West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul and Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals.
Sunday, February 21
London 3 Hull 0
West Ham 3 Hull City 0
The economies at West Ham are clearly biting; Match day announcer Jeremy Nicholas is sitting having his lunch in Ken’s Café. And no, I don’t think Carol takes credit cards.
I’m with my daughter nine-year-old Nell and her friend Fernanda, who wants to know if Ken’s has free-range meat. Hmm. I suggest the egg, chips and beans.
Nigel arrives with his mate Michael, as Matt is in South Africa thanks to a competition won by his WAG Lisa. Matt reports from SA that there are pictures of Benni McCarthy everywhere, although Nelson Mandela hasn’t as yet asked for a personal update on the Hammers’ fortunes.
“Why do adults always talk about boring stuff like money?” Nell asks Nigel. Clearly she’s heard too many interviews with Gold and Sullivan. “And why don’t they have toys?”
In the stadium Jeremy Nicholas announces our side individually but doesn’t read out the Hull City team. Is this a bizarre plot by the new regime to throw Hull into existential crisis? Will they think they don’t exist if they’re not named?
“No, Sullivan just wants to sell more programmes,” suggests the pragmatic Fraser.
It’s Bubbles time and it’s always a thrill to see a young kid experience the most romantic of football songs for the first time. Nell's pal looks amazed at the effect of 33,000 voices. She might live behind the Emirates but we’ll soon make her a Hammer.
We start well, attacking immediately. In the third minute Kovac dispossesses young Cairney plays the ball to Behrami, who finds Franco. Franco miscontrols it but the ball falls nicely for Valon to poke into the net.
Behrami nearly gets a hat-trick. Myhill tips aside one shot and then produces a brilliant save from a header from Diamanti’s cross.
The recalled Franco is holding play up well and we look much more confident against a side that frequently hacks at our heels. Hull come into it briefly with a couple of crosses from Fagan and some muscular work from Zaki but it’s not until the 45th minute that Boateng produces a fine tip-over from Green.
At the beginning of the second half things go our way. Fagan tries to pick Diamanti pocket with a shirt tug and is red carded for a second booking. Annoying little Stephen Hunt protests and is serenaded with “Where’s your caravan?”
Then on 59 minutes Faubert plays a fantastic through ball past a statuesque Hull defence and Carlton Cole races through to finish neatly. Two-nil in our cup final. They’ll be dancing in the streets of Cape Town.
There’s a wonderful moment when Diamanti sees Myhill off his line and almost scores from the half-way line, Pele-style. Diamanti gets his own song to the old “Nigel Reo-Coker!” tune. It’s just like watching Brazil (playing Hull). Tomkins is mopping up everything at the back and the Hull defence just can’t handle Cole.
Fortified by Haribos and chocolate Nell and Fernanda shout “Come on Hammers!” and “Boo Hull!”. Promising — as long as we can play Hull every week.
Hapless Hull bring on three subs and then go down to nine men when Gardener is injured. Surely even we can hold out against nine men?
“I think we’ll get a least a point,” says Nigel.
In stoppage time Faubert, fortified by a massage from Madam Bovary, breaks inside from the right and thumps a screamer into the top corner of the net. I start to feel more confident.
“Julien! Julien!” salutes the Bobby Moore Stand as the tattooed and recently much-improved full back leaps into the crowd. Since the death of his mother and his decision to play against Blackburn he seems to really appreciate the support from the Irons fans. A great time to score his first ever Hammers goal.
A clean sheet and two successive wins for the first time this season. That’ll do me.