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.

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.

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. 

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


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.