West Ham 2 Stoke City 1
The queue in Ken’s Café is stretching way out into Green Street. Clearly after a Christmas of excess West Ham fans are detoxing with some healthy eating. There’s a full crew present, Big Joe, Big Tone, Big Phill, Tiny Tim, Michelle, Little Jo, Mike, Matt, Nigel (finally back from his dinner party), Carolyn and Lisa, who delays our exit by ordering special chips lightly drizzled with cheese served by a Christmas Carol.
Davenport is dropped, rather unfairly, for Collins, while Neill and Noble are injured and Bellamy suspended. And worryingly Zola has once again proved himself a Boa selector.
Was the Portsmouth Boxing Day win an aberration? It seems so when the unmarked Faye heads in from a corner after four minutes. “Why Why Delilah?” sing the noisy Potters fans followed by “You’ve only got one song!” and “Where’s your money gone?” They make throw-in gestures whenever Delap fires one of his missiles, but generally Collins and Upson cope with them.
At least we create a procession of chances. Collison breaks down the left wing and crosses for Cole to stab wide when he should probably have scored.
Griffin nearly heads into his own net from Behrami's centre, Upson heads wide and Boa Morte who is having a fine game for once, plays a great ball in to Ilunga who crosses into the box only for the ball to be scrambled away. Di Michele produces a great piece of Di-Canio-esque ball-juggling to cross for Cole to head wastefully way over the bar. And that’s after Zola has worked with him all week on his finishing. Before that his headers must have been going over the stand.
At half-time we wonder if Freddie should come on. “He’ll run around a lot because of all the chocolates he’s eaten around the Christmas tree,” suggests Lisa.
Finally we score. Carlton Cole is blocked by Andy Griffin but turns away from the prone Potter and fire a fine shot into the corner. “Always believe in Carlton Cole!” declares Matt. Then as Stoke prepare to kick off there’s a hilarious altercation. Fuller slaps Griffin and is red-carded. More a case of ‘Why Why Why Ricardo?’
“That must make Dyer and Bowyer feel quite nostalgic,” I suggest.
“Down with the Tottenham! You’re going down with the Tottenham!” chant the Bobby Moore Stand.
Cole has now scored in two successive games and it’s an important moment for him, since he’s never scored five league goals in a season before. He’s kept going despite missing two first-half chances.
Predictably enough we struggle against a side trying to beat itself. Boa Morte has a shot cleared off the line and Cole fires in a couple of confident looking shots against a team of slappers. But every cross seems to come from Faubert who fires then in the general direction of the Channel.
But then on 88 minutes Cole turns and shoots in the box, the ball deflects of substitute Diego Tristan and into the net. Even we survive four minutes of injury time against ten men. Six points over Christmas! Although obviously they we may yet need to get to 40 points before selling the entire side on January 30.
We’re tenth. The fans are so ecstatic that the Black Lion in Plaistow is too full to enter. So we travel home on the tube wondering if we can still catch Aston Villa.
George Osborne and Radio 4 channel Essex Man
3 days ago