Monday, October 29

In praise of Snoddy

You have to admire the character of Robert Snodgrass, who is winning the fans over with his workrate and committed performances. He was asked to replace one of the best players in the world in Diego Payet, which he was never going to do. Slaven Bilic gave up on him after just 15 games and loaned him to Aston Villa for a season. While at Villa, where he did well playing 40 games and scoring seven times in the Championship, he was criticised in public by David Sullivan and Karren Brady, which should never have happened at a well-run football club. He could easily have demanded a permanent move,

But this season Snoddy has won over Manuel Pellegrini and featured in every game, opening his scoring account with a brace against Macclesfield. In the last two away games he's cut back balls that Arnautovic and Ogbonna should both have buried. He's not the greatest player in the world, but he's putting in the effort, and West Ham fans will always appreciate a player who puts in a shift. With the current injury crisis we need squad players like Snoddy. Could this be the season he finally makes an impact in claret and blue?

Sunday, October 28

Point for battling Hammers in game overshadowed by tragedy

Leicester City 1 West Ham 1

This game has been completely overshadowed by tragedy since the crash of the Leicester chairman's helicopter. Thoughts go out to all those affected and the Leicester City fans. And well done to Gary Lineker for presenting what must have been a very difficult Match of the Day in a professional manner.

As for the football, the Irons started without the ill Arnautovic. But it was pleasing to see Fabian Balbuena score his first goal for the Hammers. Grady Diangana, on his full Premier League debut, did well to win a free kick. Rice headed it back and the General first hit the post and then tapped home the rebound, reacting more quickly than Maguire. 

The game then turned again with Mark Noble's sending off. No complaints about this. Sometimes Nobes is so keen to set an example that he lunges in and if you go in with your studs up and miss the ball while connecting with the man, then the ref has no choice. 

For the rest of the game we saw why West Ham have improved defensively and players like Snodgrass really put in a shift. Fabianski is now looking an upgrade on Adrian and made another set of impressive saves. When the 89th minute equaliser came from Ndidi it took a huge deflection off the unlucky Balbuena. There was still time for West Ham to almost win it. Good work from Antonio saw Snodgrass cut it back for sub Ogbonna who blazed over — a real centre back's shot when he should have scored.

But really it's difficult to write about football on a day like this. West Ham go on to play Spurs on Wednesday — for Leicester it won't be anything like as easy. 

Tuesday, October 23

Newham Bookshop makes moving appeal

Good to see that the Newham Bookshop raised £3000 towards the cost of its move two doors down to 743 Barking Road at Sunday's auction of signed books at the Wanstead Tap. Among the books on offer was a copy of Robert Banks' An Irrational Hatred of Everything signed by all of the legendary 1980 FA Cup-winning side minus Frank Lampard and Geoff Pike, but with a bonus Tony Gale signature. It went for £55.

London's best independent bookshop needs £25,000 to cover new heating, lighting, power and fittings for 743. You can visit the bookshop's Crowdfunder page to make a pledge, pop in to the shop or post a cheque. Donors will get prizes, £20 gets a bonus bag and if you contribute £250 you even get a shelf dedicated to you and tickets to six events…

Monday, October 22

Yarmolenko out for the season

More bad news on the injury front. Andriy Yarmolenko has torn his achilles tendon and is now likely to be out for the rest of the season. Pellegrini hasn't had much luck, seeing both his statement £17m signing and the influential Lanzini sidelined with long-term injuries. He's also without Carlos Sanchez for the season, while Wilshere, Carroll (as ever) and Reid have also had serious injuries, while Chicharito contracted glandular fever. Still, a treatment room that's busier than the Stratford station interchange is surely the West Ham Way. 

There are options to replace Yarmolenko. I liked Diangana's confident attitude against Spurs and he's not afraid to try fancy stepovers against international defenders from a top four side. Antonio could be another option, if he ever manages to regain his pace and full fitness, or we could play Anderso behind Arnie in a more central role. While there were signs that Arnautovic and sub Javier Hernandez were linking up well late on against Spurs. West Ham's big problem is not scoring when we get the opportunities, so my own choice would be to give Hernandez a run alongside Arnie with Anderson feeding them— Chicharito might not do much apart from score, but that's not a bad knack to have.

Sunday, October 21

Lloris heroics edge it for Spurs

West Ham 0 Tottenham 1

It's in to Westfield where daughter Nell spends a long time seeking out Urban Outfitters and gets a new pair of trousers – the best result of the day. Inside the stadium we find Fraser (whose gag about a half and half England/Ireland scarf for Declan Rice I've shamelessly recycled in the Observer), Matt, Lisa, Nigel and Alison and Scott, who are enjoying life in 'middle-class' Clacton. Michael's away giving a Memorial Lecture, presumably on West Ham's Europa League hopes.

For the first 25 minutes it's fairly even, with West Ham's best chance being when Yarmolenko's cross is pulled back to Snodgrass, whose goalbound shot is cleared by Alderweireld. A couple of terrible Anderson corners don't help WHU's momentum. The Spurs fans amuse themselves by chanting, "you're not West Ham anymore!"

Yarmolenko suddenly collapses in the box when there's a half-chance having caught his studs in the turf. He's stretchered off and it looks like yet another long-term injury to go with Lanzini, Wilshere, Reid, Carroll and Sanchez. Pellegrini makes a bold substitution, bringing on young Diangana instead of Antonio.

We're missing the influence of Obiang in midfield and Spurs come into towards the end of the half. Two minutes before the break the impressive Sissoko glides past a toiling Anderson and crosses on to the head of Lamela, who has got ahead of Zabaleta. The Spurs man glances it home. It should be two a couple of minutes later as Fabianski makes a superb double save to deny Lamela and then Sanchez. 

West Ham start strongly after the break, as Cresswell does well to win a loose ball and cross for Arnautovic's looping header to force a fantastic tip over from Lloris. Spurs look dangerous on the break and strong at the back, but we give it a go, despite the central midfield of Rice and Noble being overrun at times. Diangana shows confidence in his ability to take on a man and draw fouls and is a little unlucky with a penalty claim after a tackle from Winks.

It's a bit sunny for the lads, and the fans too, as we struggle to see through the glare. What idiot purchased these seats? Matt quips that the bloke at the reservation centre also said we'd be getting £350m to spend on the NHS.

The Vicar's Son next to me helpfully advises Martin Atkinson to take early retirement while the geezer behind us, who is probably not a vicar's son, lays into Anderson with a set of expletives. When Anderson lets a ball drift into touch he's finally substituted. He looks jaded again and is such a frustrating player, either brilliant or a bit rubbish from week to week. 

Arnautovic forces another good low save from Llloris after getting in a shot from the edge of the box. Sub Javier Hernandez and Arnautovic link up well to allow Hernandez to score only for he goal to be correctly disallowed for offside. The WHU fan who chucked a smoke bomb feels a bit silly. Still, the crowd do their bit and it's one of the louder games at the London Stadium.

Sub Antonio causes some problems by getting down the left wing, though his crosses fail to find a man. But a chance will surely come, and it does in added time as Chicharito and Arnie play a nice give and go to leave Arnie one-on-one, only for Lloris to charge out and save with his face. There's still time for Antonio to shoot just over from distance before the whistle.

We'll play worse than this and win. Spurs look what they are, a top four side, but Diop and Balbuena have made some excellent tackles and kept Kane quiet, while Lloris has had to be at peak form to deny Arnie. The injury list is worrying, but now is the time to realise it's a work in progress and for Pellegrini to keep faith. We could have got more from both Brighton and Spurs. With a little bit of luck things should turn again. 

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 6; Zabaleta 6, Diop 7, Balbuena 7, Cresswell 6; Rice 6, Noble 5 (Antonio 5), Snodgrass 6; Anderson 4 (Hernandez 6), Arnautovic 7, Yarmolenko 5 (Diangala 6).

Friday, October 19

Review: An Irrational Hatred of Everything

Robert Banks’ An Irrational Hatred of Everything looks at West Ham from 2003-2018 and reminds us all just what an irrational (and familiar) ride it’s been. It starts off in the Championship with West Ham flogging most of the England team under Terence Brown and fan group Whistle protesting against the board.

Under new manager Alan Pardew Banks reminisces about scattergun loan signings such as Robbie Stockdale, Malky Mackay and Jon Harley. But then come the kind-of glory years of three successive appearances at the Millennium Stadium and a return to the Premier League. What could possibly go wrong?

This work by Banksy won’t shred itself, but he recalls plenty of times when the club itself was nearly shredded. I’d almost forgotten that West Ham fans had been sold a dream and delivered a nightmare before. Only the Hammers could have been bought by one of the richest men in the world who then became one of the poorest. Banksy chronicles the Icelandic years of Gudmundsson and Eggy the Egg Man: these involved the Great Escape, splurging a fortune on Dyer, Ljungberg, Lucas Neill and co and then spending a whole season under Alan Curbishley when we were contractually obliged to be tenth every week. We lost 4-0 three times in a row and still remained tenth.

Then came the strange years under Zola of being so Brassic we played in patches sewn over the name of our bankrupt sponsor XL. Banks helps recall Zola’s teams eking out Premiership survival through jobbing temporary strikers like Di Michele, Tristan, Ilan and Franco and more heroically the spirit of the indefatigable Scott Parker.

Gold and Sullivan arrive and install Avram Grant, who expertly steers us to relegation (anyone remember Victor Obinna and Pablo Barrera?) The author sums up the Allardyce years well, being torn between the desire to see us actually getting some results and going up, but also cringing at the ear-cupping episode and the lack of a Plan B if we go a goal down.

Under Bilic he’s goggle-eyed at the away wins and emotion of the final season at the Boleyn before being dismayed at the infighting at the London Stadium, a move that he’s clear we were not consulted about. Although Robert feels part of the club has died, he’s still optimistic enough to see hope in a rare victory over Spurs and the atmosphere at Moyes’ first home game against Leicester.

This is Banks' fourth West Ham book, continuing the series that began with An Irrational Hatred of Luton. He makes a good everyman fan. Like most of us he has to juggle his life and the Hammers. He doesn’t go to every game, misses out on finals and for a long time he’s restricted to northern outings while living in Bradford. We hear a lot about his problems with his ex-wife, then a new relationship with Elaine from Brazil (missing the play-off final to get married in Brazil is a fair excuse). There’s a moving section on his dad dying and Andy Carroll seeming to score that overhead kick in his memory.

Robert also has a lot to say about the shouty nature of social media, and sees West Ham fans start to become divided in the toxic Allardyce debates. Banks covers the Real West Ham fans on/off march, likening the ICF to a drunken uncle at a wedding, and despairs at the abuse of WHUISA and others, while making a heartfelt plea for some online respect and tolerance of opposing viewpoints.

Like most of us, Banks seems to understand that the West Ham Way is both irrational defeats and irrational victories and that, “it’s about our heritage, playing the right way, sportsmanship, winning through superior skill and endeavour and losing with grace.”

An Irrational Hatred of Everything is a rollicking, passionate read that emphasises that while permanent chaos (and the odd moment of glory) is the natural order at West Ham, it’s the fans that endure.

An Irrational Hatred of Everything is published by Biteback, price £12.99.

Thursday, October 18

We've got our carpet back — and West Ham would consider buying London Stadium

Some interesting revelations from Karren Brady's appearance before the London Aseembly. The Daily Mail reports that an agreement has finally been reached about the carpet round the pitch. Sadly we can't have leopardskin, but it is going to be claret with a WHU badge and a dark blue border — something the LLDC could have agreed to a year ago. 

Brady also said that West Ham would definitely be interested in buying the London Stadium, "if it became a dedicated football stadium" with the odd concert and rugby match, but no athletics. She pointed out that West Ham originally offered to buy it during the bidding process, and that is surely Sullivan and Gold's long-term plan. You do wonder how long the LLDC can afford to lose around £20 million a year. 

Brady also claimed that the LLDC's estimate of the cost of staging each match had gone down from £250k a game to £43k a game, a figure she still disputed. At least relations with the LLDC appear to have improved slightly with the appointment of Lyn Garner as chief executive. 

Hopefully all this scrutiny from the London Assembly will ensure a better relationship between tenant and landlord — and better value for the taxpayer.

Wednesday, October 17

West Ham has to be be an inclusive club

West Ham have been right to suspend under-18s coach Mark Phillips for being on the Democratic Football Lads Alliance march and subsequently tweeting in defence of it. The DFLA's stated aims of protesting against "returning jihadists", "thousands of awol migrants" "veterans being treated like traitors" and "rape gangs and groomers" suggest the sort of whistles my border terrier would be able to hear. The Premier League has already condemned the Football Lads Alliance (the Democratic Football Lads Alliance is a splinter group) for its far right links and anti-Muslim agenda.

Many of West Ham's young players will be Muslim, black, Asian or the children of migrants (a less pejorative term for migrants is human beings). They need to know that West Ham is an inclusive club, particularly after Tony Henry's ill-judged comments about not signing African players last year. Yes, Phillips might have simply been naive, and some people on the march might be there out of a misguided sense of patriotism and not regard themselves as racists, but they are keeping some pretty unsavoury company. Let's Kick it Out at West Ham.

Monday, October 15

Headbanging Hammers

West Ham are in danger of having a back four of headbangers. Fabian Balbuena recently revealed himself to be a fan of punk and heavy metal in the programme's Play List column. He chose a song by Paraguayan nu metal band A tu ladu, two Green Day songs, Sweet Dreams by Marilyn Manson, Somewhere I Belong by Linkin Park and Californicaton by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

When Pablo Zabaleta was interviewed for the same section last season he chose AC/DC's Highway to Hell, Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast and Metallica's excellent cover of Thin Lizzy's Whiskey in the Jar. The Argentine full back even knows that Iron Maiden are a local band and that Stevie Harris is a West Ham fan. While to add to add a bit of punk credibility he also chose a Ramones song.

It's a shame that Zabaleta and Balbuena can't play together under another metal fan, Slaven Bilic. Footballers have come a long way since the days of Lionel Richie. 

Friday, October 12

Bike From Boleyn before the Spurs match

Celebrate saving the World Cup statue by joining Bike From Boleyn before the Spurs game on October 20. Celebrations from 10am, bike ride to Stratford from 12.30pm. Sign up for the bike ride and win free tickets to the match. Details from

Wednesday, October 10

A roundabout route to Manuel Pellegrini

Interesting to note that Manuel Pellegrini has just had a roundabout named after him in Malaga. Pellegrini took Malaga to the quarter finals of the Champions League in his three-year spell there and has been back to Spain for the unveiling of the roundabout called Glorieta Manuel Pellegrini. Perhaps we should have more road features named after West Ham stars. Maybe Dicks Drive, Bonds Boulevard or Psycho Parade? The Big Sam Flyover could be on the Highway to Hull. While Rue de Payet would be a cul-de-sac. All vehicles on these roads would of course be made by The General Motors.

Monday, October 8

Irons on board the Tardis

Well, an impressive debut by Jodie Whittaker on Doctor Who. But wasn't companion Graham, played by Bradley Walsh, wearing a West Ham scarf? It was certainly claret and blue and as he's a London geezer it would fit in with the character. Walsh, Ryan's step-grandad, has an air of perpetual bemusement ("Why's she running at another alien?") that will be familiar to all West Ham fans. Irons supporters are used to disaster, starring into the abyss and evil plots to conquer the universe. While the Hammers have previously been mentioned by a companion. In Planet of the Ood Donna Noble told David Tennant's Doctor that she learned to whistle "up West Ham". Yes, it makes sense to have a Hammer in the Tardis a well as a sonic screwdriver.

Saturday, October 6

Always look on the Brighton side of life

Brighton 1 West Ham 0

Well, it was always entirely predictable that West Ham would beat Man United and lose to Brighton. And that Glenn Murray would score (that's six goals for him against West Ham in the PL). Watched this with Matt in the World's End drinking Camden Pale Ale in front of an underwhelmed clientele. Nigel's at the Central, though its the Central Bar in New Milton.

Early on the Irons force a series of corners and Arnautovic produces a fine first-time spinning volley from Anderson's corner, only for the ball to be deflected behind. Pellegrini's plan begins to disintegrate in the 25th minute when West Ham's full backs are caught upfield. Yarmolenko loses possession and Kayal speeds down the left to fire in an inviting cross. Masuaka is dreaming at the back post and Murray sneaks in for a tap in.

From then on West Ham play it out from the back pretty well with Rice prominent as they apply relentless pressure on Brighton's massed defence. But it's all spoiled by over-elaboration and players like Arnie and Yarmy taking one touch too many. The best chance comes when Obiang volleys into the ground and it bounces over the bar.

The second half sees three good chances for West Ham, while Murray also misses a free header for Brighton. A scampering run from Anderson sees the ball spin across the goalmouth. Balbuena misses a great chance with a free header from a corner and late on Snodgrass sets up Arnie on the six-yard-box, only for our talisman to lean back and hoof it over the bar.

Subs Antonio and Perez don't make much difference and our free kicks are woeful, with Anderson fluffing a number of them and finally Arnautovic firing over. Once again we have made Dunk and Duffy look impregnable at the back. 

The Irons really should have got at least a point out of this. The pressure was encouraging but our finishing was poor against a packed defence. Better is required against Spurs.

Thursday, October 4

Chants would be a fine thing

Where have all the chants gone? Sitting in the pub after the Macclesfield game my pal Matt pointed out that with so many new players in the side, we've not had time to think up chants for most of them. Of the side that played Man United probably only Arthur Masuaku (who is better than Lukaku) and Mark Noble have their own chants. Even Arnautovic doesn't appear to have a song, apart from the Stoke-style chants of "Arnie! Arnie!". 

Some of our injured or dropped players have chants and songs, namely Adrian, Lanzini, Andy Carroll and Winston Reid. But the new boys are bereft of songs. In fact our last really good song was something about a certain French midfielder. 

Someone on the Facebook group Upton Parklife suggested that Yarmolenko might scan to I'm Gonna Be by the Proclaimers ("Yarmolenko! Yarmolenko! Der der, der, der, der, der, der, der!" etc) which is promising. On current form Declan Rice deserves a chant ("he's not Irish anymore!"?) as do Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, Lukasz Fabianski, Arnie and Felipe Anderson. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, October 2

The Pellegrini philosophy starts to take shape

After nine games we're starting to see what a Pellegrini team looks like. It's been a really good move by Manuel to have the youngsters training alongside the first team squad. The old pros get to see hungry kids and the youngsters learn from their heroes. The Macclesfield game proved that Pellegrini's not afraid to use Academy players — unlike Big Sam — and it was fantastic to see the side end the match with Rice, Diangana, Coventry and Powell on the pitch. It sent a really good signal that Diangana kept his place on the subs bench for the Man United game and he even got a couple of moments on the pitch — a moment Grady will never forget.

Another plus is that Pellegrini's been prepared to look at players afresh. He's given Robert Snodgrass another chance and although he could easily have been discarded after the first four games, Snoddy is putting in regular shifts as a sub.

Meanwhile the United game proved that we have hit upon a system, and we didn't even appear to miss Lanzini that much. The solidity of Rice in front of the back four has allowed Obiang and Noble to go forward and to his credit Pellegrini has seen them as more than just holding midfielders. At 31 Mark Noble is starting to show that he can play through balls and be creative. The rotating three man attack is working well and Diop and Balbuena are starting to form a solid combination at the back, while Fabianski is proving he is an upgrade on Adrian — that was a sensational save from Fellaini.

It's not perfect, the full back areas can still be suspect and with Sanchez and Wilshere out injured the midfield is short of cover. But we're starting to see that Pellegrini's teams like to play flamboyant, exciting football from a solid defensive base. After four games there were doubts, but in the last fortnight Pellegrini has really won the fans over.