David Cameron has just confused his claret and blue sides, claiming that he supports West Ham and not Aston Villa at a campaign event. He now blames it on Natalie Bennett-style "brain fade" and says that of course he supports Aston Villa. Obviously it's very easy for a chap to confuse West Hampstead and Aston Villains or whatever their names are… especially as George says they don't even play with a proper-shaped oval ball.
Something to take your mind off our recent form. A print version of my 2012 e-book Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals is now available. It includes chapters on the 1923 'White Horse' Final (where we definitely have a case for a replay as spectators were all over the pitch, which was also covered in hoof prints); Bobby Moore's side beating Preston 3-2 in the 1964 FA Cup FInal and winning the Cup Winners Cup' in 1965 on a glorious night at Wembley; Bonzo picking up the FA Cup in 1975 after Alan Taylor's double; Trevor Brooking's header bringing Cup glory in 1980; taking Liverpool to a replay in the 1981 League Cup Final after Ray Stewart's nerveless last-minute penalty at Wembley; the Play-Off Final wins of 2005 and 2012 and the Greatest FA Cup Final of Modern Times in 2006 when we drew 3-3 with Liverpool (I forget who won on penalties). It's also been praised by David 'Psycho' Cross who tweeted, having read the 1980 chapter: "Great recollection and detail. Clearly a huge Hammers fan." Click on the link to peruse.
Sam Allardyce has used his Evening Standard column to criticise the players. He's noticed what we all spotted, that the work rate and desire against Stoke and Man City just wasn't good enough.
Big Sam writes: "The bottom line is the players just haven’t delivered what they should have done in recent weeks. I have to accept my responsibilities but they have to do the same. It’s massively disappointing for me and if the players don’t share that disappointment then professionally, that is very poor. I have defended our performances against Leicester, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham but I haven’t been able to do that in our most recent two matches against Stoke and — in the first half at least — Manchester City last weekend."
Nine of the side that lost to Man City last week played in the 2-1 victory over City at Upton Park so we know that they can produce. The players owe us a decent performance at QPR tomorrow and if they don't do it, Allardyce, for all his innate caution, should bring in a few kids who will have something to prove. Yes, they might make mistakes, but no-one is going to criticise them too much if they're trying their best and want to play for the shirt.
Good news that West Ham are reducing season ticket prices for the first season in the Olympic Stadium, with the cheapest seats going for £289 and children's season tickets a very reasonable £99. It's not quite the completely altruistic gesture it might seem, in that it also makes solid business sense as the club is unlikely to fill an extra 20,000 seats at current prices. But even so, with most clubs charging obscene prices when with the massive new TV deal they could afford to let everyone watch for free, this has to be progress. Though it will be interesting to hear if the prices for existing season ticket holders are also going down.
Meanwhile the Guardian has a worrying report claiming that the Olympic Stadium deal might contradict European Union state aid laws, as Boris Johnson and the London Legacy Development Corporation did not obtain 'prior approval' from the European Commission. If the deal was challenged it seems it would be the LLDC and Boris who would be first in the firing line, though in a worst case scenario the Guardian claims the club could be asked to contribute to the £138.9m drain on the public purse. Still, West Ham and the LLDC insist the deal complies with all regulations and you'd hope that the combined business brains of Karren Brady, David Sullivan and David Gold have got this one watertight. Though after Tevezgate, like most West Ham fans, I'm always worried when M'Learned Friends get involved in football…
Any team on a bad run of two
wins in eight will always end it against West Ham. So no surprise about the
result at the Etihad.
Luckily I’m on a train to
Waterbeach while the game is live on TV, so have to rely on the MOTD highlights. A free kick just wide
from Kolarov indicates the early pressure from City. City’s breakthrough is a
classic own goal from James Collins. Jesus Navas (hang on, isn’t Jesus Andy
Carroll?) wins a header against Cresswell and fires in a cross towards James
Collins. The defender has to get something on it, but from 18 yards out slices
the ball up in the air and in off the bar like a Ginger Pele, only at the wrong
It’s not quite as good as
Iain Dowie’s own goal at Stockport, but it’s up there with the all-time greats.
It’s a freak goal of course, and typical of the luck of a team that’s been
struggling since Christmas.
JESUS LAYS ON THE CROSS
West Ham then have a chance
as Valencia does well to dispossess Demichelis and plays in Cole. But Hart has
come off his line quickly and blocks Carlton’s effort on the edge of the box.
City then get a second from a
West Ham free kick. Cresswell’s punt into the box is cleared and Downing picks
up the ball on the right, trying to play a square ball to Song. Toure nips in
to win the ball and City break at speed with Navas and Aguero exchanging passes
for a classy second.
My main fear at half-time is
that it will be a thrashing. At least we keep it down to 2-0 and it becomes
almost too easy for City. Silva has to go off after a nasty clash with Kouyate's elbow, though it looks unintentional and more a result of their contrast in heights. West Ham, with Nolan on for Cole and Jarvis replacing
Song, create three late chances. Nolan finds Jarvis on the left and he produces
a good cut back only for Downing to take too long with his shot. Valencia then
produces a great dribble from the left, beating two City defenders and flashing
the ball across goal, with Nolan just failing to prod it in. Finally a suicidal
backpass from Jesus Navas presents Nolan with a one-on-one, but again Hart is
out quickly to block what should have been a goal. So a little hope in our late
SORT IT OUT SULLIVAN
But Big Sam is worryingly
deflated after the game and Jason Roberts makes some good points on Match of the Day about the uncertainly
of the managerial situation causing some players to drop their performance levels
by ten per cent. If so then that’s a disgrace, but as a former pro Roberts presumably
knows how footballers react. The media won’t let this situation go away and
surely it’s time for the chairmen to either say Sam is going or give him a new
Meanwhile it’s now two wins,
six draws and eight defeats in the 16 league games since Christmas. That run
has included Chelsea and Arsenal home and away and difficult games against Man
City, Man United, Liverpool, Southampton and Spurs. But even so, it’s extremely
worrying. The next two matches are against strugglers QPR and Burnley, and if
we don’t play with 100 per cent commitment we’ll lose.
The Daily Star printed a story claiming that West Ham are considering Gary Monk as manager. He's clearly a promising young manager, a Londoner and doing a great job at Swansea. But would he really be the answer? He's had one and a half seasons managing Swansea, where he was previously captain and knew the club. He also took over a good side that had won the League Cup and been largely built by Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup. At a new club he might find things more difficult and would we want him to have his first bad patch the season before the Olympic Stadium move? Yes, he'd come cheaper than Big Sam, but we don't want to recruit solely on that basis.
It's worth considering the replacements we might have had had Big Sam gone last year; Malky Mackey, who would have been caught up in a racist/sexist/homophobic/anti-Semitic text scandal and Gus Poyet, who after a great end of season at Sunderland failed to inspire this time and ended up getting sacked. Despite the post-Christmas slump this has been a promising season with better football and some good signings. Allardyce virtually guarantees we stay up next season; any new manager would have to offer an improvement on that.
More bad news this week. First Liverpool were claimed to be trying to hi-jack West Ham's move for Carl Jenkinson (valued at £10m by Arsenal) and now yesterday's Evening Standard claims that Chelsea are considering bidding for Aaron Cresswell, with Man City also interested. Cresswell has been just about our best player this season and is a bargain at £3 million. Every player has his price, but even so to lose him would send out the wrong signal for next season.
Meanwhile there's more problems on the injury front. Diafra Sakho has aggravated an existing thigh injury against Stoke (should he have played at all?) and will be out for several weeks, while Enner Valencia was trodden on by a Stoke player and could be absent against Man City. Which would leave Carlton Cole as our only recognised frontman at City. You do have to admire Carlton's durability; at various points he's been ranked behind Dean Ashton, Bobby Zamora, Freddie Piquionne, Demba Ba, Robbie Keane, Victor Obinna, Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, but is still at Upton Park and still getting his share of games.
The side badly needs shaking up at City but we're running out of options. Certainly Morgan Amalfitano should get a game and maybe Nene and Matt Jarvis too. Diego Poyet might also be worth a chance as he's young and hungry. The biggest enigma is Alex Song, who started well against Stoke but faded again, having been our best player earlier in the season. According to the Sun he wasn't happy at being subbed. Is he unfit, out of form or resigned to moving on?