Tuesday, February 28

Sporting reception for Zarate from West Ham fans

Sad to hear that Watford's Mauro Zarate will be out for a lengthy spell after damaging his cruciate ligament on Saturday. The former Hammer was impressive for the first half hour and when he took a corner in front of the West Ham fans he even received a chant of "Oh, Mauro Zarate!" (to the tune of Seven Nation Army). When Zarate was carried off he again received applause from all sides of the ground. We'll gloss over the soft penalty he won in the second minute. I'd have liked to see him stay last season as he was more use than Emenike and in a lengthy interview in the Watford programme Zarate (whose father and grandfather also played professional football)  hints it might have beeb a mistake to leave WHU: "My relationship with Slaven was very good but in that moment i needed something different. Maybe it was the wrong decision, we'll never know."

Monday, February 27

Do West Ham need a second striker?

Jermaine Jenas made a good point on Match of the Day when he highlighted the fact that not enough West Ham midfielders were getting into the box. Antonio had a great game as a lone striker, but as Slaven said, he can't cross to himself. Both Feghouli and Snodgrass look more comfortable on the flanks and Lanzini is probably our only other player who regularly gets in the penalty area. 

Ayew made a difference when he came on, and with the equaliser you can see that he shows a striker's instinct to run straight for the middle of the goal as Antonio shoots against both posts. With Antonio suspended for the Chelsea match I'd like to see Andy Carroll return with Ayew playing just behind him. Ayew netted 11 goals for Swansea last season so with a bit of confidence from scoring on Saturday he might yet turn out to be a decent signing, even if he was overpriced at £20 million. 

There's also the formation to consider. If West Ham played three at the back in Fonte, Reid and Kouyate plus wing-backs (Cresswell and Byram or Feghouli) they could still have five men in midfield, perhaps resting Snodgrass who is still adapting. That's the system where we have looked most secure this season and might be necessary to keep Costa and co at bay. 

Sunday, February 26

Ayew levels for Hammers in Watford wind and rain

Watford 1 West Ham 1

It’s a twenty-minute walk from Watford Junction to Vicarage Road, which in places looks more like a set of new-build flats than a stadium. I’m with my mate Mark and his Watford-supporting sons among the home fans. We’re sitting in the Sir Elton John Stand, which has the words to Your Song painted across its rear wall. Though to be pedantic, they were actually written by Bernie Taupin not Elton. Sir Elton might also like to think of giving the Hornets a bit of extra dosh for a bigger roof as we’re rained on throughout the game.

We’re down by the corner flag and in the second minute have a great view of Zarate apparently being hit by phaser fire in the box as Kouyate catches his heel. Troy Deeney dispatches the penalty.

Niang goes close for Watford with a rising drive and Zarate gets his name chanted by the Hammers fans as he takes a corner. West Ham have a lot of possession for the rest of the half but fail to penetrate, though Feghouli almost sets up Snodgrass. Snodgrass then misses a tap-in after a fine cross by Cresswell is parried and in the melee Zarate goes down and is stretchered off with a nasty injury. Texts from the Old Red Lion suggest that Matt is failing to take the positives.

West Ham appear to have had a rocket, man, as they come out with renewed intensity after the break. Antonio is getting repeatedly fouled and then Kouyate goes down in the box after a hand-off from Niang. Watford’s Family Stand is bizarrely next to the away fans and the kids hear some interesting chants such as, “you’re just a c••t with a whistle!”

From our seats four rows from the front you certainly get to appreciate the pace of the game, even if it is a mid-table clash. Cresswell gets in the best cross of the match and Antonio heads wide while at he other end a fine tackle from Fonte earns a chorus of “José Fonte Baby” to the tune of the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me Baby?

Ayew replaces the disappointing Snodgrass and Fonte’s header produces a great save from Gomes. West Ham are knocking on the door and Lanzini is having a fine game, weaving into the box with a great dribble.

Finally the Hammers equalise as Lanzini releases Antonio who shows great pace to get in a shot that hits both posts. But at last a West Ham striker has got in the box and thankfully the ball falls to Ayew, who taps home before being buried under his teammates by the away end.

It’s worth a soaking to finally see a goal. West Ham press for a late winner until the 86th minute when Antonio goes down and makes a silly handball, resulting in a second yellow. Slaven looks for a microphone to trash.

So it’s a nervous finish with both sides still going forward and a massive melee in our box right at the death as Success flicks wide under good pressure from Randolph. Maybe it’s two points lost, but after a poor start we’ve dominated most of the game and finishing with ten men it’s not that bad a point in the wind and rain of Watford.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Kouyate 6, Fonte 6, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Feghouli 6, Noble 6, Lanzini 7 (Fernandes n/a), Obiang 6, Snodgrass 4 (Ayew 7); Antonio 7.

Friday, February 24

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Off to Watford tomorrow where my old schoolmate Mark has acquired a ticket. Seems like we'll be next to the Sir Elton John Stand, so we just have to hope that WHU's Rocket Man Andy Carroll recovers from a groin niggle. Or at least tells Slaven, I'm Still Standing. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word for Dimitri Payet, but after his departure I just hope we don't Sacrifice the points. We'll have Captain Fantastic in Mark Noble and our own Tiny Dancer in Manuel Lanzini and with a 5.30pm kick-off hopefully Saturday' Night's Alright For Fighting for points. Though if Carroll or Antonio are left alone up front like a Candle in the Wind just hope Hammers Don't Go Breaking My Heart.

Thursday, February 23

The game's gone mad: Claudio Ranieri sacked and Simone Zaza scores

Nothing surprises you in football. Claudio Ranieri has been sacked nine months after winning the Premier League for Leicester and, even more incredibly, Simone Zaza has scored. He might have been useless at West Ham but he scored a brilliant goal for Valencia in their win against Real Madrid last night. It was a stunning turn and shot into the top corner and quite impossible to believe it came from the striker we saw who couldn't hit a London Stadium mural with a banjo. He'd also scored against Atletico Bilbao at the weekend. What is it West Ham do to strikers? Ranieri sacked and Zaza scores. The game really has gone mad…

Nathan Holland: let's not talk him up too much

Young Nathan Holland gets a big write-up in last night's Evening Standard. The 18-year-old winger starred in the Under-23 side's 2-0 win over Fulham at the London Stadium, and Academy manager Terry Westley described Holland (no relation to old WHU star Patsy Holland) as reminding him of  a young Ryan Giggs. The club signed Holland from Everton a month ago and he's clearly quite a prospect, but we shouldn't be talking up his prospects too much. 

It's reminiscent of John Lyall saying that Stuart Slater would be the first million pound player after an FA Cup win against Everton and the West Ham PA announcing "you can tell your grandchildren you were here when Joe Cole signed his contract" (he had a fine career but never became the next Messi). Alan Dickens was going to be the next Trevor Brooking. You never know what's going to happen with young players and a warning comes in the form of Ravel Morrison, who was described by Sir Alex Ferguson as the best Man United prospect since Paul Scholes. Hopefully Holland is a level-headed lad, but let's not put too much pressure on him too soon.

Wednesday, February 22

Should Hammers sign the roly-poly goalkeeper?

Now that pie-gate goalkeeper Wayne Shaw has been sacked by Sutton United you wonder if West Ham should make a move for the roly-poly goalkeeper. After all, we do have a history of giving a home to other famous pie-eaters, such as Razor Ruddock. Shaw could be cover for Randolph and Adrian and would certainly fill the posts, if not most of the London Stadium. The only issue would be could Wayne actually afford to buy a pie outside the stadium? And talking of illicit betting, some very strange gambling patterns have emerged of wagers on a West Ham fan finally saving enough cash to buy a pie at the next home match, and even a 5000-1 bet of someone splashing out on a Cornish pasty with potato wedges and a £2 bottle of mineral water.

Tuesday, February 21

Scott Hogan carried off and yet to score for Villa

Scott Hogan was carried off for Aston Villa during their 2-0 defeat at Newcastle last night and could face a lengthy lay-off. The former Hammers target is clearly a good prospect, but so far he hasn't pulled up any trees for Villa. Since signing from Brentford at the end of the window he's played in four defeats against Nottingham Forest, Ipswich, Barnsley and Newcastle and has yet to score. That's not to say he's a bad player, but it's unlikely he would have started scoring instantly in the Premiership if he's having problems at Villa in the Championship. His two previous cruciate ligament injuries also suggested his signing might have been a gamble and we can perhaps understand why Bilic thought £15 million was too much to pay.

Monday, February 20

London Stadium stewarding progress

With a lull in games it might be a good time to reflect that there have been some improvements at the London Stadium. Allowing flags bigger than 2 x 2 metres has given the upper tiers more of a Cup Final look and makes the game appear more of an occasion. 

Things aren't perfect, but the recent meeting of Karren Brady and the new Supporters Advisory Board seems to have yielded some positive results. The club has agreed to invite all ex-Boleyn Ground stewards to work at the London Stadium, deploy the same stewards in the same areas each game and to use ex-Boleyn Ground stewards in sensitive areas where "empathy with supporters is key". Although all this emphasis on empathy does have me imagining Mariella Frostrup counselling us about our sex lives at half-time… 

The newer stewards will also be briefed in the culture and history of the club so they don't confuse us with Coldplay fans. Karren Brady has received a lot of flak, sometimes rather bizarrely for not being a West Ham fan and also for being a woman and a Conservative. She's never claimed to be a football fan and if we were taken over by Abu Dhabi we wouldn't have a fan in charge of finance either. But she does know about unhappy consumers being bad for business and appears willing to listen to some of our concerns from this season so that's progress. It would have made sense to employ all the old Boleyn Ground stewards from the start, but at least it seems that mistake is being rectified.

Sunday, February 19

You get a book wrapped round your head

Goodbye to Boleyn just been trolled in an Amazon review. My book appears to have been mistaken for a piece of hoolie lit by one ‘Dusty S', who comments: “Oddly glossed over the many years of football violence, I thought you was proud of your firm… Did they mention about smashing up the Man Utd bus on their final swansong at the Boleyn? Anyway, the most use this book will get, is when you smash your mate around the face with next time you’re in a fight with your own fans at the Stratford Athletics Stadium."

Still lots of other good reviews and you suspect Dusty S might not be of the claret and blue persuasion. If only he knew that my not-very-hard firm includes a vicar's son and the only Kew Gardens Iron. Support has come from Brian Williams, author of Nearly Reach The Sky, who comments, in the spirit of literary hooliganism: “Arrange to meet the bloke at Mile End and I’ll twat him with my Kindle while you distract him with a lecture on the futility of hyphenated adverbs.” Brian is also part of the Guardian mob, so may come tooled up with a rolled-up copy of G2. There could be yet another Green Street sequel in this and a new chant of, "you get a book wrapped round your head."

Friday, February 17

Andy Carroll with two lions on his shirt

So the West Ham lads are now in Dubai for some warm weather training. Just hope that Andy Carroll doesn't find any new ways of getting injured. When he was in Dubai in 2014 Andy tweeted a picture of "2 lions being walked like dogs on the beach 50 yards away from me!" accompanied by the hashtag #waytooclose. This inevitably sparked fears of the striker being given a right mauling. As the rest of our season depends on keeping Andy fit let's hope Slaven keeps him away from any big cats this time.

Thursday, February 16

Boom time for Slaven

Slaven Bilic has escaped with an £8000 fine for throwing down a TV microphone boom against West Brom. There was a chance he could have received a stadium ban but presumably the FA gave him some credit for innovation. It's all very well for Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger to kick water bottles, but Bilic had to show real initiative to find a new inanimate object to trash. There's not too much to grab at the London Stadium and he'd have had to replicate a Usain Bolt sprint to get to the touchline hoardings to give them a good kicking. So credit to Slav for grabbing a provocative furry microphone. 

The FA's decision also has the advanage of further annoying Jose Mourinho who was given a touchline ban after theatrically kicking a water bottle against the Hammers in December. West Ham's assistant manager Nikola Jurcevic also received an £8000 fine for getting stroppy with the lino. Presumably both Nikola and Slav are now receiving anger management classes from Julian Dicks. 

Wednesday, February 15

Save the World Cup statue for Upton Park

Clyde Best backs the statue campaign
It's not too late to sign the petition to have the Moore, Hurst and Peters World Cup statue listed by Historic England and kept at Upton Park. To sign the Save Our Statue petition click on the link here

Councillor Veronica Oakeshott is running a campaign to keep the statue at Upton Park, while West Ham seek to have it moved to the London Stadium at Stratford. A forthcoming Newham Council meeting will ultimately decide its fate.

Local MPs Stephen Timms and Mike Gapes support the campaign and former-West Ham star Clyde Best (one of the first black players in Britain) lent his backing to keeping the statue where it is during his recent signing at the Newham Bookshop. Moore, Hurst and Peters achieved their feats at the Boleyn Ground and that's surely where it should stay. If the club really want a similar statue in place at Stratford then they could commission a copy. 

Tuesday, February 14

Kouyate is a good player — but not a right-back

One thing to come out of Saturday's game was that West Ham still need a right-back. In fairness, Cheikhou Kouyate had been struggling with a knock before the game, but he never looked at home as an emergency right-back. 

Kouyate's a fine player as a midfielder or centre back, but he's no full-back. He was nutmegged for Albion's first goal and was twice culpable for the equaliser. He took the poor throw-in that resulted in WBA regaining possession and getting down the field and then gave the fateful corner away when he could have jockeyed his man on the edge of the box. Kouyate tried hard, but when he did get forwards his crosses usually failed to beat the first defender. It would be be much better to see his athleticism and strength in midfield or defence. 

Sam Byram was on the bench and has presumably recovered from a knock sustained against Man City. He did fairly well against Palace and Middlesbrough, and even if he was exposed against Man City he now deserves a run of games. We don't have any other right-backs apart from the ageing Arbeloa, who has returned to training, so we might as well try to give Sam the experience he needs and the chance to cement the position between now and the end of the season. 

The only other alternatives are the unimpressive Havard Nordtveit, who is another midfielder being played out of position,or playing Antonio as a wing-back. Though it's still a mystery why the club didn't sign a right-back in the window, particularly as Carl Jenkinson turned down Palace and would surely have fancied a return loan to West Ham. 

Monday, February 13

Under pressure Bilic blows his top

Looking at the way Slaven Bilic reacted to West Brom's equaliser, it's surely a sign of the pressure he's been under in recent weeks with the Payet affair, poor summer signings, the stadium problems, sweating on Andy Carroll's fitness and some home hammerings from Man City and Arsenal. 

Even though West Ham have climbed to the bottom of the top half, all that frustration seemed to come out against West Brom. Slaven was already raging at the cosmos like Captain Ahab when he left his technical area to run half-way down the pitch to remonstrate with the lino as West Brom gained a throw-in in the 95th minute. When Albion scored he shouldn't have thrown down that furry boom microphone, though as far as trashing inanimate objects goes it certainly beats Jose Mourinho kicking a water bottle. 

Slaven's red card was justified and he now faces an FA charge for Improper Conduct. In reality, though Michael Oliver made some contentious calls, there was nothing as bad as Mike Dean's dismissal of Feghouli against Man United. Looking at the replays, that final throw-in did appear to be West Brom's after Antonio got a nick on the ball. Yes, there was a case for a free-kick being awarded for a foul on Feghouli before West Brom scored their first, but that doesn't excuse the defending of  Kouyate and Randolph as they allowed Chadli to score. Feghouli's disallowed goal appeared to be a correct decision as Antonio was offside and pushed the keeper. While even if the final throw-in had been incorrectly called as Bilic believed, West Ham still couldn't avoid conceding a corner and being outjumped in the box. Really it was his side's bad defending that incensed Super Slav.

Perhaps the moral is Bilic shouldn't see Green Day before a Premier League fixture. It was certainly ironic to see Tony Pulis trying to calm Bilic down. Hopefully Slaven will be able to unwind a bit during the warm-weather training in Dubai with some of Julian Dicks' relaxation tapes (which are mainly Megadeth). Who'd be a Premier League manager, eh?

Sunday, February 12

Evans above — Hammers blow it at the death

West Ham 2 West Brom 2

Inside the Best Café Matt and Lisa have been to see the kids play in a blizzard at Little Heath, though they had to leave at half-time. Nigel reports that his mum’s hairdresser in Bournemouth has given up on the Cherries as it was better in League Two and bang go our chances of any tickets for the away match. Meanwhile Michael’s been to Ken’s Cafe and Matt’s mate Carl, an Albion fan, is reminiscing about coming back from 0-3 down at the Boleyn to win 4-3 after Jermain Defoe was sent off. Happy days.

Then it’s a trek past the Belgian Irons’ coach and through the shouty tunnel. We fail to hold our formation and lose Michael and Nigel, eventually to be reunited in the concourse where Michael has purchased a pint of Deucher’s IPA for £3.50 and it’s actually pretty nice and far superior to the bland Carlsberg.

There’s no Andy Carroll and the one thing we don’t want to do is give Albion an early lead. After a promising early atmosphere builds up the crowd are stunned as West Ham claim a foul on Feghouli, Chadli skips through Kouyate and beats Randolph at his near post. A very soft goal and Pulis will love defending a lead.

The Hammers respond with a Snodgrass free kick that Foster has to tip round the post, before Rondon thwacks the bar for the visitors. Antonio has a header cleared off the line and when, from another free kick Feghouli turns the ball home after a bout of pinball, ref Michael Oliver correctly disallows the goal as Antonio is offside and nudging Foster.

At half-time Cresswell is withdrawn and Bilic makes a brave formation change playing three-ish at the back and bringing on Calleri up front.

It’s not going well, but the Hammers show good spirit and the crowd get behind them. Feghouli starts to make things happen and Lanzini looks creative. Calleri has a shot tipped away by Foster.

West Ham deservedly equalise as Lanzini strikes a fine effort against the bar and Feghouli prods home the rebound. We never doubted you, Feggy.

There’s more Hammers pressure and some tardy WBA substitutions, but WBA still threaten to break. Just as Nigel and myself are saying that we could settle for a point and Matt is remonstrating that we need to win this one, Feghouli plays it inside to Lanzini, who appears to settle it with a fine snap shot and very little backlift. Four minutes left.

We appear to have held on as Nigel produces his lucky banana and the game enters the fifth minute of added time. Kouyate sends a throw-in straight to an Albion player, much to Matt's chagrin. Albion win a throw-in and then a corner as Kouyate is caught the wrong side of his man. Collins is on as sub, goalie Foster is up and all we have to do is defend this. The corner goes unerringly to Jonny Evans who climbs higher than our defence to head home off the head of McAuley. This causes Matt to do a passable imitation of Donald Trump making a late-night expletive-laden phone call to Cheikhou Kouyate and the West Ham defence as Nigel peruses the banana skin beneath his feet and Bilic attacks a TV microphone.

We’d have settled for a point after going behind but now it feels like a loss. Still, we are keeping the points ticking over, Carroll has three weeks to get fit and we might even have a right-back one day. This game probably sums up where we are right now; outside the top seven and scrapping to join the best of the rest.

While on a more positive note the crowd seem to be finding their voice and even Tony Pulis noticed, commenting. "People say there's no atmosphere here, I thought the atmosphere here today was absolutely fantastic."

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 5; Kouyate 4, Reid 6, Fonte 5, Cresswell 5 (Calleri 5); Feghouli 7 (Collins n/a), Lanzini 7, Obiang 5, Noble 6, Snodgrass 6 (Fernandes n/a); Antonio 6.

Saturday, February 11

Danny Dyer in a claret and blue Tardis?

Wanna ride in my Tardis, babes? Quite a week for West Ham trivia. First Slaven Bilic was spotted at a Green Day concert (clearly he doesn't want to be an American Idiot) and then Hammers fan and uber geezer Danny Dyer announced that he'd be up for the role of the Doctor in Doctor Who. Danny wouldn't be the first Doctor Who character to support West Ham; in Series 4 Donna Noble (Mark's big sister?) informed David Tennant that she learned to whistle "up West Ham." Presumably Danny would play the Doctor in the style of the ICF, threatening to front up that moody geezer the Master (except he's now a moody Missy), taking on the Dalek mob on Green Street and giving the Zygons a slap round the back of the Queen Elizabeth Park. And he's already tackled Mourinho, quipping "alright sunshine?' when the then-Chelsea boss was sent off, so dealing with Davros should be pretty easy.

Friday, February 10

Andy Carroll deservedly beats Giroud's scorpion kick to win goal of the month

Spare a thought for all the Gooners fans weeping into their white wine this evening. Andy Carroll's overhead kick against Palace has beaten Olivier Giroud's scorpion kick, also against Palace, to win the Premier League's Goal of the Month prize. There's no doubt Giroud's scorpion kick was a great piece of improvisation, but Carroll's goal was better. Giroud's back heel could have gone anywhere, but happened to go in off the bar. Andy's goal was a much more technically controlled effort — he got his balance right and knew exactly where that ball was going, right into the top corner of the onion sack. And he had a better celebration, doing a belly flop that nearly took out the East Stand. It will certainly help the London Stadium to have seen a little bit of history made there. Der der der der der der, Andy Carroll!

Thursday, February 9

Goodbye to Boleyn reviewed in Newham Recorder

Thanks to Dave Evans of the Newham Recorder for his very positive review of Goodbye To Boleyn. He comments:  "There have been plenty of books on West Ham’s final season at Upton Park and the move to the London Stadium, but maybe none as poignant as Pete May’s ‘Goodbye to Boleyn’… Things change, but West Ham fans do not and this must-buy book for fans is the perfect example of that." Plus the Recorder feature has pictures of Ken's Cafe and the Newham Bookshop. Click on the link to read the compete review.

Tuesday, February 7

Beard timing for the Hammers

The signing of Robert Snodgrass leaves West Ham looking well-stocked in the beard department. We've now got Snoddy, James Collins, Andy Carroll, Havard Nordtveit, Jose Fonte and Winston Reid sporting various degrees of facial hair. Here's an all-time West Ham bearded XI, though I've left Payet out on principle, with Geoff Pike bubbling under…


DARREN RANDOLPH: His beard might come and go but when it reaches full bushiness it can fill the entire goal.

JAMES TOMKINS: Perfected the Victorian villain image with his mutton-chop sideburns morphing into a full beard.

JAMES COLLINS: Ginger beard and bald bonce make for a very Tolkein-esque look. Could well play with a staff in hand.

JULIAN DICKS: Julian’s goatee was very Pulp Fiction in a 1990s movie villain driving a BMW kind of way. Often went beard to beard with Roy Keane’s goatee.

FRANK LAMPARD SENIOR: Permanent beard throughout the 1970s and 1980s gave him that fetching Motorhead roadie/gentleman of the road trying to get served in the Central look.

GRAHAM PADDON: Early pioneer of the Bee Gees groomed beard brought night fever to Upton Park.

BILLY BONDS:  The ultimate in pirate chic, could have out-swashbuckled Johnny Depp in the Caribbean. Extra marks for medallion accessories.

ROBERT SNODGRASS: Snoddy’s beard perfectly captures that Scottish explorer marooned in an Antarctic hut look.

DAVID CROSS: Psycho’s black beard gave him a look of desperation that clearly intimidated 1980s centre backs.

CLYDE BEST: Was only 19 when he came into the West Ham side but that beard made him appear at least 30 and capable of going ten rounds with Muhammad Ali.

ANDY CARROLL: A cross between Jesus and a prog rock keyboard player. Extra marks for man-bun on top.

MANAGER — SLAVEN BILIC: Various levels of stubble give him the appearance of a Croatian rock star after a heavy night out forced to do a press conference.

Sunday, February 5

Six out of ten

It's a strange stat, but West Ham have now won six out of ten games (and six out of nine league games), yet included in that run are two defeats to Man City with an aggregate score of 0-9. We're getting quite good at bullying the lower teams, giving Southampton a dead leg yesterday, but still handing our dinner money over to the likes of Man City. What's encouraging is that WHU are not drawing but either winning or losing. Three more wins out of 14 and we're safe. Grab a few more and the top half is achievable. 

Saturday, February 4

West Ham go marching in

Southampton 1 West Ham 3

I never doubted you for a moment, Captain Bilic. A great result at Southampton and it's three wins out of four after Payetgate, proving that on Wednesday WHU came up against an inspired Man City attack and we're still more than capable of beating teams in the bottom half. Nice to hear so many choruses of Bubbles on Radio London. 

Dropping Lanzini for a more workmanlike midfield seemed to work. The Hammers showed character to come back from a goal down— it looked offside but Randolph should have saved it —  and it's now six for Andy Carroll since his return. Good for Obiang to get his first for the club. He deserves it after coming out as the Premiership's top tackler in recent stats — and Noble will have been boosted by making the own goal with his free-kick (though John Motson says it's now been awarded to Noble). 

Feghouli got some stick online but he put over a great cross that Carroll should have converted early on, while Obiang made a goal and scored himself and Noble had a fine game too. While Fonte and Snodgrass have played in a winning side. We're ninth and things are looking up. Irons!

Friday, February 3

Tina and Bobby: how Bobby Moore's marriage suffered when football rejected him

Just watched ITV’s Tina and Bobby, based on Tina Moore’s book about her marriage, Bobby Moore: By The Person Who Knew Him Best. The football bits aren’t that convincing and I’m not sure Ron Greenwood was quite as bluff a character as portrayed. But there are some great sixties and seventies costumes and Michelle Keegan makes a fine Tina, who is an early wag but an intelligent woman who has her own career ambitions.

Lorne McFadyean plays Mooro (without ever looking much like him) as a taciturn character, unsure how to express his emotions — though it’s moving when he does finally crack and break into tears after contracting testicular cancer. The three-part drama portrays a much more naïve world, where footballers thought they’d made it when they moved to Gants Hill and then a five-bedroom house in Chigwell.

It’s quite a sad tale. The best years of Moore’s career were the early triumphs of the FA Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and World Cup. But denied the move he wanted to Spurs (and later Derby) he drinks heavily and becomes involved in the Blackpool nightclub incident. Moore invests badly in a disastrous country club with a car salesman called Del. He ends up splitting up with Tina after retirement, when he’s scrabbling around for money at Oxford City and in Hong Kong.

The fact he’s been shamefully ignored by West Ham, the FA and the football world in general has resulted in him becoming more aloof, although he generously gives Tina the house when they split up and by all accounts had a happy marriage to second wife Stephanie. Tina said it took ten years after the split to stop loving him, and there’s a moving scene where they bump into each other on a train five years before his death and he says sorry.

During the series — which is a bit soapy but very watchable — another former England captain David Beckham was being lauded on Desert Island Discs. Had Moore played today he’d be worth multi-millions and a global icon and if he’d lived a bit longer he’d have finally been appreciated in the age of the Premier League. But it wasn’t easy being married to a legend and Tina’s story shows the human cost on a couple who married young, were thrust into stardom and then had to cope when the game moved on without them.

Thursday, February 2

Jesus punishes West Ham for defensive sins

West Ham 0 Manchester City 4

After two wins we enter the London Stadium dreaming of vengeance for our 5-0 FA Cup defeat. Fraser has ten cigars, just in case, Alison has ended her strike and returned to the fold, while we’re also joined by Michael and Lisa. Though Nigel has had a narrow escape, as he misses the match through being tied up with Theresa May and Brexit.

West Ham start off fairly well and win several second balls. It takes until the 17th minute for the gentleman behind us to come out with his first, “Get up you tart!” The ref does seem to be treating City with too much respect.

But it all starts to resemble a rewind of the Cup game when Cresswell plays a terrible pass inside to De Bruyne. The lino misses the fact Cressy is fouled trying to get back, but De Bruyne punishes the error by playing a one-two with Jesus and strokes home the first. Four minutes later Sane nutmegs Byram, powers past Fonte and crosses for Silva to score. It’s all over by half-time as Obiang’s poor ball to Feghouli is intercepted by Sane. He plays in Sterling, who lays on the cross for Jesus to score as the Hammers claim offside.

The Hammers’ only chance comes when Carroll does well to find Cresswell, only for the left-back to scoop over the bar. City have dropped Aguero and their young front line of Jesus, Sane and Sterling have been sensational, but it’s still far too easy for them. There are huge gaps between our exposed full-backs and the centre backs and this was surely a game to revert to a back five rather than 4-4-2.

We’re joined at half-time by an irate Matt who is complaining about another wasted transfer window. Not even the news that Vera Lynn has a new album out can boost him, though he does suggest that at 100-years-old she is in the age bracket that might appeal to our owners.

Fonte fouls Sterling in the box and Toure nets the spot kick after 67 minutes and then it's just a case of can we avoid another five-goal defeat. Still it’s not as if anyone has to follow this with a night train to Cornwall — apart from Steve the Cornish postman that is.

Michael suggests that we have become the Premiership’s low-grade bullies; great at giving Hull and Palace a Chinese burn, but meekly handing over our dinner money whenever confronted by the big boys. Alison says she’s once again in a room full of really angry men and wonders if, having missed the Chelsea and Palace games, she’s a bad weather supporter.

The only slight positive is that Antonio keeps trying and Snodgrass comes on and gets in a decent cross or two. And the fans appear to be getting used to the London Stadium. There’s a rousing “We are West Ham’s claret and blue army!” at 4-0 down and some gallows humour “oles” as we put together three passes in the 94th minute.

So it’s off through the Tunnel of Doom to the King Edward where we’re greeted by a terrible karaoke singer doing I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues. “Just when you thought the evening couldn’t get any worse…” mutters Michael. We’re joined by a moribund Gavin and things are so bad that despite the karaoke Fraser, Michael and Gav decide to stay for a third pint at 11pm and risk the night bus. The only consolation is that we don’t have to play Man City again this season.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 5, Byram 4, Reid 6, Fonte 4, Cresswell 4; Feghouli 4 (Fernandes 5), Noble 4, Obiang 4 (Snodgrass 5), Lanzini 5; Antonio 6, Carroll 5 (Fletcher 4).

Wednesday, February 1

A decent-ish window for the Hammers

Not a lot of action on deadline day beyond Reece Oxford being loaned to Reading. Scott Hogan has ended up going to Aston Villa for £12 million. You wonder why the club made earlier offers and then pulled out of a deal at such a late stage. It seems Slaven (or David Sullivan?) decided he'd go with what he had rather than risk £12m on an unproven Championship striker. 

Bilic will be praying that Andy Carroll stays fit and his new partnership with Antonio continues to prosper. Having invested £20.5 million in Andre Ayew it also seems sensible to give him a run and try to get him scoring in the second half of the season. With Calleri (who might look less awful now he's got a goal) and the promising Fletcher as back-up Bilic has decided that five strikers is enough.

No right-back has arrived, which again is a case of gambling on Sam Byram staying fit and making the position his own. The key thing is that with 28 points in the bag we've been under much less pressure to make panic buys and if West Ham do need to strengthen they should be able to buy for better prices in the summer

Payet has gone of course, which was always likely to happen when we failed to challenge for the top six, but WHU have signed two quality payers who are proven in the Premier League. Jose Fonte is a fine defender who did really well at Southampton while Robert Snodgrass adds scoring ability from the flanks and looks like he'll play with pride and hunger. 

But the biggest bonus for the Hammers has been finding a bit of team spirit since Payetgate — something you can'y buy in the window. We had decent players already, but now they're starting to play like a team again.