Tuesday, October 31

Literary Hammer geezers at East Ham Library

In a double act to rival McAvennie and Cottee — or some might say Mike Small and David Kelly — Brian Williams and myself will be appearing at East Ham Library, 328 Barking Road, on Tuesday Nov 14 as part of the Newham Word Festival. Brian will be discussing his new book Home From Home on his struggles reaching the next level at the London Stadium and his previous tome Nearly Reach The Sky, while I'll be speaking about my book Goodbye To Boleyn on West Ham's final season at Upton Park. Expect plenty of Boleyn reminisces, Ken's Cafe eulogies, West Ham trivia and then questions from the floor. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm kick-off and it's all free. Details from the Newham Bookshop website.

Sunday, October 29

Palace party as Hammers blow two-goal lead

Crystal Palace 2 West Ham 2

"Six minutes, six bloody minutes!" I find myself declaring in the style of Michael Palin in Ripping Yarns, while sitting with a drink at the Amble Inn in Harpenden, having completed stage two of the Lea Valley Walk with Nicola and Paula. "I'll just assume we concede a last-minute equaliser in added time to avoid unnesessary stress." 

Sure enough, with seven minutes of added time gone, Zaha equalises with the last kick of the game. Antonio has chosen to cross it into the middle rather than hold it up in the corner and 22 seconds later Zaha scores, having turned inside Kouyate too easily and with Rice not getting tight enough. It's not the despair I can't take…

It's cruel on the Hammers and Bilic who looked so close to a second away win in four days. Hernandez finished cleverly with the outside of his foot to convert Cresswell's cross. Then Ayew dribbled from the half way line before firing in a rocket off the crossbar. Why hasn't he done this more often? Now his confidence is up Ayew looks like he might finally justify his £20m fee.

But Hart has already made one fantastic double save from Tomkins and Schlupp in the first half and early in the second an Ogbonna foul gifts Palace a penalty. Cresswell and Fonte depart injured. To be fair to Palace they deserve something from the game, as Cabaye hits the post, Hart produces a great stop to deny the Frenchman's free kick and then the 'keeper produces a stunning save to tip Tomkins' header on to the bar. 

After the game Hart complained about the side being "unprofessional" at the end, and West Ham really have to learn to hold on to two-goal leads against bottom-placed sides. Hart's heroics and a steely resolve to cling on to an away victory could have turned WHU's season. But then came Antonio's aberration (has he been taking lessons in game management from Lionel Scaloni?) and as Slaven said, it felt like a defeat. 

Though on reflection most of us would have taken a point before the game and a win and a draw against Spurs and Palace should be enough for Bilic to retain the confidence of the board. Yes, the Hammers have gained a point on Swansea and Bournemouth. But it could have been so much more.

Saturday, October 28

Bilic needs to reward Carabao Cup heroics

It would be good to see Slaven Bilic stick with some of the side that achieved an astonishing turnaround at Spurs on Wednesday. Two-goal Andre Ayew should keep his place and there's a case for sticking with Carroll and Ayew up front with Hernandez to come on from off the bench. Cresswell should stay in at left back and Mark Noble needs to be in midfield for his leadership qualities. Ogbonna deserves a game at the back too. If Antonio fails his fitness test it will perhaps make Bilic's selection easier. 

Slaven will probably go with Joe Hart, but there's also a case for bringing back Adrian. Hart is a fine keeper but low on confidence, while Adrian made a couple of great saves at Wembley and is a big character who was the first to join in the celebrations. Now we've found something that smells like team spirit we don't want to dilute it too much.

Thursday, October 26

Tottenham Hotspur… it's happened again!

Tottenham 2 West Ham 3 (Carabao Cup)

Hearing the half-time score during the interval at the Ian Dury musical at the Stratford Theatre Royal it was hard to find many Reasons To Be Cheerful. Yet as we leave the play Matt texts to say that he never doubted Captain Bilic for a minute. Knock me down with a feather, it's almost like Clever Trevor Brooking has returned and we've beaten Spurs' Blockheads 3-2.

West Ham's midfield failed to track Sissoko for the first and Alli's second took a bit of a lucky deflection off Rice's head. Adrian had to produce a great save to deny Alli's header and Spurs were cruising at the break. Who knows what Bilic said at half-time? It was almost like the players felt things could't get any worse, they finally got angry and decided to give it a right go. 

Suddenly Ayew started to look like a striker, poaching a goal after a stinging shot from Fernandes was parried. The equaliser was a great move, Carroll found Lanzini with a precision header and Manuel controlled in an instant to play in Ayew who swept home from the six-yard line. And then incredibly Ogbonna rose above a static Spurs defence to head home a corner. Three goals in 15 minutes. As Ian Dury might put it, "Oi! Oi!"

The Irons hold on for a memorable victory as Spurs play like they have eaten a dodgy lsagna at half-time. Full-Time Matt's verdict is that the whole team bar Adrian and Lanzini played poorly in the first half but, "all were fantastic in the second half, especially Ayew, Lanzini, Cheikhou and Cressy. Noble put in a real captain's performance after he was fired up by some handbags with Dele Alli." Strangely Matt then celebrated not with Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll but a nice cup of herbal tea.

Of course it could all go wrong again if WHU get tonked at Palace and we have to remember that there was no Kane for the Harry Kane Team, but it's a huge win that will really improve confidence. Bilic should stick with some of these players. The likes of Ayew, Noble, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Adrian and Fernandes must now all think they have a strong case for starting at Selhurst Park. 

One final note: with an attendance of just 36,000 surely Spurs could have given West Ham more than 5000 tickets? What a Waste

Wednesday, October 25

Stop! Hammer Time

Great fun recording the Stop! Hammer Time podcast with legendary comedian Phil Whelans and Joe Fordham, author of the book No Place Like Home. The only drawback was we had to talk about West Ham. Click on the link to hear our full and frank discussion of the Brighton debacle, the Croatian top ten (look out for Sex Diesel), potential new managers, Trevor Sinclair's England cameo, Big Sam's clean sheets, Jermain Defoe's bite on Mascherano, the use of the word 'zine in Scrabble, and whether a Declan Rice hat-trick will save Slaven's job in a 5-1 win at Palace (probably not).

Tuesday, October 24

Two games for Bilic to save his job?

It seems Slaven Bilic is to be given more time by the board and will be in place for the Spurs and Palace games. David Sullivan has rightly said that he won't sack a manager unless things "become desperate", though after Friday night West Ham must be pretty close to desperation. 

One of the most worrying statistics was Match of the Day 2's revelation that West Ham are bottom of the Premier League in sprints made and distance covered. Ian Wright highlighted a couple of examples of the lack of energy. The newly-promoted teams will run forever, yet West Ham now look a lethargic side where the players, apart from Zabaleta and Reid, aren't putting in enough of a shift.

The team also lack guile. All they did against Brighton was send in endless crosses for Andy Carroll, who wasn't playing. There didn't seem to be any attempt to change tactics by getting Lanzini on the ball, making more dribbles into the box or cutting inside and trying to beat the keeper at the near post. The hugely disappointing Arnautovic looked to have a great shot on him at Stoke, but we've not seen him try any long-range efforts. Good players such as Obiang and Kouyate were really poor against Brighton, while Hart continues to combine great saves with errors.

Any new manager coming in would consider he's got a good squad that's underachieving. It can't be Bilic's fault alone, though he's made plenty of mistakes. The players have to up their work-rate and it might be time to recall Mark Noble, a player who genuinely cares about the club and according to the Daily Mail laid into the side in the dressing room after the Brighton debacle.

Sunday, October 22

Claret carpet idea makes sense

The idea of changing the carpet surrounding the pitch to claret was rather lost amid all the reaction to the terrible home defeat against Brighton. Slaven Bilic wrote about it in his Standard column and said the club had offered to pay the £200,000 cost of conversion, but so far the landlords at the London Legacy Development Corporation have refused. Slaven pointed out that it works for Paris St Germain at the Parc des Princes where there is a blue surround.  

It's a good plan and would offer a clear contrast between the pitch and surround and make it easier for players to judge how close they are to the touchline. The green carpet doesn't work — a claret surround would make it feel more like home and it could, in any case, be moved for athletics events. Whoever the manager is, it could make a psychological difference. 

If we can't get claret though, there is an alternative suggested in my book Goodbye to Berlin — we could change the surround to leopardskin or perhaps zebra stripes to make it a bit more Essex. Or failing that some deep shagpile.

Saturday, October 21

Shambolic Hammers leave Bilic on the brink

Brighton fans outnumber the home fans by the end…
West Ham 0 Brighton 3

It’s into the Clyde Best Café to meet Matt. Lisa and Steve the Cornish postie, who is still recovering from travelling on the packed Central Line where they don't allow you to carry a surfboard. Then it’s Matt’s short-cut via the dodgy estate and down the Shouting Tunnel to the ground.

Inside the stadium we meet Michael, who is ecstatic to have one of his photos included in the programme — which is as good as his evening gets. Nigel’s on the train back from Edinburgh, while Fraser’s lost his season ticket so is watching in the pub. We wonder if Fraser’s subconscious has forced the left side of his brain to stash the season ticket under the floorboards in a bid to avoid further psychological damage. Alison’s spending more time with her portfolio, so completing our party are Scott and Molly, who is making her West Ham debut. What could possibly go wrong?

The atmosphere is good with a noisy crowd under the lights, but Brighton take the lead when Obiang gives away a free kick after just ten minutes. A straight forward punt into the box is headed in by Glenn Murray as Obiang loses his marker and Reid can’t get across.

West Ham then have a decent spell of attacking but endless crosses are deflected by Dunk and Duffy. Arnautovic seems curiously reluctant to shoot and little comes off for him, while our best hope is Antonio, who has the beating of his man, but then goes down with injury and doesn’t look fit after that. Obiang has a ’mare in midfield while Kouyate is anonymous. Our best effort is a Lanzini shot deflected over.

Close to the break Hart produces a brilliant save to deny Murray. Only the defence fails to keep concentrating as Izquierdo-Mana fires a long-range shot into the top corner. Hart gets a hand to it and should probably save it. The crowd have kept with West Ham up to this point, but the team go off to half-time boos. Nurse, the screens. Symbolically, the big screens have stopped working too.

Ayew comes on for Kouyate at the break but it makes little difference. Strangely there’s no Martinez on the bench when we need goals. Zabalata at least looks committed and wins the ball back to stand up a great cross for Andy Carroll, except he’s not playing. The game is over though when Brighton break at speed and Zabaleta brings down Murray for a penalty. Murray puts it down the middle and scores.

“Can we play you every week?” chant the delirious Brighton fans, celebrating heir first ever away win in the Premier League. Followed by, “you’re getting sacked in the morning!”

"At least you'll be able to say you were at Bilic's last game," texts Nigel.

Slaven is a lonely figure on the touchline as the game plays out and the stadium empties. “We can beat the rush by staying until the end,” quips Michael. Perhaps Fraser could lose our tickets too. The admirably-named Bong is having a fine game at left-back for Brighton. Hughton is clearly getting the best out of his players, while Slaven is not.

We’ve actually had 65 per cent of possession without doing anything with it or creating a real chance. Lanzini’s tame shot on target gets ironic cheers. It’s been a shambolic performance. The team look tired and so does Bilic. We all like him as a man, but he could be gone after this and if West Ham lose to Spurs and Palace it looks inevitable. Something’s not working. Perhaps a new manager could take a fresh look at this squad and restore some organisation and belief.

Still, it’s not as if anyone has to get on an all-night train to Cornwall and then deliver the post at 7am — apart from Steve that is. While we wait for Storm Brian to batter us further. ("He's not a storm, he's a very naughty boy!") We drift away among a crowd of dispirited, muttering West Ham asylum seekers, finally making the Refreshment Room.

“Zaza is top scorer for Valencia,” muses Matt.

“We should never have returned Jonathan Calleri,” I quip.

On the TV Bilic is being interviewed on Sportsday. Only rather like in the series W1A, the subtitles go haywire, with Slaven apparently talking about yellow macs and the abolition of West Ham.

We haven’t played well for a whole game all season and we’re nine games into the league. As the Stranglers once sang, Something Better Change. The board have some big decisions to make.

PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 5, Zabaleta 5, Reid 5, Fonte 5, Masuaku 4; Antonio 5, Kouyate 4 (Ayew 4), Obiang 3, Lanzini 5, Arnautovic 3 (Fernandes 5); Hernandez 4.

Friday, October 20

Striker light

It's a bit early to be down to Harry Redknapp's bare bones… West Ham face a striker crisis against Brighton tonight. Andy Carroll is suspended for idiotic elbowing while Javier Hernandez pulled up in training with a tight hamstring and is a doubt. While Diafra Sakho is apparently out with his back problem again — does this mean the operation on his back last season was unsuccessful? 

So it looks like the Irons might have to play Ayew and Antonio up front, unless Toni Martinez, who has just scored a hat-trick at the London Stadium for the Under-23s, gets a chance, though Bilic appears to have ruled this out. There is one other option. Mark Noble has just presented young royals Prince George and Princess Charlotte with West Ham shirts when Wills, Kate and Harry visited the London Stadium, so there could be a chance one of them might get a game.

Tuesday, October 17

Is this West Ham's best side?

Amid all the fuss over elbowgate it's been almost forgotten just what an attacking side Slaven Bilic fielded at Burnley. Slaven had just Kouyate as a holding midfielder, alongside the very attack-minded Manuel Lanzini and two wingers in Antonio and Arnautovic, plus two strikers in Carroll and Hernandez. As my pal Matt tweeted, could this be West Ham's best side?

Slaven made some big decisions, such as dropping Mark Noble to the bench. Nobes is a big presence at the club. Having watched Iron Men, where he shakes the hand of every member of staff when arriving at training, he's a good influence at the club and grew up playing football at Hermit Road, where West Ham once played. But he's getting older and perhaps can no longer be an automatic selection. Bilic also dropped Obiang, another solid holding midfielder. 

Yet the frustrating thing is that through indiscipline we never get to see the side Bilic wants to field. A combination of reckless elbows from Arnautovic and Carroll, plus a bout of flu for Arnie before the Swansea match and Lanzini's early injury, means we've yet to see what looks like an exciting line-up for a full 90 minutes.  

Saturday, October 14

A merited point after Carroll's catastrophe

Burnley 1 West Ham 1

It's always disappointing to concede an equaliser with five minutes to go, but in the circumstances this was a decent away point. Down to ten men after Andy Carroll's dismissal on 27 minutes, West Ham defended stoutly until Wood scored with a fine header. There was perhaps a little debate about Carroll's first booking for use of the elbow, but to jump again with his elbow out 99 seconds later jumping for a ball he didn't have to win was stupid and probably cost the Hammers all three points. It was, as Pablo Zabaleta called it, "a nasty challenge", while the incident was in midfield where it wasn't that vital he won the ball.

The Irons got lucky when Gudmundsson hit the post and the ball rolled into Hart's arms, but WHU also created some chances on the break even when down to ten men, with Antonio forcing a great save after a lovely move involving Lanzini and Hernandez. Credit to Antonio early on for reacting sharply to take the ball round Pope after Mee misjudged Hart's punt and put the Hammers ahead. Good to see him get his first goal of the season. 

At least West Ham are now unbeaten in two and if they can get a result against Brighton that run will be extended. But indiscipline is costing West Ham and Bilic was right to criticise Andy Carroll after the match, who as an experienced professional should not have let his teammates down.

Battle of the claret and blues

A difficult match away to Burnley today. Many thought the Clarets might struggle having sold Michael Keane and Andre Gray, two of their best players last season. But young James Tarkowski has had an exceptional season in defence while new striker Chris Wood looks like a no-nonsense centre-forward who will score anywhere. 

So plenty for Bilic to think about, with Burnley having gained more away points so far than in the whole of last season. However, they have struggled to break teams down at home, which might suit the Hammers. 

There's still the question of who starts up front. Sakho has made a strong case for inclusion, while there are doubts about playing Carroll and Hernandez together — though there's no reason they can't play off each other if the service is right and they stick closer to the box than they did against Swansea. We have to hope that Lanzini provides the creativity West Ham have lacked so far and that Arnautovic returns to provide something muscular and different on the left. Come on you Irons!

Thursday, October 12

Respecting the points

Just missed out on Spurs away tickets along with most of my pals, bar Full-Time Matt, as I've only got six priority points. Yes, it's probably the only fair way of allocating tickets, though it seems a bit of a Catch 22 situation in that you can now only get points for away games by attending away games, which you can't get to without enough points. 

We did wonder if the club would start awarding points for cultural events. If my fellow season-ticket holder Michael the Whovian was awarded tickets for theatre shows he'd be off the scale as he has an away season ticket for the West End. Maybe gigs could count? Will WHU give me points for seeing Nick Cave at the O2? Michael's Marc Almond gigs must be worth something as would Matt's hipster outings to the Camden Crawl, while Fraser probably saw Frank Sinatra perform Bubbles. Though my mate Nigel might have to be deducted points for seeing Status Quo.

As it is, I'm booked to see the Ian Dury musical Reasons to be Cheerful at the Stratford Theatre Royal the night of the Spurs game, so at least might get to meet Billericay Dickie. Never wanted to go to Wembley anyway

Monday, October 9

West Ham player scores in World Cup shocker

Interesting to note that one Robert Snodgrass took his goal well when scoring Scotland's equaliser for Scotland at Slovenia, a draw that ended Scotland's dream of World Cup qualification. Snoddy is still a West Ham player, even if he is on a season's loan at Aston Villa. He also opened his account for Villa with a fine volley in the 4-0 win at Burton and his arrival has coincided with an upsurge in the Villains' form. He's a better player than we saw during his 15 games at West Ham. Bilic appears to have given up on him, but if there was a change of manager at West Ham next summer when Bilic's contract expires, might he be given another chance by a new boss as a useful squad player? Stranger things have happened.

Friday, October 6

Blowing Bubbles with Pele

Good interview with Pele in the latest issue of Blowing Bubbles in which he speaks about Bobby Moore. The three-time World Cup winner teases West Ham fans with the thought that he could have teamed up alongside close friend and adversary Bobby Moore in claret and blue. 

Pele resisted the advances of Europe’s finest clubs in the 1960s and 1970s to stay with his beloved Santos, before a stint with New York Cosmos, and he speaks of his close relationship with Moore.

“I never wanted to leave Brazil – but I loved Bobby,” he says. "He was a great player, a talented player and I kept telling people ‘look at this guy, he’s like a Brazilian’ – good ball control, great dribbling ability. He was a very nice guy, a fair player and I always compare him with the likes of Beckenbauer and Cruyff.”

Moore and Pele, famously pictured swapping shirts after the England v Brazil game at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, did play together in America in the 1970s, and then again in legendary all-star football film Escape to Victory.

To find our more about this, as well as Pele’s views on Cristiano Ronaldo, his enduring love affair with the World Cup – and winning it three times – as well as all the latest news, views and discussions around West Ham, read the latest edition of Blowing Bubbles, out now. Click on the link for details.

Hart's heroics will help Hammers

Good to see Joe Hart get some credit for a great double save late on against Slovenia that was instrumental in securing England's World Cup qualification. He was brave to dive at the striker's feet and despite being hurt then reacted really quickly to leap up and save the second effort with his foot. Yes, it was a poor match but without Hart England could have lost. He's actually kept clean sheets in four out of five of his last games for club and country, so that should be good for his confidence. A lot of papers are still clamouring for Butland to replace Hart as England goalie, but right now he's got the shirt and he's not letting go of it easily.

Thursday, October 5

US billionaire buys ten per cent of West Ham

It's rather gone under the radar that the ten per cent of West Ham shares owned by the Icelandic connection in CB Holdings have been sold to a rich American, Albert 'Tripp' Smith. Uncle Albert is the senior managing director of Blackstone, the US investment capital firm that bought Smith's company GSO. 

There's a very interesting piece on this in The West Ham Way, where Malcolm Atkins speculates whether this means Sullivan and Gold might ultimately sell out to Smith and co, though Smith states he has no plans to increase his investment. Atkins brings up the possibility that if athletics gets a new home at Birmingham the way might be clear for new American owners to buy the London Stadium and properly convert it for football purposes, with the penalties for selling not being too prohibitive for Sullivan and Gold. 

No doubt some fans will be uneasy about US involvement, but we'll have to see what sort of owner Mr Tripp Smith is before making a judgement. But clearly he sees West Ham as a good investment opportunity and no doubt we will be hearing more about him soon.

Tuesday, October 3

West Ham board right to back Bilic

The Evening Standard reports that the West Ham board have backed Slaven Bilic for the rest of the season at least. Reporter Ken Dyer has good access at West Ham and this seems to come directly from Sullivan and Gold. It's the right thing to do, as the press speculation whenever the Hammers lose a game appears to be affecting the players and wearing down Bilic. 

We all like him as a man, though like many fans, I've had reservations about last season's disastrous transfer policy and some of the tactics and selections this season. But let's give Bilic the chance to manage without fear. He's now got the incentive of having a good season and earning a new contract. 

We've hardly had a game when all four of the new signings have played together, but with seven points from seven games and some winnable gams coming up the season could soon look very different. The club needs some stability and the end of the season will be the time to judge whether West Ham need to change the manager.

Monday, October 2

Sakho in the morning

"It's not easy to prove to the people what I can do on the pitch when I only play for ten minutes," Diafra Sakho told the Daily Mirror after Saturday's win, when he, erm, proved what he could do in ten minutes. Sakho did show some welcome signs of maturity by adding, "I don't need to knock on the manager's door, he knows what i can do. Now I have to force my way back into the team. I just want to enjoy being part of the team and we will see what happens in January."

What Sakho needs to realise is that he would probably have been in the team already had he not decided to have a private medical in Rennes on deadline day and tried to engineer a move for 'personal reasons'. It's very hard for Bilic to select a player who doesn't want to play for West Ham. It would help if Diafra looked like he enjoyed scoring, which is his job. He's scored three goals this season and not exactly celebrated any of them. And what did removing his shirt against Swansea mean? If he ran to the fans and looked excited when he scored he'd win the crowd over.

The lad's got great ability and will get game time every week if he can improve his attitude. He needs to realise that he's up against Hernandez and Carroll so it's not a slight to be on the bench. And if he commits himself to being professional and playing his heart out for West Ham whatever his problems are he'll get games.

Sunday, October 1

Sakho wins it at the death for lacklustre Irons

West Ham 1 Swansea City 0

It’s in to the Clyde Best Café to meet Essex Steve, up for his first game since a Ludek Miklosko-inspired draw denied Man United the title in 1995. Then it’s on to the London Stadium where Fraser and Nigel are with The Gav who has replaced Matt, away living Danishly. While Michael’s been to Ken’s Café, kept open in his honour with his big breakfast served on a silver salver. Alison’s returned from Brighton having expressed her love for Jezza and is accompanied by Chelsea fan Biff, whom she’s hoping to convert to a proper team.

Early on Cresswell gets in his one decent cross of the afternoon and Antonio has a half-volley palmed away by Fabianski. After that West Ham settle into a strange torpor of ceding possession to Swansea and lacking any urgency. Antonio doesn’t look fit, Carroll and Hernandez don’t get in the box and it’s a poor game all round. Sanchez and Britton start to dominate in midfield and a Bony drive is saved by Joe Hart. But the Swans lack penetration too and it has 0-0 written all over the giant scoreboard as a late Ayew effort trickles towards the keeper. The Irons don’t look like a side fighting to save their manager’s job.

Poor Steve must wish he could spend another 22 years away. The second half is more of the same. Looking at the few positives, Zabaleta shows all his professionalism to ensure we keep a clean sheet and Fonte and Reid play well at the back. But Cresswell and Ayew’s crossing is poor, there’s no creativity in midfield and Carroll is having one of his lumbering games. Antonio does get in one decent cross that Carroll just fails to connect with, while Olsson drives wide at the other end. The Gav provides some much needed amusement for the gentleman in front of us by briefly falling asleep in the second half. It’s tempting to join him.

Lanzini comes on, much to the relief of the crowd. But when Hernandez is hauled off for Sakho there are loud boos, although the crowd don’t know that Chicharito’s had a knock in training. But Slaven might know what he’s doing. Masuaku has also come on for Ayew and all three subs make a difference. Arthur gets in a first-time cross that Andy Carroll scoops on to the angle with an improvised finish.

It looks like a draw as added time approaches until Masuaku makes another surge down the left, beats two defenders and gets in a great low cross that Sakho pokes in at the far post. Never in doubt! The stadium erupts in relief. Diafra takes his shirt off and doesn’t celebrate much. Perhaps he needs to look at a video of the Palace game last season to learn how to run to the crowd. Still, he might be moody but he’s a finisher.

The Irons survive added time and we’ll take a victory while playing badly. Strangely Matt doesn’t believe my text that it’s been a feast of flowing football. We retreat to the King Edward VII, where Fraser, Michael and myself are joined by Swansea-fan Huw, who is taking defeat well with the aid of London Pride, plus a blast from the past, Desperate Dan, last seen betting his house on West Ham beating Charlton 5-0, only to lose out to a late consolation for the Addicks back in the Di Canio days.

Then it’s off to see Nick Cave at the O2. Had we lost, his songs about love, lust, loss, death, God and the devil might have been a little too much even for a Hammers fan. A great set but no sign of Bubbles.

So some space to regroup during the break and a good result on paper, even if a poor performance. If the players’ nervousness was about the press speculation, then the best thing the board could do is back Bilic and say he’s here until the end of the season, end of story. WHU have to play better, but now have three games against teams we should aim to beat.

PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 6; Zabaleta 6, Reid 6, Fonte 6, Cresswell 4; Antonio 5, Kouyate 5, Noble 5 (Lanzini 5), Ayew 5 (Masuaku 7); Carroll 5 (Sakho 6), Hernandez 5.