Monday, April 21

What is the West Ham way?

Some rather patronising comments from Alan Shearer on Match of the Day, with Shearer saying, "West Ham fans keep saying they're not playing the West Ham way. What is the West Ham way? Is that the way that's been so successful the last 40 years?"

It's pretty obvious to anyone with an interest in the club what the West Ham way is. It's the attacking and innovative football played by Ron Greenwood and then John Lyall, and to a later extent by Harry Redknapp. It might not have won stacks of trophies (though we can count the 1965 Cup Winners' Cup, FA Cups of 1964, 1975 and 1980, being losing FA Cup Finalists in  2006, third in 1986 and fifth under Redknapp in 1999 as achievements) but the feeling was you went home entertained after a match.

Over the years we've seen attacking and entertaining players such as Hurst, Peters, Brooking, Devonshire, Lampard, Carrick, Cole, Defoe, Di Canio and Tevez. I'm all for solid defending, scoring from set-pieces and playing with more steel and winning matches. But it seems disingenuous of critics to hide behind this "no-one knows what the West Ham way is" cliche. It's about being a mid-ranking team that might not win much, but more often than not sends the punters home entertained and occasionally produces a glorious upset. And playing more in the passing style of sides like Southampton, Swansea and Martinez's Everton rather than our current limited fare.

Sunday, April 20

Armero and a leg costs Hammers

West Ham 0 Crystal Palace 1

Ken’s CafĂ© is deserted in the sun as most fans opt for the pub. It’s down to Matt and Michael the Whovian with Nigel and Fraser appearing at the ground. My egg, chips and beans is to prove better than the game.

The best part of the game is the minute’s applause for Dylan Tombides after his brother and dad place his shirt on the centre circle. The applause in the 38th minute is another powerful moment.

Demel is sick so McCartney has to play at right back. The game begins with a curious end of season feel to it, which is unprofessional on West Ham’s part, as we could yet go down. Nigel suggests the game will be settled by one goal. Though Mystic Morris’ calculator also predicts we will stay up on 38 points.

Palace get eight defenders behind the ball whenever we attack, are well organised and difficult to break down. Bolasie looks dangerous against the out-of-position McCartney and Palace look the likelier side to score. Carroll clears off the line and Dann has a header deflected over the bar.

West Ham have a much better spell before time and start to play with more urgency. Diame has a fine shot tipped over. Carroll and Nolan combine to set in Diame who shoots at Speroni’s legs. Seconds later Downing gets in a good cross and Carroll’s header is saved one-handed by Speroni.

Downing and Jarvis switch wings and after a decent cress from Downing (who fluffs as many as he gets right) Carroll has a shot blocked when he might have connected better.

Then it all goes wrong in the 59th minute as Jerome wins a penalty after a rash lunge by Armero. Jedinak converts and the Palace fans'  sing “There’s only one Tony Pulis!”
The West Ham players lose confidence and have no Plan B beyond aiming for Carroll. Our need for a creative number ten looks ever more pressing. The Vicar’s Son next to me gets crosser and Fraser wants to sack Allardyce right now. Big Sam subs Jarvis, who has been doing better than Downing, and the move is greeted by chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing!” 

Sub Joe Cole drags a shot wide and the game peters out and ends with Palace’s fifth successive win. Though Diame has a good final ten minutes. Poor match and not good enough from West Ham.

At least I miss the Central’s non-existent craft beer range to go and see Bomber’s Moon at the Park Theatre starring the great James Bolam and Michael Moon out of EastEnders, which is more entertaining than the game.

The death of Dylan Tombides puts football in perspective, but even so, West Ham could easily lose their last six games. No room for complacency at all at West Brom.

TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 5, McCartney 4, Tomkins 5, Reid 5, Armero 4; Jarvis 5, Diame 6, Nolan 5, Noble 5, Downing 5, Carroll 5.

Saturday, April 19

Dylan Tombides RIP

Really sad to hear of the death of West Ham's Dylan Tombides after three years battling testicular cancer. He was only 20 and since his diagnosis did some great work raising cancer awareness. Saw his only brief first team appearance as a sub against Wigan in the League Cup in 2012. Let's give him a moving minute's applause today and then go out and win the game on his behalf.

David Gold's chopper

Thanks to Matt and Lisa for sending in pictures of their visit to the open day at The Chalet, David Gold's posh gaff in Surrey. Here's Matt with DG's helicopter and the West Ham hole on his golf course. All a long way from Goldy's old house at 442 Green Street.

Thursday, April 17

West Ham fans only 82nd in league table of fan suffering

West Ham are only 82nd in a league table of long-suffering fans, according to a study commissioned by the Makers of ITV4's new animated sitcom Warren United, starting on April 22. Rochdale came top, just beating Hartlepool and Exeter. While Man United came bottom as the club with the least-suffering fans, followed by Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.The show’s producers commissioned statisticians at the English National Football Archive (ENFA) to compile a “Long-Suffering Fan Index”. ENFA’s top stattos crunched data from 220,000 match results since the first Football League season in 1888-9 to rank the current 92 Football League clubs by their lack of success, weighted by extra factors including the size of their average home crowds. In the Premier League we're not even as long suffering as Stoke City fans. Seems West Ham have ruined all those years of underachievement with the odd FA Cup win and promotion. Doh! Click on the link to read the complete survey.

Wednesday, April 16

Three-one to the Librarians

Celebrating Matt's programe purchase
Arsenal 3 West Ham 1

My gaff, uncomfortably close to the Emirates, has become a safe house for West Ham fans as Fraser, Matt, Lisa and Nigel, along with token Gooner Simon arrive for a pre-match bottles of Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew, Spitfire and Hobgoblin.

On the way to the Library there’s a major crisis by the bridge as Matt tries to buy a programme only to discover they’ve sold out. He hasn’t looked this desperate since they sold out at Wigan. He looks the most relieved man at the Emirates as we finally track one down outside the away end.

The away fans are in good voice reprising old favourites, “It’s quiet in the library!” and “Sixty thousand muppets!” We’re close to an Irons banner reading, bizarrely, “I’ve got chickens in my back yard.”

Nolan is out injured and Nocerino, sporting a swarm of bees on his chin, is in, as we play with two wingers. West Ham start well, looking sharp and knocking Arsenal off the ball, with Tomkins and Reid solid at the back and Diame, Noble and Nocerino winning tackles. We get in lots of good crossing positions with Jarvis and Downing, but as always, seem to fluff the final ball. Carroll heads well over and then Jarvis has a penalty appeal turned down when Sagna catches him. We can’t see it properly from our end, but Big Sam says he should have gone down, though personally I’m pleased some players remain honest.

Rosicky looks Arsenal’s best player and slowly the home side start to create chances. Podolski fizzes a cross across the box and Giroud beats our offside trap only to make a very weak flick when one-on-one with Adrian, allowing the keeper to save.

But we keep it tight and take the lead on 40 minutes. Nocerino makes a great burst down the right, fires at the keeper and as the ball bounces off him, Jarvis bravely heads home despite a flying Arsenal boot.

“Top of the league and you fucked it up!” rings round the gleeful away end. We start to dream of another famous win at the Emirates. We just have to keep it 1-0 at half-time.

All seems to be going to plan until two minute before the break, Downing has the ball wide on the right of defence and instead of hoofing it down the line slices the ball inside. It turns into a perfect pass to Cazorla, who finds Podolski. The big effing German, who always scores against us, swings his sledgehammer boot and it’s into the corner of the net. Bit of a Scaloni moment as the Muppets explode with relief.

We urge Downing to make up for it a minute later as he gets into another good crossing position, only to hopelessly overhit it. Still, drawing at half-time isn’t bad, though as Nigel reminds us, it was 1-1 at half time last season after we took the lead. Though I counter that we would have won if Dan Potts hadn’t been injured, as we were just coming back into it at 5-1 down.

We begin the second half looking quite comfortable, only to be undone by Vermaelen’s long ball ten minutes in. Reid and Carroll appear to get in each other’s way and Giroud sneaks behind them to control with one sublime touch and fire through Adrian’s legs. Bugger.

Arsenal start to ooze confidence again. Cazorla makes a great run and fires just wide and then Podolski’s free kick forces Adrian into a save.

From the away end we get a great view of Mertesacker playing really well against Carroll, though when it became obvious Carroll wasn't winning much in the air West Ham should surely vary their tactics.

Just as Sam is preparing to bring on Joe Cole and Vaz Te Arsenal score a third after 12 minutes from time as sub Ramsey heads down for Podolski, who has momentarily lost Tomkins, and fires home another fine finish.

Jarvis, who has played well on the left, and Downing are taken off, Carlton Cole comes on for the labouring Carroll and there’s a bizarre cameo from Vaz Te. Carlton Cole does well to find Vaz, only for him to balloon a cross towards the full moon. Vaz Te follows this by lunging in to a Gooner and trying hard to get red-carded.

Another misplaced pass from Diame inspires an outburst of Tourette’s from the gentleman behind us: “F**king learn to pass before you talk about signing for f**king Liverpool you f**king Bag of f**king s**t Diame!” Must be a Vicar’s Son.

At least there’s a rousing Bubbles at the end and we’ve played reasonably well, though no sign of Arsenal being tired after their 120 minutes against Wigan

We brave the cries of “Your ground’s too big for you!” from the Muppets on Drayton Park and head back to Pete’s bar. With real ale, herb tea and toasted maize on offer it’s a step-up from the Central, though perhaps I should offer them some iffy dvds as well.

A frustrating evening, but we have been away to a side that is back in the top four. It’s now important we get something from the game against Palace so we can finally relax.

TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 6; Demel 6, Tomkins 6, Reid 6, Armero 6; Downing 4 (Joe Cole 5), Diame 6, Noble 6, Nocerino 6, Jarvis 7 (Vaz Te 3); Carroll 5 (Cole 5).

Tuesday, April 15

Can we still snatch relegation from the jaws of safety?

Old habits die hard. It's still difficult not to glance at the bottom of the table and ponder what happens if West Ham lose all five remaining fixtures and finish on 37 points. For Norwich to catch us, they would have to win two games out of their run in of Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal, which is very unlikely. Cardiff and Sunderland have to play each other so neither can get full points, while Fulham would have to win three out of four to overtake us as we have a better goal difference. West Brom will surely lose away to Man City and Arsenal, while Swansea and Aston Villa have to make up four and three points on us. So it's unlikely we would go down, but mathematically possible. And if it can go wrong at West Ham it invariable]y does, so I'll still sleep much easier if we can get a point at the Library tonight.