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.
Monday, May 10
West Ham 1 Manchester City 1
“Tevez is a Hammer!” chant the Irons contingent at the City fans being escorted down Green Street.
After a trip to the stadium store to purchase a Tony Carr testimonial programme, it’s in to Ken’s Café for the season’s final waft of kitchen heat and odour of fried luncheons. Sadly, even the fact that I’ve mentioned Ken’s in the Observer’s end of season summaries doesn’t result in a free cup of tea.
Part-time Nigel is busy with something called an election. Matt says that our manager is still in power this weekend despite long and complex negotiations with two different leaders.
The word is that Zola’s going on Tuesday according to a mate of Big Joe’s pub landlady’s son, so it must be true. David Sullivan’s programme notes are hardly reassuring. He writes: "The current management and team know that what they have delivered was below the expectations at the start of the season.”
Jo, Big Joe, Matt and Lisa discuss who’s going to be our next manager. We come up with Bilic, Pards, Curbs, Roeder and Avram Grant, whose name causes many ribald suggestions about recommendations of East End massage parlours.
Strangely DC is late, perhaps refining his offer of a DM/East Stand pact for next season, and The Gav is left as ever, waiting for his ticket.
Tevez is only a sub, while we play Daprela at last and give Luis Boa Morte a game.
We go ahead after a clever back heel from Diamanti finds Boa Morte who strokes the ball into the corner with unexpected panache. It’s a fine moment for the previously constricted Boa in what will surely be his final game for the club as his contract expires this season. Luis runs to the fans, whips his shirt off and reveals a tattooed torso. He’s immediately booked and you wonder if he’s after a red card just for old time’s sake. Matt sends a text to Nigel reading "Boa selector!".
Our lead doesn’t last long. The dangerous Johnson crosses to the far post and Sean Wright Phillips climbs above Faubert and Parker to head home.
“He’s the shortest player on the pitch!” exclaims a disbelieving Matt.
After that it’s a fairly even game. Upson makes a great tackle to deny Johnson in the box, Green saves well from Adebayor and Diamanti turns inside to hit the post with a right-foot shot. Sullivan might dislike him, but it would be a mistake to let Allesandro go, as he’s the one player who can produce the unexpected.
In the second half Stanislas and Franco come on. Daprela does well against Johnson, but Cole looks increasingly injured and is mercifully benched. If Carlton needs rest then why play him in meaningless end of season fixtures?
“Is Stanislas wearing Spector’s boots?” queries Matt, as the sub gets it wrong again. Franco makes more of a difference, holding the ball up well to break free from Toure and fire at Fulop. A surging run by Parker sees Ilan have a toe poke saved by the City keeper’s foot.
There’s a huge chant of “There’s only one Carlos Tevez!” as the City sub comes on to adulation from the whole stadium, including the three blokes in dresses in the Bobby Moore Stand.
“Paul Ince went to Man United and he doesn’t get this kind of reception,” I muse.
Tevez then pokes the ball over the bar a Green rushes out. West Ham reject!
The game ends in a diplomatic draw. Tevez salutes the City fans while wearing Franco’s number 10 shirt over his City shirt. Clearly he’s after a move back to East London.
“We’ll know Tevez really does want to play for us if he comes out on our lap of honour,” says Matt.
Before the players return there’s a video of the highlights of the season on the big screen. These seem to include the players standing in the tunnel, the players shaking hands, the Hammerettes, and two Scotty Parker goals.
“It’s been a funny old season,” says Jeremy Nicholas, showing great potential as a spin doctor. He announces the most improved youngster (Christian Montana), the young Hammer of the Tear (Zavon Hines), the runner-up Hammer of the Year (Diamanti, in a fans’ message to the board not to sell him) and then the bombshell that Scott Parker is indeed our Hammer of the Year.
The lads proceed on a trudge of honour around the stadium, Their kids have their dads’ names on their back (thankfully no Terrys) and in a kick about at the end fight among themselves, follow the ball into the corner and then shoot wide – they’ll go far at West Ham.
Jeremy gives us Twist and Shout, Hi Ho Silver Lining and Heroes, which is perhaps stretching it a bit.
“It only says we could be heroes…” points out Fraser.
We retreat to the Central with The Gav. It’s tremendously chilly in the revamped beer garden, which is now being renovated in a fetching distressed concrete Mad Max post-apocalyptic theme.
“It will be better next season,” predicts Matt with undue boldness, who is also considering betting £50 on an October election. “In any other year we’d have gone down on 35 points but we’ve got away with it.”
Although there are also certain, ahem, creative tensions within the squad to reconcile. After the match Luis Boa Morte, speaking with the freedom of a man out of contract, lays into the Club Landlord: “Mr Sullivan should have a bit more composure when he talks to the press to hammer the players, it's not helping anyone. The fact you have money doesn't mean you can say and do whatever you want.”
Meanwhile Zola announces that on Tuesday he will have “a long and interesting chat” with the owners and the season ticket blurb promises “New season, New Era. New Heroes.”