Sunday, May 19

West Ham Player Ratings: 2018-19

LUCASZ FABIANSKI 9/10:  Proved to be a significant upgrade and very consistent. Produced great saves almost routinely.

ADRIAN: 5/10: Only given Cup games due to form of Fabianski, but a loyal back-up.

PABLO ZABALETA: 6/10: Always gives it everything and an example to others, though at 34 he is starting to look alarmingly slow against fast wingers.

RYAN FREDERICKS: 6/10:  A very tentative start but towards the end of the season started to show his speed going forward and got in some match-saving tackles. 

ARTHUR MASUAKU 5/10: Had a terrible run of winter defensive blunders, but improved when restored towards the end of the season. Decent going forward but struggles unless played as a wing-back.

AARON CRESSWELL: 5/10: Had a great game against Arsenal but has generally looked depleted by his injuries and not the player he was three years ago.

ISSA DIOP: 8/10: Admired by Mourinho and had a great game at Spurs. Had a dip when he was rested but a fantastic prospect, good in the air and capable of rampaging runs forward.

FABIAN BALBUENA 7/10: A bargain at £3.5 million. Lacking a bit of pace, but makes some great interceptions and reads the game well. Was missed when out injured.

ANGELO OGBONNA 5/10: Has gone backwards since the final season at the Boleyn. Scored a few goals and did a job but seems to have lost his pace. 

MARK NOBLE 8/10: A great season from the skipper, who has benefitted from his hernia operations. The side always looked better with Nobes in it and he showed skill going forward too.

DECLAN RICE 9/10: Great season from the young Irishman/Englishman. Did the simple things well, scored a couple of goals and made some great tackles. Made the defensive midfield position his own.

ROBERT SNODGRASS 7/10: Showed fantastic character to win over the doubters and play in nearly every game. Became a bit of a cult for his workrate and very effective corners.

PEDRO OBIANG 5/10: An inconsistent season and looks like he might benefit from a change of club.

MANUEL LANZINI 6/10: Missed most of the season with serious injury but was starting to look back to his best in the defeat at Old Trafford.

CARLOS SANCHEZ 5/10: Hardly played because of injury. Despite giving a goal away against Wolves, he looked like he might be an effective defensive shield if given a run.

JACK WILSHERE 4/10: Undoubted class but tragically injury probe — who knew? At least he ended the season on a high returning to bag an assist against Southampton.

FELIPE ANDERSON 8/10: A little inconsistent and made a slow start, but weighed in with ten goals and produced some wonderful moments of magic. Could be West Ham's talisman and has even started to tackle back defensively.

SAMIR NASRI 6/10: Still has class and made the difference against Arsenal and Huddersfield. Suffered frustrating injuries, but worth persevering with.

GRADY DIANGANA 6/10: A good breakthrough season for the young winger, who showed no fear when taking on seasoned defenders. Needs to improve defensively but a fine prospect.

MICHAIL ANTONIO 7/10: Finally looks to have overcome his injury curse and has his speed back. Scored some important goals late on and knows how to celebrate with carpet stroking and silly dance moves.

JAVIER HERNANDEZ 6/10: Always likely to score when used as a sub but looks unsuited to playing as a lone striker. Still a great finisher but will he ever be more than a super sub?

MARKO ARNAUTOVIC 6/10. Great before Christmas, then a terrible dip and sulk after his move to China didn't happen. Looked more motivated in the last few games though and still managed to hit double figures.

ANDY CARROLL 4/10: Managed to score against Birmingham but this looked a season too far for the injury-prone big man.

LUCAS PEREZ 6/10: Looks poor outside the box, but he can certainly finish and with limited chances did well to score six goals.

ANDRIY YARMOLENKO 6/10: Had a brilliant game against Everton but then his season ended with injury. Has a great left foot and will be interesting to see what he does next season.

Friday, May 17

The FA Cup Final: our day will come?

As we all know West Ham lost to Liverpool on sodding penalties in the 2006 FA Cup Final. It's interesting to note some of the teams that have reached the Cup Final since: these include Portsmouth (twice), Cardiff City, Everton, Stoke City, Wigan, Hull City, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and now Watford. All clubs that are either smaller or of a comparable size to the Hammers. 

While if you look at the League Cup since West Ham reached the Final in 1981 and lost to Liverpool, it's been reached by Norwich, Sunderland, Oxford, QPR, Luton, Oldham, Sheffield Wed, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, Leicester, Middlesbrough, Bolton, Wigan, Birmingham, Cardiff, Swansea, Bradford City and Southampton.

No club has a given right to appear at a Wembley Final — but surely we must be due our turn soon? For a club of West Ham's size and fanbase, WHU has significantly underachieved since the glory days of 1975 and 1980.

Wednesday, May 15

One carpet in London

Actually I think this twitter meme is pretty funny… and come on you Reds in the Champions League Final! Anyone but Spurs...

Monday, May 13

West Ham's Rocket Men shoot into the top half

Watford 1 West Ham 4 (four)

It's not often you hear Elton John's Tiny Dancer playing on the street before an away match. And indeed, inside Vicarage Road the words of Your Song are on the main stand and Rocket Man is playing over the PA. I'm with my pal Peter, a member of the Radlett posse of Watford/Arsenal fans and John an exiled Grimsby fan. We're greeted by ridiculously friendly home fans swathed in yellow at this family-friendly club. 

The sides run out to I'm Still Standing by Elton John (this has proved controversial with Watford fans as they prefer the old choice of the Z-Cars theme). It's solid Watford pressure for the first 15 minutes but West Ham defend resolutely, with Rice having a great game against the combative Doucoure and Capoue. On 15 minutes West Ham break decisively, Mark Noble plays a one-two with Antonio but still has a lot to do as he shimmies past Kabasele and stroke it into the corner. I do my best to keep quiet. 

The Hammers double their lead six minutes before half time as Antonio powers past three defenders to fire against the bar and Lanzini heads the rebound in — Manuel's first goal of an injury-ravaged season. There's still time for Fabianski to make a great stop from Deeney's header before half time.

SUNDAY NIGHT'S ALRIGHT FOR SCORING
Two-nil up at the break what could possibly go wrong? Well, Zabaleta has come on for the injured Fredericks and plays a disastrous back pass almost straight from the kick off. Deulofeu takes advantage to poke it past Fabianski. Watford then miss a good chance to equalise and it looks like being an awkward afternoon.

The game changes again as Anderson plays Antonio through with a great ball. Holebas lays a hand on the West Ham striker on the edge of the box, stops a possible goalscoring opportunity and receives a red card. It's a little harsh and it will be sad if Holebas misses the FA Cup Final because of this. Ten-man Watford keep fighting, but Balbuena impresses with his interceptions and calm defending.

WE'RE STILL STANDING

Thankfully Watford's resistance proves to be like a Candle in the Wind. West Ham put the game to bed on 71 minutes as Anderson strokes Zabaleta's cross against the post and Arnautovic, who has worked hard, pokes home the rebound for his tenth league goal. It gets better as the excellent Antonio is felled in the box and Noble strokes home the penalty.

"We want five!" is the unusual chant from the Hammers' fans as sub Jack Wilshere pokes a great chance wide and Watford's defence starts to look like Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters. It's our third win in a row and West Ham go above Watford to finish in the top half.

A very satisfying afternoon's work against a team distracted by the FA Cup Final. Though in a typical example of BBC bias it's not the first game on Match of the Day. I'm left feeling almost optimistic for next season. Irons!

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 7; Fredericks 6 (Zabaleta 5), Balbuena 7, Diop 6, Masuaku 6; Lanzini 6 (Wilshere 5), Rice 7 (Sanchez 5), Noble 8, Anderson 7; Antonio 8, Arnautovic 7. 

Sunday, May 12

West Ham Observer verdict

My West Ham verdict is in today's Observer. I've given the lads 6.5 out of ten for a season of carpet-bagging and mid-table solidity. Click on the link to read…

Friday, May 10

Absolutely Fabianski

Pleased for Lucasz Fabianski to win the Hammer of the Year award. When he arrived I couldn't see he was much of an upgrade on Adrian, but my mate Huw, a Swansea fan, assured me that he was a fantastic keeper and a nice bloke who appreciated the fans. This has proved to be correct. Behind a porous defence he's been remarkably consistent and we've almost become blase to his regular wonder saves. He's certainly had a lot of work to do, with I think only the Huddersfield and Fulham keepers having to make more saves. He's proved a bargain at £7 million and is now in Pole position between the Hammers' sticks. Well done Lucasz.

Wednesday, May 8

Who will be in the Hammers clear-out?

It would be no surprise if ten or more players left the Irons this summer as Pellegrini continues to reshape the West Ham squad. Certainly Andy Carroll will be going as his contract expires and several strikers could also leave. Perez is a good finisher and has scored six goals for WHU, but will surely want first-team football, while Javier Hernandez is unlikely to fancy another season as a super-sub. I'd keep Arnautovic if his head is right, but a lot may depend on his agent brother. If he still fancies making yet more money then let him go, though his head has looked better in the last two matches.

Pedro Obiang is another player rumoured to be leaving, and might benefit from a change of club. At 33 Carlos Sanchez might not fancy being Rice's understudy and it seems Adrian will be going too. It would be no surprise if Pellegrini bought a new left back and sold Aaron Cresswell, who hasn't looked the same player since returning from serious injury. Arthur Masuaku might be at risk too, although his recent form might save him. If Manuel can get another centre back then we might see Ogbonna leave, another player who seems to have lost his pace.

Then there are the loanees, the metaphorical odd socks in Pellegrini's bottom drawer. Jordan Hugill will certainly be sold if WHU can get a buyer, while Reece Oxford definitely and possibly Edmilson Fernandes will be moved on. And there's even Sam Byram, who has been injured again at Nottingham Forest, but might be sold to a Championship club. So there will undoubtedly be a lot of market activity this summer and we could easily see up to a dozen players depart.

Sunday, May 5

Arnie comes good to sink Saints

West Ham 3 Southampton 0

It's off to the Clyde Best Meze, where Nigel has leaked details of a meeting in Gavin Williamson style, only to fail to arrive as Matt and Michael discuss the recent Blancmange gig. Eventually a tardy Nigel arrives to order a bacon sandwich and surprisingly confess that he is not a fan of '80s synth duos. 

Meanwhile Matt is flourishing his Women's FA Cup Final ticket and plans to leave the game early to get to Wem-ber-ley. His day gets off to a good start as we all fail his trivia test — unable to identify the former Hammers and England striker currently playing in Scotland. The rather obvious answer is Jermain Defoe. Matt also knows that Anton Ferdinand is playing for St Mirren reserves.

We head off to join Fraser, Alison and Scott at the London Stadium for the last time this season as a chill wind bites in Stratford. Anderson and Rice are unwell, but thankfully Southampton have rested Redmond and Ward-Prowse and play like a team grateful to have ensured survival. 

Lemina gifts a pass straight to Noble, who plays a fine through ball to Arnautovic. The big Austrian slots home for his first goal since January, which should help continue his Hammers rehabilitation. The restored Fraser Forster has to make good stops to deny Lanzini and Antonio as West Ham dominate the half and the improved Masuaku causes problems with his runs.

CLARET AND BLUE ARNIE
But it's a changed game after break as Redmond comes on and immediately causes trouble with his runs behind the WHU defence. Fabianski has to make an acrobatic save to tip over Redmond's volley and a fair-ish shoulder charge in the box by Fredericks prevents another chance. 
Celebrating Ryan Fredericks' goal

For once West Ham are clinical though. On 69 minutes Fredericks overlaps and gets in a cross that is cleared out to the left. Arthur Masuaku powers into the space and Forster can only palm his cross into Arnautovic. The ball loops up in the air and Arnie heads home. 

Three minutes later the Irons score a third. Sub Jack Wilshere plays a nice back heel into Fredericks who surges into the box and fires low into the net. A deserved goal for his better performances of late. Alison wonders if there's something wrong with the Matrix after two goals in three minutes.

Matt leaves for Wembley as Arnautovic looks motivated to get a hat-trick and is unlucky to curl an effort just wide after being set up by sub Perez. We even get to see Carlos Sanchez return. So it's two wins in a row and we're unbeaten since the carpet made its debut. It's been the most productive season at the London Stadium so far.

WE'RE ALL GOING ON A SUMMER HOLIDAY
There's a rather sparsely-attended lap of honour after the game, where we get to see Nobes with his mini-me son and even Andy Carroll. Nigel, Michael and myself head off to the Refreshment Rooms. There's a brief discussion of whether Nigel is a sexist dinosaur for failing to organise a women's FA Cup Final breakfast in Kew — though he's positively woke compared to the man at the bar whom Michael overhears saying, "a proper fan wouldn't miss today's game to watch the birds!"

We watch the match at Wembley on the pub TV with a pint of London Stout for myself (Blue Moon would be a hostage to fortune, points out Michael) and the Hammers give it a real go in the first half, with City keeper Karen Bardsley making a brilliant save from Jane Ross's header. Sadly a goalkeeping error from Anna Moorhouse results in City taking the lead with a deflected shot in the second half, and two late goals follow. But a Cup Final is still good progress for WHU's first professional season.

As for the men's game, it's been strange not to be involved in a relegation struggle, which is progress I guess. The season has had its memorable moments, most notably beating Man United and Arsenal and winning at Spurs. Plus some great goals from Anderson and a couple of thrillers against Burnley and Huddersfield, marred by many forgettable away defeats. Then again, big players like Lanzini and Yarmolenko have missed large chunks of the season and you just hope that with some clever signings West Ham might have a go at Europe next time. Come on you Irons!

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 6; Fredericks 7, Diop 6, Balbuena 6, Masuaku 7; Diangana 5 (Wilshere 6), Noble 7 (Sanchez 5), Obiang 6, Lanzini 6 (Perez 5); Antonio 6, Arnautovic 8.

Saturday, May 4

Flying So High

Wish I could get to Wembley but the vagaries of fixture scheduling say otherwise. Meanwhile if anyone wants to get in Cup Final mood Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals is now down to £2.99 on Kindle, or free to read if you're on Kindle Unlimited. Print version also available. Click on the link for details. COYI!

Saturday, April 27

It's happened again… First win at the new Lane!

Tottenham 0 West Ham 1

They must be serving dodgy lasagne at Spurs' new ground… it's in to the World's End with Matt and Lisa to watch this at 12.30 over a stiff Americano. From the outset Spurs look a little jaded and West Ham play confidently. Rice shoots just over and Son has an effort saved by Fabianski at the other end. The Hammers really should go ahead when Anderson breaks down the left but shoots rather than crosses. Moura goes close but the restored Diop is also having a very solid game in the middle of the back four.

We're happy with nil-nil at half-time and celebrate with another coffee. Crucially Arnautovic looks more like the player he used to be after the break. A good pull back sees a Fredericks shot blocked. Then out on the left Arnie chips in a brilliant ball over the head of a Spurs defender to Antonio. Instead of shooting wildly over Michail chests it and finishes brilliantly sending a volley into the roof of the net. The away end erupts and Michail does one his silly and slightly risque celebrations, a tribute to Dan Rue who is some kind of dodgy dancer on Instagram. Matt suggests that other teams will soon be letting Antonio score just to see how he celebrates.

ONE CARPET IN LONDON!
Suddenly all that timey-wimey stuff goes strange and every minute seems to last a millennium. All that coffee isn't slowing our heart rates either. Spurs press but the Hammers are always threatening on the break. Arnautovic sends a curler into the arms of Lloris and Antonio speeds through the defence only for Lloris to save with his leg. Diop makes a sensational charge from the back through a parting defence and his poked effort is tipped wide. 

Fredericks has to make a great block to deny Ben Davies. The arrival of Janssen surely heralds a Tottenham equaliser as he hasn't scored in centuries. But deep in added time The General clears his header off the line. 

The whistle blows and Spurs have suffered their first defeat at their new soulless corporate and carpetless bowl. Matt's so excited he leaves his glasses in the pub. What an unexpected bonus and a great start to the day. Irons!

Friday, April 26

A tale of two stadiums

Interesting piece in tonight's Evening Standard comparing West Ham and Tottenham's stadiums. It looks back at when both teams were vying for the London Stadium. 

Spurs' plan was to demolish two thirds of the stadium, presumably keeping the Billy Bonds Stand, and rebuilding the rest as a dedicated football ground. They estimated this would cost £250m, though with hindsight it might have been closer to the £1 billion they spent on White Hart Lane. Spurs have been left £600m in debt by their new stadium. So West Ham's move to Stratford for £2.5 pa rent makes economic if not emotional sense. 

The London Stadium is probably still a few rows of seats away from being a proper stadium. But squaring the ends off would certainly help and ultimately you could envisage a rich new owner buying the place and knocking down at least one side to bring it closer to the pitch. 

Still, it would have been nice to see Tottenham's new stadium had I got through the Kafkaesque ballot process of applying for a ticket. But one thing Spurs don't have is a claret carpet. How could Mr Levy have forgotten to include this? Let's hope we're the first team to win there tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 24

Bike from Boleyn before the Southampton match

If you fancy getting on your bike there's a Bike From Boleyn ride from the World Cup statue on Barking Road to the London Stadium before the Southampton game on May 4. A great way to celebrate keeping Moore, Hurst and Peters (and Ray Wilson) in E13. Click on eventbrite here for ticket details.

Sunday, April 21

Carpet-bagging Foxes spoil Hammers' claret party

West Ham United 2 Leicester City 2

It's in to the Clyde Best Meze to meet Michael, who is very excited after an audience with Jeremy Young, who acted in the first ever Doctor Who story An Unearthly Child. Not that Michael is a Whovian. There's a late cameo from Nigel, who arrives for a bacon sandwich having re-mortgaged his house for a trip to Old Trafford last week. In a major tactical error Matt and Lisa are away at at a wedding in Symonds Yat, having been foolish enough to consort with people idiotic enough to get married during the football season.

We walk to the stadium along an unseasonably sweltering Carpenters Road, which is all very worrying if you've seen David Attenborough's Climate Change: The Facts — in 20 years London might be inundated, the world will be burning and even worse, West Ham will still be trophyless. Inside we meet Fraser, the Raymond Chandler of E20, middle-class Clactonians Alison and Scott and south London Irons Gavin and Ilona.

RUG TESTING
The big talking point is the new claret carpet. It's a PR disaster to trumpet it a few weeks after Spurs have unveiled a billion pound stadium, but it does improve things a little and makes the pitch seem slightly smaller. "You've only come for the carpet!" is the chant aimed at the Leicester fans.

The Irons start off well, as if still indignant after the robbery at Old Trafford. Antonio just fails to connect with an Arnautovic cross and then bundles Anderson's cross wide. It's certainly much more lively than the Everton game. Maddison has a couple of long range shots but West Ham take a deserved lead when Noble, who is having a fine game, crosses with his left foot. Antonio nips in front of Morgan and Evans to head home. His celebration is brilliant as he caresses the hallowed carpet, admiring its texture and weave.

Rodgers clearly has words with Leicester and they come out looking galvanised for the second half. We can see the equaliser coming as, sure enough, Chilwell gets in a good cross and Vardy brilliantly nips in front of Balbuena to flick home. 

SUPER LUCAS
Anderson immediately goes on a storming run into the box as the Hammers are spurred into life. Scott does a Mystic Matt and bemoans the arrival of Perez, as Mystic May predicts he'll score a hat-trick. The departing and dispirited Arnautovic hasn't looked anything like the striker he was under Moyes. Lucas immediately runs about a lot and raises the crowd. When fellow sub Obiang fires a shot against the inside of the post, Perez is on hand to stroke home for a good poacher's goal. 

Just as we've said that the ref is having a much better game without the presence of the Vicar's Son, Lee Probert starts to miss handballs and blatant fouls. Perez is then denied his second goal after Obiang does well to win a tackle and play him in. Lucas rounds Schmeichel and scores only to see it wrongly disallowed for offside by Mr Probert. Perez was clearly level with the last man. 

It all gets a bit surreal as Jack Wilshere makes a rare appearance with five minutes left. Can the Hammers hold on to a 2-1 lead? Of course we can't. In added time Tielemans plays a fine through ball, Masuaku and Obiang are slow to track Harvey Barnes, and the Leicester man strokes home his first goal for the club. Hopefully there will be a routine rug test after this.

Matt texts to say that he changed his password to "West Ham's defence" but the computer said it was extremely weak. We talk Gavin out of trying the Carpenters Arms and head for the Refreshment Rooms. There's a good discussion about border terriers with Gav and Ilona, who unlike WHU have never lost the lead. We're joined by Gambling Dan, who is now betting on Antonio to score a hat-trick every game at the appealing odds of 250-1. 

If nothing else it's been an entertaining game, though West Ham could have had six points instead of one from the last two games. Though we do have a nice carpet.

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 6; Zabaleta 6, Balbuena 6, Ogbonna 6. Masuaku 6; Snodgrass 6 (Obiang 7), Noble 7 (Wilshere n/a), Rice 7, Anderson 6; Antonio 7, Arnautovic 4 (Perez 7); The Carpet 10.

Thursday, April 18

Magic carpet?

Spurs must be worried — we've finally got our carpet. John Lewis clearly took their time delivering, or perhaps it was a cheaper purchase by Mr Sullivan from Romford Market. Never can a claret carpet have taken so long to be seen by so many. 

Clearly the London Stadium is not going to be like Spurs' new stadium because WHU haven't spent a billion quid. But will the claret carpet help? Slaven Bilic always maintained it would help psychologically as there wouldn't be acres of green beyond the pitch. And it does mean we can now go to games in slippers. A bit more claret certainly can't do any harm although with all that shagpile around I do fear that Jack Wilshere might succumb to a new injury — carpet burns.

Monday, April 15

Why do West Ham only turn it on against the big sides?

One of the improvements Pellegrini has made is that WHU are performing better against the top six sides. We've seen two memorable wins at the London Stadium against Man United and Arsenal, creditable draws with Liverpool and Chelsea, a narrow defeat to Spurs and a 0-4 reverse against Man City which wasn't as one-sided as the score suggests. Away from home we've lost by just one goal at Man City, ran Chelsea close in the second half at Stamford Bridge before losing 2-0, took the lead at Arsenal before losing 3-1 and were tremendously unlucky not to win at Old Trafford. The only real hammering was the 4-0 defeat at Anfield in the opening game.

All of which makes our league position of 11th very frustrating. West Ham have usually been able to beat the bottom sides at Stratford but have invariably lost to the mid-table teams around us. This probably says something about the mindset of the players, that they can turn it on in the big games but aren't always up for it against the best of the rest. Top players at Man City and Liverpool treat a game against Everton, Watford or Bournemouth just the same as a game at Man United. Pellegrini has to get a squad of players that show similar professionalism.

Sunday, April 14

Wem-ber-ley!

Mystic Matt's picture of the pre-penalties huddle
Congratulations to West Ham on getting to the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley in their first season as a professional side. Watched the game live on BBC, although someone clearly needs to tell the side that West Ham just don't win penalty shoot-outs after a 1-1 draw with Reading. South Korea captain Cho So-hyun showed great composure to slot home the decisive penalty, sparking emotional scenes and a chorus of Bubbles. And credit to uber fans Matt and Lisa for being at Adams Park to see it. Just a shame that the Cup Final is set to be played on the same day as the final home league game of the men's season against Southampton.

Saturday, April 13

We were robbed…

Manchester United 2 West Ham 1

It's in to the World's End to watch this one on the TV while I recover from painful dental surgery — and now have another tooth to grind while watching West Ham. Nigel's up in Manchester with his mate Reg, who needs to visit Old Trafford to complete his 90th ground. He reports lots of tourists and half and half scarves.

The Hammers start well as United look jaded. Anderson scores with a twisting volley in the box only to see it ruled out for offside. Replays later suggest Dalot' is playing him onside, though it's a tight call. Then United get a very soft penalty as Snodgrass lightly brushes Mata who collapses in a heap. Pogba duly scores. But even so the Irons continue to attack and force a series of corners, with Rice, Lanzini and Anderson starting to dominate midfield. Anderson sees a header just miss and a low cross saved by De Gea's foot.

Early in the second half the Hammers score a deserved equaliser as Lanzini's cross is swept home at the far post by a gleeful Anderson for his first goal in 14 games. It's the Irons' first away goal this year from open play.

Rashford improves United a little and forces a fine low save from Fabianski. But then it gets silly. Sub Antonio powers through the home defence and whacks the bar. Then a few minutes later Antonio's downward header is sensationally tipped over the bar by De Gea.

At this point my inner pessimist starts to think that as we should be 3-1 up we'll probably go and lose it. Sure enough, Martial gets free in the box and sub Fredericks brings him down with a late tackle, although he does nick a little bit of the ball. With hindsight Pellegrini should have kept Zabaleta on, who was having a good game. Pogba dispatches his second penalty. Still we force a few late corners but United limp home.

West Ham should never have lost this and had no luck at all, but it was a much improved performance. Though where it came from escapes me. But at least it gives us some hope for the final four matches. Irons!

Friday, April 12

Oh Christian Dailly you are the love of my life

Great piece on Christian Dailly by West Ham fan Alistair McKay in the latest issue of Nutmeg, the Scottish Football periodical. McKay reveals the origins of the famous West Ham fans' chant where sexual activities are offered up to the curly-haired maestro.

McKay, who is also the Evening Standard's TV critic, is good enough to include some quotes from myself, describing this 'umble writer as "the Nick Hornby of West Ham" and using a line on Dailly from West Ham: Irons in the Soul. The article also includes some quotes from Dailly, on how playing in front of the Chicken Run was massively character building and how he enjoyed the off the cuff attacking of Trevor Brooking's management. 

When asked if he's ever taken up the offer of extracurricular activity with West Ham fans' wives, Dailly memorably says of the chant: "I think it's amazing. I think it's probably evolved because they've heard that I'm actually shit in bed anyway. You don't have to worry about me."

Tuesday, April 9

Hammers fail to heed Hazard warning

Chelsea 2 West Ham 0

Never expected to get much out of this. Pellegrini was brave fielding two strikers but that handed the midfield initiative to Chelsea in the first half, though it was good to see The General and Fredericks return after injury. 

Hazard played brilliantly and scored a world class goal beating five West Ham defenders, though Pellegrini is entitled to think someone should have got a challenge in. It could have been two or three at the break but at least West Ham improved in the second half after Snodgrass replaced Hernandez. Lanzini, Cresswell and Arnautovic all went close to equalising. It wasn't until the 90th minute that Chelsea ensured victory with Barkley's cross being effortlessly controlled and stroked home by the Real Madrid-bound Hazard.

Pellegrini described his men as playing like "zombies" in the first half and mumbled some excuses about tiredness after a long season. That might apply to young players like Rice and Diop, but it's noticeable that Leicester, Watford, Wolves and Everton aren't looking at all tired after a similarly long season. We've got to hope against all expectation that we now get something from a visit to Old Trafford — otherwise West Ham's season is likely to peter out into bottom half mediocrity.

Monday, April 8

Farewell Big Andy

I guess we'll always have the overhead kick and that hat-trick against Arsenal. Andy Carroll is to have ankle surgery and that means he's played his last game for the Hammers. West Ham's treatment room will never be the same again. Got to feel sorry for the big Geordie whose body just doesn't seem up to the demands of top level football anymore. Will anyone take a chance on signing him on a pay-per-game basis? He'd certainly be a very Burnley-esque signing as they also have Peter Crouch, or perhaps whoever Big Sam next manages will take a punt. Could he do a job in the Championship for ten games a season? Knowing West Ham, he'll probably sign for someone else and have a brilliant five-years of injury-free football...

If the kids are United

Jack Wilshere comes off after a successful run-out with the Under-23s
Enjoyed seeing the Under-23 side take on Leicester City at the London Stadium on Sunday. I was joined by real fans Matt and Lisa in a crowd of a few hundred in the West Stand, complete with Ben Johnson and Grady Diangana sitting in front of us. The match was notable for the return of Jack Wilshere, who completed 60 minutes or so without mishap. And we got to see the great Steve Potts coaching from the touchline. The Hammers ultimately won 1-0 against a big Leicester side with a late penalty from Dan Kemp, a small but skilful midfielder. 

Conor Coventry was quietly effective in front of the back four, while Nathan Holland showed great skill at times on the wing, though he needs to improve his end product. Ajibola Alese was also a solid presence at the back. This was my first time in the West Stand. The view from row 15 was pretty good, and the pitch doesn't look as far away as it appears in photos. Though there is an ugly gap between the upper and lower tiers which we don't have in the Billy Bonds Stand. And there are large gaps between the seats as if they were all designed for fat blokes.

The biggest mystery was why it was so complicated to get a free ticket. This involved a phone call to the club and then having to pick up a paper ticket from the ticket office. Surely just using your existing season ticket card would be better for under-23 games and result in a bigger crowd?
Dan Kemp scores the decisive penalty

Wednesday, April 3

Time to shake-up the West Ham side

Like David Bowie West Ham need to make some ch…ch…changes after the dismal performance against Everton. It's clear The General aka Fabian Balbuena has to come back into defence. Ogbonna would be the obvious choice to drop, but Issa Diop, though a rare prospect, is looking tired after playing a full season in the Premier League. He probably needs a couple of games out of the side. Noble has to return to midfield to provide some leadership. Lanzini has had a big dip in form after a long lay-off and should probably also return to the bench if Anderson and Nasri return. 

I'd also give Antonio a run as at least he's a physical, powerful presence and I'd stick with Arnautovic up front because if he scores he might look less sulky and I'd keep Chicharito as a super-sub. The full-backs also had terrible games against Everton but there are few options for changes as Masuaku can't defend in a back four. Assuming Pellegrini doesn't go with five at the back, which he never does, my side for the Chelsea game would be: Fabianski; Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Cresswell; Rice, Noble: Antonio, Nasri, Anderson; Arnautovic.

Sunday, March 31

Dire Hammers make it easy for Everton

West Ham 0 Everton 2

In the Best Meze cafe uber fans Matt and Lisa have already seen two games in two days with the West Ham kids. They've been suffering from tardy waitress service but have kept open the option of no-meal. Michael the non-Whovian arrives and in Hobbit-like fashion consumes his second lunch. Then Nigel and CQ arrive still reeling from indicative votes and red lines, ready to debate our eight post-match pint options.

We trek to the London Stadium and find a hatted Fraser, Scott and Alison, fresh from a controversial swearing at Mini Mouse incident at Disneyland (you can take the girl out of Essex, etc).The crowd are in good voice after an afternoon in the pub and all seems set for an enjoyable afternoon until the football intervenes.

The Irons start terribly and get worse. We concede a soft goal from a corner after four minutes. Zouma wants it more than Diop and his header bounces down and up over Cresswell's head and into the net.

QUALITY OF MERSEY STRAINS HAMMERS
Everton are breaking at will down the flanks and new captain Cresswell is having a torrid time against Richarlison. Fabianski has to make a fine double save from Calvert-Lewin and  Sigurdsson as the Toffees penetrate our right flank. Then he has to make another good stop from Digne on the left. To make it worse Nigel has forgotten his lucky banana. 

The second is inevitable as Richarlison and Coleman combine to cross for Barnard to tap home past a static defence. Fabianski has to make a smart stop with his feet to deny Richarlison. This isn't Huddersfield and we can't continue to give teams a two-goal start.

Arnautovic slips when given a half-chance and Lanzini dithers and a chance is gone. Snodgrass shoots wide and that's about it. Arnautovic does at least look vaguely up for it but Perez is a strange selection and has a terrible half, admittedly without any service.

Lanzini is lost out on the left and we womdfer of he will ever be the same player again after his serious knee injury. Obiang is being bypassed and Zabaleta is being exposed for speed. Without the injured Anderson it's clear that the Hammers have little idea how to create, though the lack of desire is inexcusable.

REALLY PEP IT UP AND MAKE IT MEDIOCRE!
At half time Pellegrini exchanges Perez and Obiang for Antonio and Hernandez, though the team is surely demanding some leadership from the unused Mark Noble. It's an easy stroll for Everton with Calvert-Lewin twice going close and Richarlison thumping a header against the bar. 

Antonio tries hard but runs into defenders and down blind alleys. Arnie has a strop after being substituted (and it is a bizarre decision by Pellegrini to leave Chicharito as a lone striker) and his replacement Diangana gives the ball away too often, though it's a difficult game to come on in for a youngster. The Vicar's Son's patience is severely strained.

Everton have played well, but there's never a hint of a comeback from WHU and it's easily the worst performance of the season. It could have been 5-0. Had this been under Allardyce or Moyes the fans would have been in uproar, but Pellegrini, for all his attacking intent, has serious questions to answer. He's coached us all season without ever sorting out the defence — and if WHU defend like this next season we'll go down. 

The seats empty around us and at the final whistle we take an indicative vote to join Lisa at the Bat and Ball bar in Westfield, our 93rd venue at Stratford. The bar service is as efficient as West Ham, giving Matt an extra pint and a mystery pint that isn't Punk IPA. He bemoans the fact that he has to work an 18-hour day tomorrow and is losing an hour with the clocks changing. Apart from that everything is fine. 

Still at least West Ham have made a clear statement on Europe — we are definitely not for joining the Europa League and might be electing to leave the Premier League next season if we continue to play like this.

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 7; Zabaleta 4, Diop 5, Ogbonna 4, Cresswell 4; Snodgrass 4; Obiang 4 (Antonio 4), Rice 5, Lanzini 4; Arnautovic 5 (Diangana 4), Perez 3 (Hernandez 4). 

Friday, March 29

A good season for Snoddy

So Robert Snodgrass is to contest the charge of using "abusive and/or insulting words" to doping officials. My pal Matt thinks the problem might be that if you say anything in a Glasgow accent, even a joke, it can sound threatening. But whatever happens it's been a surprisingly good season for Snodgrass. He's played in 28 league games, either starting or coming on as a sub, scoring twice and making several goals from his inswinging corners. He's also bagged a couple of goals against Macclesfield in the Carabao Cup. 

It's been quite a turnaround for a player who was unforgivably derided by his own chairman in an interview and loaned out to Aston Villa after just 16 games. Pellegrini advised him to lose weight after too many motorway meals and he's responded by putting in a shift whenever called upon. With Nasri injured he might get another outing tomorrow. At 31 Snodgrass might not be one for the future. If Nasri stays and Lanzini plays he might be moved on, but even so, this season has been one where Snoddy has shown considerable character and has been involved in nearly every game. Who would have thought that would happen back in August?

Tuesday, March 26

Spurs' new ground could yet have similar problems to the London Stadium

Looking at the media love-in with Tottenham's new ground, I'm still not completely convinced that they won't experience some of the problems of the London Stadium. It's better than the LS in that it has straight edges, but from the media pictures it still looks a huge bowl, with the fans in the higher stands a long way from the action. And listening to some of the chants it sounds like they might be lost as they go round the stadium in the way we've experienced in Stratford. 

The stands are certainly closer to the pitch than at the London Stadium (except in our corners), but it still looks to me like there's a fairly big gap and it won't be as tight as the old White Hart Lane. They've been let off quite lightly on the deep fried tofu and flash beer pumps front too, which are seen as cutting edge, whereas West Ham's popcorn suffered endless derision. It's not easy moving ground and it would be no surprise if Spurs initially struggled in their new home, just as Arsenal did. Though I still think they're too good to go down.

Saturday, March 23

Declan done good

Proud to see Declan Rice make his England debut last night. Never mind all the nonsense about what he said on twitter as a 15-year-old (and what 15-year-old hasn't said stuff they later regret to try and impress their mates?) this was a West Ham youngster in an England shirt. Coming on when England were 3-0 up after 63 minutes was a nice way for Gareth Southgate to ease him into the England set-up. Rice even started the passing move with fellow youngsters Sancho and Hudson-Odoi that resulted in England's fifth goal. Declan has also made a little bit of history as having played for Ireland and England he's West Ham's first double international. And now he's completed a full 90 minutes in Montenegro — a good week for Declan. 

Friday, March 22

Season ticket rises unjustified

I can't see any justification for the scale of West Ham's season ticket price hikes. My Billy Bonds Stand ticket is going up from £800 to £865 (more than eight per cent) while my daughter's £400 ticket is going up to £435. Yes, the prices had been frozen since the move but it has to be remembered that the club is now selling an extra 3000 seats with the new 60,000 capacity and that many of the original £99 under-16s tickets will now be paying young adult 16-21 prices. Whatever happened to the pledge for "affordable football"?

Yes, the club has invested heavily in new players, but we don't get a reduction when the club makes a profit from the transfer window as they did last season. With the massive fees coming in from TV most Premier League clubs could let us watch for free and still make a huge profit. And it seems particularly galling when Brexit is likely to plunge the country into economic turmoil. Bringing the deadline forward to May 17 is also going to put more pressure on those paying by instalments. As a writer and journalist my wages have been declining for the last decade and many other professions are the same. I'll pay it because I'm addicted. But a £65 increase seems to be taking the proverbial…

Thursday, March 21

Play it again, Samir

It seemed strange when Pellegrini took Noble and Antonio off against Huddersfield, who were not WHU's worst performers, but we analysed it in the bar afterwards and decided that he likes Samir Nasri because he is a player who doesn't give the ball away. It was a very impressive cameo; the way Nasri held on to possession and then seemed to have lots of time to feint and jink for the right moment before chipping in a ball that resulted in Cresswell winning a corner; and then winning a challenge and a bit like a golfer, weighting his cross perfectly for Chicharito to equalise. I'm still not sure that Anderson, Lanzini and Nasri can all play in the same side. But Nasri surely deserves a starting place after his cameo against the Terriers. On this form he can be a real force for the Hammers.

Wednesday, March 20

London Stadium from the air

Is that a spaceship? Thanks to my pal Richard, a Gooner, for sending me this picture of the London Stadium taken while returning on a flight from Prague. And you thought Row 73 was a long way up...

Sunday, March 17

Never in (much) doubt! Hernandez double defeats Terriers in seven-goal thriller

West Ham United 4 Huddersfield Town 3 

The Clyde Best Cafe has now moved upmarket as it's serving baked beans in a bowl. Meanwhile Matt and Lisa are enjoying mushroom omelettes and chips having just returned from Malaga, sadly having been deprived of watching Pellegrini's old side by the vagaries of EasyJet's timetables.

We trek across Stratford to the London Stadium. Alison and Scott are away at Disneyland hoping that West Ham don't produce a Mickey Mouse performance. They're replaced by family substitutes Roz and Joe. Meanwhile Michael the Whovian has returned to the collective having hot-footed it from the premiere of the animated version of The Macra Terror at the BFI. The missing Doctor Who adventure involves a huge creature lurking in the bowels of a large complex, a bit like Andy Carroll.

Nigel is wearing his re-found 1970s WHU scarf and helpfully points out that Huddersfield need four goals to beat the record for scoring the fewest goals in the Premier League. He then predicts a cricket score. What could possibly go wrong?

The Hammers start off looking lethargic, but do threaten to score when Antonio flicks a header on to the bar from Rice's cross. "If we can just get the first goal, Huddersfield's heads will drop," Mystic May tells Fraser. The Hammers duly take the lead when Lanzini is felled in the box and Noble sends the spot kick down the middle into the net.

DEFENSIVE WOES
Only Huddersfield heads don't go down. A minute later they win a corner and the unmarked Bacuna heads home. That was pretty amateur. Thirteen minutes later Pritchard's quick free kick confuses the West Ham defence. Antonio is slow to come out to block the cross, Zabaleta misses the ball and Ogbonna has lost his man as Grant scuffs home a soft goal. The small away contingent go berserk. Michael wonders if it's The Macra Terriers he's watching.


Another banana skin for the Hammers
It seems our players have switched off for the summer holidays. Even Rice seems to be struggling now he's English. At half-time Pellegrini makes a strange substitution, taking  off Antonio, who has at least caused problems with his speed and bringing on Hernandez. Then he brings on Nasri for Noble, who has been ok, which is certainly brave as we're now playing 4-1-3-2. I text Alison in Disneyland to inform her we now seem to have Mary Poppins and Sleeping Beauty in defence and are playing the Seven Dwarves up front. Things are desperate, so Nigel starts to eat his lucky banana. 

A great run from Anderson sees Arnautovic scuff his shot at the keeper. Bacuna almost scores as his long-range effort produces a fine save from Fabianski. "It'll be all right," reassures Nigel, moments before Diop lunges in and misses the ball, allowing Grant to turn inside Ogbonna and curl home the best goal of the game. Three-one down after 65 minutes. Many fainthearts leave their seats and head for the tube. Perez comes on for a muted Arnie. The Vicar's Son is threatening West Ham with much damnation.

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAMI
But Nasri is at least holding on to the ball and Hernandez is making runs into the box, while Zabaleta never stops running. Perez wins the corner and Ogbonna rises between two defenders to power home a header. Is it just a consolation? With 15 minutes left the volume level rises among the crowd.

Another West Ham corner is half-cleared but Nasri does really well to win a fifty-fifty challenge, wait for the right angle and chip in a ball to the far post where Chicharito is unmarked and heads home to spark wild scenes among the home fans.

But it would be very like West Ham to lose this having come back to 3-3. It resembles school football where no-one plays in defence. The Terriers break again and Kongolo is clean through but Fabianski makes a fine save and from the rebound Billing scoops over an open goal. Phew.

THREE-ONE DOWN, FOUR-THREE UP!
Anything could happen. Surely the Hammers can't go on to win it? In the 91st minute Anderson's shot is deflected for a corner. "Come on you Irons" echoes around the bowl. Cresswell takes it short to Anderson on the edge of the box. Felipe chips it in and Hernandez manages to get a flick on it to send a back header over the flailing Lossl. Never in doubt! It's crazy football but hugely entertaining.

We head over the iron bridge to Stratford and Fraser stops to console a Huddersfield fan, who says that this was one of their better performances as at least they scored three goals. 
Our Stratford theatre of dreams...

After such melodrama we head to the Stratford East Theatre bar, where we find a theatrical alcove with sofas, lamps, a 1960s telephone and lots of old posters revealing that Barbara Windsor was in the theatre's 1964 production of Henry IV. Michael is particularly taken with the poster advertising a lost drama called Make Me An Offer. Our pints of Wolf Rock are going down well, only for a surly member of staff to tell us rather rudely that we shouldn't have moved the bench. Unlike Manuel Pellegrini, he doesn't realise that you won't get anywhere without a strong bench.

It's been a strange day. Playing abysmally for 75 minutes and then securing a thrilling victory. This just might be the West Ham Way. Though a better team than Huddersfield surely wouldn't have allowed such a comeback. Still, we'll take it.

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 7; Zabaleta 7, Diop 5, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6; Anderson 6, Noble 6 (Nasri 8), Rice 5, Lanzini 5; Antonio 6 (Hernandez 8), Arnautovic 5 (Perez 5).

Friday, March 15

Farewell AC: My top Andy Carroll West Ham goals

It looks like Andy Carroll might have played his last game for West Ham, with Manuel Pellegrini announcing that he is suffering from another ankle injury and his contract ending this season. His injury record has been hugely disappointing, but I've no problem with what he did for West Ham when fully fit. Carroll could have been a great striker if his body had been up to it. Here are my top six AC moments (excluding the pink bedroom he designed with Billi):

THAT OVERHEAD KICK AGAINST PALACE 
With the crowd gripped by the wantaway Payet furore, Andy produced the best goal seen at the London Stadium in early 2017. He produced an acrobatic overhead kick of stunning power that flew into the top corner — and all without getting injured!

A SEVEN-MINUTE HAT-TRICK AGAINST ARSENAL 
Coming from 0-2 down to lead 3-2 against Arsenal was one of Andy's finest moments during WHU's farewell season at the Boleyn. His first was a trademark header, his second a volley to equalise before half-time, celebrated with his 'Angel of the North' outstretched arms routine. Early in the second half he scored another header to complete a seven-minute hat-trick. Just a shame it ended up 3-3.

THE WINNER AGAINST CHELSEA
Carroll scored a classic header at the Boleyn to condemn Jose Mourinho's Chelsea to defeat in the final season at Upton Park in 2015. He rose like the Shard of E13 to head home Cresswell's cross and then did a celebratory slide that left huge ruts in the turf and threatened to demolish the East Stand prematurely.

THAT GOAL AT SWANSEA
Proving that he could play on the ground as well, Carroll beat two Swansea defenders with his nifty footwork and then shot into the top corner during an away match in early 2015. 

A GREAT HEADER AGAINST LIVERPOOL
West Ham celebrated a late Christmas Carroll when Andy scored the second against Jurgen Klopp's men in a 2-0 win in January 2016. Mignolet was left hailing a bus as Andy rose above two defenders to thump home his header. He then did a belly-slide towards the East Stand.

A WEST BROM DOUBLE
Carroll scored the goals that arguably kept West Ham up last season. His first was a classic header outleaping the Albion defence. His second came in the dying seconds when he slid home from an acute angle to spark late celebrations. All of this while later learning that he had fractured his ankle.

Wednesday, March 13

England's number 41!

Congratulations to Declan Rice on his first call-up for a England squad, though it's tough on Ireland fans. He's deserved it on his form this season (Deckers has even started to score goals), though we have to hope he doesn't draw too much attention to himself with the likes of Man City sniffing around. But still, it's always a source of pride to see a West Ham player in the England squad. Declan has made it after just 63 league games for the Hammers, which is quite an achievement. There will be blips in his form as he's still learning, but he could certainly be an England mainstay for the next decade.

Monday, March 11

Let's get physical

Ian Wright had a good point on Match of the Day when he said that West Ham knew it was going to be a physical game at Cardiff so he couldn't understand why Pellegrini didn't start with muscular players like Arnautovic and Antonio. Playing with both Lanzini and Anderson against a fired-up team of triers was certainly a risk as they're not going to fancy a tackling contest. While Hernandez is always going to look lightweight as a solo striker against bruising former Championship defenders.

The defence is also worrying as our full backs tend to get exposed very easily away from home. Could there be a case for starting with five at the back in some away games? Now The General is fit Pellegrini could play Diop, Balbuena and Ogbonna or Cresswell together, with Fredericks and Masuaku as wing backs offering a threat on the break. Or if he sticks with a back four there could also be a case for starting Obiang alongside Rice and Noble in some games to prevent the side leaking early goals. 

Though whatever tweaks Manuel makes to the formation, the primary problem is psychological. The players can't relax because they feel safe — there's no excuse not to keep fighting for a potential seventh place.

Saturday, March 9

Failed in Wales

Cardiff City 2 West Ham 0

Typical West Ham… Another poor defeat on the road for the consistently inconsistent Hammers. Admittedly a game against a team that had to win to maintain a realistic chance of staying up was a difficult fixture, but just for once it would be nice if West Ham could not roll over or be just the sort of mid-table opponent strugglers like to play against. 

Goals at the start of either half sealed the defeat and the marking for the first was non-existent. Niasse should have added to Cardiff's total. Rice hit the post and Arnautovic had a shot saved but that was all too late. As Pellegrini said, not scoring a goal in open play for six away games is not acceptable. He needs to shuffle his players. There must surely be case for playing Arnautovic, Antonio, Nasri and Balbuena from the start in the next game against Huddersfield. Surely WHU can't blow it against bottom of the table no-hopers? Or can we?

Friday, March 8

There are only two things that never let you down…

After Saturday this seems rather appropriate. Just found this seminal Billy Bonds advert on the back of one of my early programmes, West Ham v Wolves from 1972. Here's Bonzo looking like he could easily get a walk-on role in The Sweeney

Sunday, March 3

A victory for Billy Bonds' claret and blue army

West Ham 2 Newcastle United 0

At 5.15pm the East Stand is very nearly full for its renaming as the Billy Bonds Stand – and we have a free plastic bag on every seat. Her Indoors (Nicola) makes a rare appearance, along with Fraser, Matt and Lisa, Scott, Alison, returning after a lengthy injury lay-off and Steve the Cornish postie, who has travelled up the Salt Path for the match. 

We worry our players might be injured by some of the giant inflatables reading, "six foot two eyes of blue, Billy Bonds is after you!" A series of former players are introduced by Alvin Martin, including the likes of Brian Dear, Ken Brown, Pat Holland, Alan Taylor and Keith Robson, though it might be stretching it to call Allen McKnight a "West Ham great." Fraser wonders where Joey Beauchamp is. Trevor Brooking makes a short speech and then on comes Billy. 

BILLY BONDS IS AFTER YOU
The big screens show the great man in tears as he is overwhelmed by the display of emotion as the whole ground chants "Oh Billy Billy Billy, Billy Billy Billy Bonds!" Bonzo cuts the ribbon, and walks along the length of the stand pumping his fist. It's all surprisingly moving. Though someone does quip that Billy never used to cry on the pitch in the 1970s. 

Then arrives a very tardy Nigel. He's late as he dropped his lucky 1970s West Ham scarf in the streets of Kew and had to go back to retrieve it from a tree (not that there can be many WHU scarves in Kew). He's missed the appearance of Bonzo and in a triple disaster has also arrived too late to get a programme. Doh!

The renaming ceremony creates a vibrant atmosphere, possibly the best it's been at the London Stadium as the team kick off accompanied by Bubbles and our raised bags creating a giant tribute. The away fans regale Mike Ashley with a friendly chant of, "you fat cockney bastard, get out of our club!"

RICE IS RIGHT

Everyone wants to win it for Billy, and all goes to plan after seven minutes when an excellent inswinging corner from Snodgrass is headed home by Declan Rice, a young player with a hint of Billy Bonds about him. It's two when the Hammers are awarded a penalty after Hernandez controls Anderson's free kick in the box and is then brought down by Lejeune. Mark Noble does well to thump home the penalty after his first run-up is halted by the ref for encroachment. 

Mo Diame comes on for the Toon in the second half, and although they look a well-drilled side they remain defensive and hardly trouble Fabianski. Ogbonna has to make one excellent block and late on Rondon sends a free kick against the post. But the Hammers often threaten on the break with Anderson and Lanzini prominent, while sub Masuaku gets in some decent crosses. Late on sub Arnautovic finds Lanzini, who has an effort tipped away by Dubravka. 

The half is most noticeable for the rhythmic stamping and rousing chorus of "Billy Bonds' Claret and Blue Army!" It's only symbolic, but having a Billy Bonds Stand seems to have reunited the London Stadium. We wonder if he's left 15 minutes after the final whistle with a couple of cans of lager in his hand.

We have witnessed that most unusual of events — a routine West Ham home win. And on 39 points the Irons really are safe. We retreat to the Broadway to find the Refreshment Rooms closed for a private party (perhaps the club have organised a cockney knees-up for all those old stars?). 

So instead we drink at the Secret Weapon (or is it named Loaded?), after a hungry Nicola has first purchased a takeaway falafel from the Best Cafe which we sneak into the pub. Hipsters play board and video games, you can get a seat and it does a decent pint of Neck Oil. It might even be our best drinking option. We wonder how to get pub purists Michael and Nigel to adopt it — it's not the Central, but perhaps if the decor was themed more towards Tom Baker, Marc Almond and Iron Maiden it might help them shift their opinion. 

Meanwhile Matt reminisces about watching second division football in Uzbekistan, though this is trumped by the fact that both Nicola and myself have been to the Lawson Tama stadium in Honiara. We note Matt mentally planning his next mini-break to the Pacific.

It's been a good Saturday night and a fine tribute to a genuine West Ham hero. Billy Bonds might just have sorted it out.

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 6; Fredericks 6, Diop 7, Ogbonna 7, Cresswell 6 (Masuaku 6); Anderson 7, Lanzini 7, Rice 8, Noble 7 (Obiang 6), Snodgrass 7; Hernandez 7 (Arnautovic 6).