Tuesday, November 24

Are West Ham a one-man team?

We had an interesting discussion in the pub during the Spurs debacle on whether any other club relied on any one player as much as we have relied on Dimitri Payet this season. Everything has been going through Dimitri and with numerous assists and five goals he's obviously going to be a massive loss for the next three months. Man City rely on Aguero a lot, Spurs would miss Harry Kane and Everton Romelu Lukaku, but few teams have had such an obvious star. 

Still, you suspect the effect is psychological more than anything else, and our main problems were at the back against Spurs. We have some very good players to replace Payet. Manuel Lanzini is already having a fine season, Alex Song or Mauro Zarate can come into the midfield, Valencia will return in January, and there's the option of playing Carroll and Sakho together. Plus there's £7 million Antonio and Jelavic desperate to get games (and Jelavic did well to set up Lanzini's goal on Sunday). 

But what we do need is a bit more creativity from Noble, Kouyate and Moses to make up for his absence. And as Match of the Day pointed out, when teams press like Spurs did, we need to sometimes play the long ball out from the back to bypass them. Even without Payet we still have one of the strongest West Ham teams in many seasons, so for the moment let's remain positive.

Sunday, November 22

It hasn't happened again…

Foolish pre-match optimism before we meet our Waterloo
Tottenham 4 West Ham 1

It's off to the not-quite-so-lucky pub, The Hole In The Wall at Waterloo, for this one. Fraser and Gavin in flat caps, Matt, Lisa, and Nigel are all present. There's a fine selection of real ales at the bar and the Gold Rush and TEA are both splendid compared to the Central's beers. Matt, Nigel and The Gav reminisce about Hatfield band Babe Ruth, as featured on BBC4's Rock of the Seventies. Nigel's been to see Everton versus Aston Villa yesterday and Matt and Lisa have watched the WHU kids at Little Heath. The only problem is that we now have to watch a football match with West Ham Seniors.

Eriksen forces a good save from Adrian but it's fairly even early on, with West Ham forcing a few corners, until Spurs get their first after 23 minutes. There's a goalmouth melee and Harry Kane spins past Jenkinson too easily and fires into the roof of the net. It gets worse ten minutes later when Alderweireld loses Reid at a corner. Winston bumps into Sakho, Andy Carroll can't halt him either and the Spurs centre back heads number two. West Ham do hit the bar, with an acrobatic overhead kick from Kouyate, even though the ref should have flagged for offside. Matt insists he would have scored that one — at least in his dreams.

Alli heads against the bar and Kane slices wide when he should score while an Andy Carroll header is easily fielded by Lloris. Half-time arrives with much depression as The Gav and Fraser head outside for a cigar break. Scott Parker is on the TV and I suggest he'll be our man of the match again. The game's over after 50 minutes. Adrian plays a dangerous short ball out to Tomkins and James then passes straight to Eriksen. He finds Harry Kane who shoots home through Adrian. "I'll settle for a point now," suggests Nigel. And so much for Kane's goal drought. We just can't cope with Spurs' high pressing.

We're really missing Payet and as Bilic has said he's been making the other players around him raise their game too. It's hard to find anyone who's played well. The only plus is a late appearance from Alex Song. It's four when Walker pokes home after 83 minutes as Reid is again slow to sense the danger and Cresswell has left too much space on the left. Spurs then hit the post and we're just keeping the score down.

"Jelavic will never score for us… What is Jelavic going to do with that?" opines Mystic Matt as the late sub finds Lanzini with a fine through ball and Manuel shoots into the top of the net. A consolation at least, as Matt is ribbed by all the TEA drinkers.

We're left to rue a very poor performance against a Spurs side that is going really well and hasn't lost since the first day of the season. Our party wonder why Payet was allowed to play on against Everton (did it make the injury worse?) and reminisce about great West Ham injuries (Ashton, Dyer, etc). We quiz Fraser on his least favourite bosses, who turn out to be Pulis, Allardyce and Warnock. No-one can answer Matt's trivia question about who was the Spurs and England forward who signed for West Ham in the Championship. Turns out it was David Bentley.

West Brom now becomes a must-win game again and we have to get over the loss of Payet quickly. It's hard to believe the whole side will play as badly again next week, we hope.

Friday, November 20

Goodbye to Boleyn

Very good programme called Goodbye to Boleyn on Radio 4 this morning, dealing with the impact West Ham's move to Stratford will have on the environs of Green Street.. It includes interviews with Nathan's pie and mash, burger sellers, programme sellers, Gary Firmager of Over Land and Sea fanzine, Cynthia the hairdresser who works in David Gold's old house at number 442 Green Street, local residents, market traders and singing nuns Sister Immaculate and Sister Patricia who live near the stadium.  It was broadcast as part of Radio 4's Lives in a Landscape series and credit to producer Mark Burman for a great half hour of radio. Click on the link to listen.

Tuesday, November 17

Randolph makes the Euros

We've got a 'keeper at Euro 2016. Congratulations to Darren Randolph on playing in Ireland's 2-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina last night, the game that saw the Irish qualify. Certainly looked an emotional night. I thought Randolph did really well in the three games he played when Adrian was suspended, against Bournemouth, Liverpool and Newcastle. He'll benefit from international football too and it's encouraging West Ham now have two top class goalkeepers. And there's now a good chance Randolph might replace Shay Given and David Forde (a former Hammer) as Ireland's number one goalkeeper.

Monday, November 16

Who bought Ken's Cafe?

Anyone know who bought Ken's Cafe? A ceramic model of Ken's Cafe has sold for £150. It was part of the Tower of Babel exhibition by Barnaby Barford, on display in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum. If anyone does know who purchased the pottery Ken's then Carol at the real Ken's Cafe in Green Street would be interested in talking to them and acquiring it for posterity. Any leads very much appreciated…

Friday, November 13

Vaz Te signs for Charlton

Ricardo Vaz Te, who will always have a place in Hammers' folklore (and my pal Michael the Whovian's heart) for his Play-Off Final winner, has signed for Charlton until the end of the season, having been released by Turkish club Akhisar Belediyespor. His record of 19 goals in 61 games for the Hammers is pretty respectable and he scored a great goal off his knee at White Hart Lane just to wind up Spurs. Vaz Te never fully convinced as a Premier League striker, but he scored 12 in half a season during our promotion season of 2011-12. If he could repeat that for Charlton, currently 22nd in the Championship, he could prove to be an inspired signing.

Thursday, November 12

Andy Carroll needs time to get back to his best

Quite a lot of criticism of Andy Carroll on social media after the Everton game. Think we need to remember that he was up against the best young centre back in the country in John Stones and he is recovering from a long-term injury. Andy's still the same player who scored against Chelsea and he's only had two full games so far. He's not had a pre-season and I'd expect us to see the best of him after half a dozen or so matches. It will take time to recover his sharpness. Sakho doees look a more mobile option up front, but there's no reason Carroll can't get a lot of game time this season and as Bilic recently said, when he gets in certain situations, as he did against Chelsea, he can be unstoppable.