the Play-off semi-final and the Cup Winners ‘ Cup game against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Suddenly a football match breaks out. West Ham show all the verve and commitment they were lacking against Swansea. Kouyate has a great game as a defensive shield with Noble more advanced. The Boleyn erupts after ten minutes as Cresswell finds Lanzini on the left and his pull-back is slotted into the corner by Sakho, with the aid of a deflection off Blind. “DIAFRA SAKHO HE SCORES WHEN HE WANTS!” roars the entire stadium.

The geezer behind us is an old school fan wanting Bonzo to effing well sort out Rooney, before politely asking Michael why he’s wearing a Spector shirt. Wayne Rooney also gets taunted about grandmothers.

West Ham have two good chances as Andy Carroll goes through in a one on one only to see his shot saved by De Gea and Payet curls a good chance wide. At half-time we wonder if not getting the second might be costly.

Down in the concourse Michael the Whovian finally gains courage (fortified by a few beers in the Boleyn) to ask for a photograph with actor Donald Sumpter, aka Lord High President of the Time Lords and also a young captain in The Sea Devils. Donald obliges. It doesn’t get better than this.

United appear galvanised in the second half and begin well. The Bobby Moore Stand refuse to give the ball back to De Gea and the delay seems to affect West Ham’s concentration. Mata skips past Ogbonna in the box and crosses for Martial to equalise. De Gea celebrates and gets a water bottle thrown at him and a not very witty East End chorus of “You Spanish c***!”

Carroll has a header cleared off the line but after 72 minutes United appear to have won it as Martial runs at Reid and scores from a seemingly impossible angle, beating Randolph at his near post.

But the crowd respond with a deep-throated roar of “Come on you Irons!” Sinews are strained, Mark Noble is everywhere and some kind of psycho-kinetic vortex, possibly inspired by Donald Sumpter, is sucking the ball towards the United goal.

Mystic Matt is just saying that Antonio doesn’t get headers anymore. Dimitri Payet hits a free kick into the wall, but given a second chance from the rebound he chips a lovely ball into the box for Antonio to rise and power a header into the top of the net and Upton Park erupts once more.

Should we respect the point? Surely it can’t be a Hollywood ending? But there are seemingly higher powers at work here, and not just Andy Carroll.

Noble is hacked down again and from Payet’s free-kick Winston Reid heads into the net as De Gea gets a hand to it prevent a goal. Winston runs for the corner as there’s another mass outpouring of elation among the claret and blue hordes. Who put the ball in the Mancs' net? Winston, Winston Reid. 

West Ham threaten a fourth as the whole ground wills the Hammers home. We survive four minutes of added time and tumultuous cheers at the whistle nearly bring down the East Stand earlier than scheduled. We go sixth, which has been almost forgotten amid the mayhem.

Phew. Not much colour for the blog there. The players return for a lap of honour complete with Adrian holding his baby and lots of mini Dimitris. Then it’s Twist and Shout and Hi Ho Silver Lining as a stage is erected, possibly for Two Bob Ray from the Central.


In a way, after an evening like that, I’d just like the game itself to stand as a memorial to the Boleyn.

But after Sugar Hut-style lights, flames and fireworks the closing ceremony begins, compered by Sky Sports’ Bianca Westwood and Ben Shephard, though it should have been Jeremy Nicholas. Bianca talks to Carlton Cole and Marlon Harwood who both get some songs from the stands, but it’s all a bit long and doesn’t finish until 11.30pm.

The videos and taxis (was Alan Dickens driving one?) bringing in the former Hammers stars aren’t really necessary and perhaps they should just have stuck to Brooking, Di Canio, Martin Peters and Mark Noble. Bizarrely there’s no mention of Geoff Hurst either and Bonzo can’t make it, though Nigel gives Pottsy a standing ovation.

Still, Paolo gets it right by mentioning loyalty and passion and Mark Noble gets huge cheers for declaring: “I've got my family here, I mean every West Ham fan out there when I say my family. Thanks to every single one of you.”

The evening ends with the Cockney Rejects performing Bubbles. Just as well that they don’t do West Side Boys or War on the Terraces after the coach incident.

As the lights go out, announcing “Mr Moon has left the stadium” is a lovely touch at the end.

Everyone has to rush for the last tube at 11.30pm so no lingering last looks at Boleyn… We take one last visit to the Gents and ponder nicking the “no solid objects in the urinal” sign, but think better of it. Fraser and Michael, in a triumph of optimism over experience, venture off to see if the Central is open. I walk to East Ham with Nigel and Matt, where we get one of the  last trains.

It’s a shame that a few Herberts outside will get all the headlines, but inside the stadium it’s been a fitting tribute; exciting, exhausting, intimidating and thoroughly nerve-shredding. At 1 o'clock I finally make it home, and deprived of a last dodgy beer at the Central, break out a Bowmore whisky and toast our old friend — the Boleyn Ground.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Antonio 8, Ogbonna 7, Cresswell 7; Payet 8 (Valencia n/a), Lanzini 7 (Obiang 6), Kouyate 8, Noble 9; Sakho 8 (Tomkins n/a), Carroll 8.

Monday, May 9

More farewell Boleyn pieces

Can't move for farewell pieces on the Boleyn Ground. There's an artistic slow-motion BBC video of some iconic Green Street sites (including Ken's Cafe); yesterday's Observer had two-pages of memories from the likes of Stevie Bacon and Tony Cottee: Saturday's Guardian had a great piece by Owen Gibson that revealed how poorly the local traders have been treated (surely they should all be granted licences at the Olympic Park?) While The Daily Telegraph has a double-page feature talking to many of the usual suspects, Nathan's pie and mash, Gary Firmager and his stepladder, the West Ham Supporters' Club, the Tonkins brothers who run the two-for-one sweet stall and the nuns at Our Lady of Compassion church on Green Street. The Telegraph piece concludes: "So, it is a fundamental ambivalence that will frame Tuesday's curtain-call, an uncertainty that for all the financial benefits the Olympic Park might bestow, a large section of the community is losing its hub, its spiritual heart." All well worth a read, if your tear ducts can take it.

Sunday, May 8

Hammers forget to turn up for Saturday farewell

West Ham 1 Swansea City 4

Green Street is full of nostalgic fans with cameras photographing the John Lyall gates for our last Saturday match at the Boleyn. First off it’s a visit to the Newham Bookshop where a Belgian Iron wants copies of Hammers in the Heart and Irons in the Soul. Then it’s on to the huge queue at Ken’s Café, where all the glory hunters are wanting a taste of Ken’s chips and I take phone orders from Lisa, Matt and Michael for various combinations of cheesy chips and big breakfasts with no chips but an extra egg and lightly sautéed mushrooms. 

A Swansea fan in the Café thanks me for writing Hammers in the Heart, which is nice. Nicola B, top WHU Hillsborough campaigner, arrives in her West Ham shirt but minus a ticket. Sadly for her, she does eventually get one. DC arrives with his wee men and instead of his usual cameo performs a veritable three-act play as he stops at least five minutes for souvenir pics of the team that meets in caffs. Then Michael presents Carol with a bottle of the finest wine known to humanity for all her services rendered and is rewarded with a rare appearance from Ken himself and a photo opportunity with Carol and Ken.

Then it’s on to the stadium. After a hearty Bubbles from the shirt-sleeved crowd West Ham start off as if it’s going to be a stroll. Payet puts a free kick on to the roof of the net and Lanzini has a good shot tipped away Fabianski.

But Ki is getting a lot of space on the left and West Ham start to look strangely lethargic. After 25 minutes Antonio loses the ball and is caught out of position, Ki crosses to Naughton on the other flank, Cresswell is missing and from the cross an offside Routledge taps home, having lost our centre backs. 

Six minutes later full back Kingsley powers past a static Moses, Antonio doesn’t close him down and from his superb cross, Ayew is quicker than Ogbonna and Reid and flicks it home. A sudden silence descends over Upton Park as the Swansea fans sing Land of my Fathers and “Are you Villa in disguise?”

Our struggles are summed up as Carroll fires across the box and Lanzini shoots over the bar from a foot out while lying on the ground.

At half time Start Me Up coms on the PA, with its refrain of “You’ll make a grown man cry!” On the East Stand concourse actor Donald Sumpter stands behind us texting for help from the High Council of the Time Lords. Matt who has been marooned in Row Q for the first half, launches a long diatribe at the hapless Victor Moses and Bilic for not starting with Sakho.

We’re 3-0 down after 51 minutes as Barrow skins Antonio and crosses for the unmarked Ki to fire home first-time. The Vicar’s Son concedes that perhaps he was wrong to ridicule my suggestion of shoring up the defence by bringing on Tomkins at right-back. Nigel suggests we’ll struggle to get a point. Swansea are playing really well and look more like the side of two seasons ago.

The pitch is still awash with party detritus. “We need to get that big fat balloon off the pitch,” says Matt.

“But Nolan’s already left,” quips Fraser.

There’s a brief flurry as Antonio has a shot saved and Carroll fires just wide. But it’s been a very strange West Ham performance; Antonio is not a natural defender, Lanzini has had a ‘mare, Kouyate looks clumsy, Noble has been anonymous, Carroll isn’t dominating the defence and even Payet is toiling.

We pull a goal back as Payet crosses and Antonio (who has looked good going forward) has a header saved by Fabiankski. In the resulting melee sub Sakho appears to prod home though Kingsley is credited with the last touch.

Bizarrely Bilic refuses to bring on Tomkins and push Antonio further up the pitch and Swansea’s fourth sums up our afternoon. From a West Ham corner, Andy Carroll turns with the speed of a super-liner and is dispossessed. Swansea break with two players against Mark Noble and after a swift one-two Gomis nets before doing his silly crawling celebration.

The only consolation is that our party have agreed to go to a very packed Black Lion. As we pass number 664 Barking Road Nigel repeats his Iron Maiden joke that it belongs to “the neighbour of the beast” at number 666. Thankfully it’s the last Saturday he’ll ever do this.

Still, perhaps the sound of boos at Upton Park and a rumbling sense of disappointment are a more fitting historical tribute to most of our years spent at the Boleyn rather than the anticipated tonking of the Welshmen.

It takes forever to get served in the sweaty back bar of the Black Lion but at least the Doom Bar is good as we discuss the election and Michael’s planned claret and blue rinse, anything rather than the match. Bilic has it right when he says we didn’t perform off the ball at all and had too many passengers. You can’t just turn up and expect to win a PL game without working.

After ten matches unbeaten we forgot the basics; let’s hope for a proper performance against Man United on Tuesday.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Antonio 4, Reid 5, Ogbonna 5, Cresswell 5; Payet 5, Noble 4, Lanzini 4 (Valencia n/a), Kouyate 4 (Emenike 5), Moses 4 (Sakho 6); Carroll 5. 

Saturday, May 7

Thirty-eight years of bookings for West Ham at the Newham Bookshop

The Newham Bookshop is the best independent bookshop in London and a pre-match institution for many West Ham fans. The teetering piles of books give it a pleasingly Dickensian feel and manager Vivian Archer is a one-woman literary encyclopaedia. It’s a salon for the soccerati before West Ham games and my daughters, when they were younger, used to love the children’s section. It veers from high politics to local history, via football, fiction, horror, humour, hooliology and cups of tea for the favoured.

Over the years the Newham Bookshop has hosted every conceivable West Ham signing in Barking Road. “The biggest signing was John Lyall just after they failed to renew his contract,” recalls Vivian Archer. “They were hanging off the ceiling and he was a really nice man. Trevor Brooking spoke to everybody. Jimmy Greaves was lovely, but we had more Spurs fans than West Ham. The most unusual was Frank McAvennie before a Millwall game on a Sunday. He was a little late as he’d been out the night before, but it was a good signing even if it was a bit hairy because it was Millwall.”

The Newham Bookshop was set up by a group of parents in 1978 and is still a non-profit organisation. Archer has been managing the shop for 28 years, having previously worked as an actress in the 1970s, including TV work on the likes of Z Cars. “I decided I didn’t want to be out of work and someone in Hackney said can you help in a bookshop and that was it. I’d always loved reading and loved talking to people so then I started working here. I couldn’t work in any other environment now. I have complete control over what I order. We do events most nights. I could have retired a while ago, but I love doing it.”

Trevor Brooking signs for Newham
Vivian Archer’s style was described aptly by writer and publisher Iain Dale in the Bookshop’s 35th anniversary booklet: “Vivian greets every customer that walks through the door, always seems to know where the book they’re looking for is, and there’s usually a recommendation to come with it. This isn’t just the lost art of customer service, but a commitment to her community which can also be seen from the events Newham Bookshop participate in, to people doing work experience in the shop.” Indeed, she’s a difficult woman to interview, as while we speak she’s constantly stopping to chat with locals and direct customers to books.

Other West Ham related signings that Vivian has organised over the years include Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Danny Dyer, Steve Bacon, Brian Williams, Jeremy Nicholas, Robert Banks, Iain Dale, Cass Pennant, Tina Moore, Brian Belton and some bloke called Pete May. The Cockney Rejects “were great, really nice guys, and big anti-racist campaigners.”

The shop has never been scared to stock tales from the days of football violence. Books by the likes of Cass Pennant and Bill Gardner can be seen mingling with high politics, philosophy and sociological tomes. “Cass’s book tells a really good story and he can write well. Writers like Cass feel comfortable in here, if you’re a local bookshop you have to make it welcoming to everybody,” says Archer.

The players tend not to be book browsers, “but Robert Green’s mum came in saying ‘my son’s just having his medical’. She bought some quite literary titles.”

Actor Terence Stamp was once a regular, Phill Jupitus comes in and Russell Brand has been spotted too. But there’s been no sign of Super Slaven yet, says Vivian, though former West Ham chairman Terry Brown used to buy a lot of books on local history and “the Icelandic guy and his wife bought a lot of books.”

A lot of overseas supporters frequent the bookshop too. We’ll miss the Saturdays. We’ve had the Belgian Irons all coming in off their coach, Swedes, Norwegians and a lot of Australians…They email and I order a load of books for them.”

Hopefully the Newham Bookshop, where Archer’s colleague John Newman runs a great children’s section, will continue to prosper even after the stadium move, as it knows its customers so well.

“We’ll miss the Saturdays, but we don’t rely on football, it’s a bonus. We’ll have to see who moves into the new flats too,” says Archer.

Her successful formula for the shop is simple: “Know your audience and listen to them. When the reps come in I can say I’ll buy one of these for a customer who likes books on buses from the 1950s or volume three of the history of Romford FC. The bookshop listens to people and reflects the area with all the diversity and changes. The dictionaries tell us who’s moving in. We used to sell a lot of Asian language dictionaries but now they’re now second and third generation. Now we sell a lot of Portuguese and Eastern European dictionaries. I love the diversity of the area and it should be celebrated.”

Although she’ll miss the statue of Moore, Hurst and Peters that lies across the Barking Road. “It’s a shame they’re moving the statue it’s the last link, because they achieved it all here.”

Hopefully a lot of fans will still combine a trip to the Olympic Stadium with a visit to the Newham Bookshop, because Vivian feels her independent bookshop can offer more than the shops at Westfield. “Stratford is full of chain stores, but the independents really know the area, so please do come and see us again next season.”