Monday, March 29

Fighting on

In the soap opera that is WHU Zola has vowed to fight on. And Jo Phillips asks:

"Why do I have eerie echoes of Thatcher's " we will fight on" when her leadership was already doomed..."

Although if Zola's Thatcher then who is our John Major figure? Or indeed our Edwina Currie?

The manager publicly contemplating about whether he's the problem is again an example of Zola being maybe too honest. You can't imagine Alex Ferguson or David Moyes doing that.

At least some stability might ensue for the next six games as Gold claims to be behind him. Meanwhile I think I need to go on holiday to consider my future as a West Ham fan.

Fortune's always hiding…

West Ham 0 Stoke City 1

Steve ‘North Bank Norman’ Rapport has returned from San Francisco for his annual visit and the former Fortune's Always Hiding supremo is sitting in Ken’s Café nursing a cup of tea. Once he was the angriest man in the Chicken Run and famed for cries of “Remember goals West Ham? They were big in the Seventies!”. His karma has improved somewhat in the hotel California. Although who knows what exposure to WHU might do to him.

Phill has already suggested bringing some horse tranquillizer or ‘miaow miaow’ to sedate Steve before the game. Otherwise we might see the first ever case of spontaneous human combustion in the Boleyn Stadium.

The team news arrives on Tom’s mobile. “What? Kieron Dyer?” exclaims Steve, nearly dropping his bacon sandwich. “Zola’s having a laugh! Kieron bloody Dyer? He’s dropped Diamanti for Kieron Dyer? Spector at left back!!!?” Oh dear, the anger’s started.

Steve’s entourage of Michelle, Maddie and Tom lead him to his seat, retreat to a safe position in Green Street, light the blue touchpaper and wait for ignition.

In the stadium Fraser, Matt, Nigel and myself greet each other in the stoic manner of US troops about to land on a Pacific beach and endure 90 minutes of hellfire. Oh and David Sullivan’s reproduced his midweek rant in the programme just in case we missed it.

Still, Matty Etherington gets a nice cheer, the crowd seem behind the Irons and we’ve moved the advertising hoardings next to the touchline to prevent Delap’s throw-ins.

At least we look up for it and compete for every ball. Nigel is encouraged when five of our players dispute the ref’s awarding of a free kick. Noble is a more mobile and skilful version of Kovac and Da Costa is winning aerial balls at the back.

Kieron Dyer even gets a cross in that Mido heads way over. Mido does win some good defensive headers even if it seems to take half a game for the Incredible Bulk to then get upfield.

Parker plays in Cole, who is foiled by a quick block from Sorensen. Stoke send a free header wide but our best and worst moment arrives when Cole shots from the edge of box. Sorenson parries out to Mido who hopelessly miscontrols the ball and the chance is gone.

Faubert almost gives a goal away through dithering in his own half just before half time but thankfully we mop up the danger. We’re reasonably happy at half-time.

Most surprisingly, Kieron Dyer doesn’t emerge for the second half and Ilan is on. Stoke have endless throw-ins in our half and Delap launches the ball into our box. Kitson goes off after 67 minutes and on comes Fuller, who was sent off for fighting his own team-mate Andy Griffin last season.

The hoardings are playing really well against Delap but unfortunately they can’t counter our short throw-ins. Faubert’s throw-in finds no-one much and Fuller emerges with the ball a minute after coming on to jink inside Da Costa and then bamboozle Upson before firing into the net. He's been on the pitch two minutes.

The Stoke fans erupt and are soon singing Delilah and “We only score from long throws!”. Then they chant that we’ll be playing Millwall next season. It comes to something when we’re being patronized by Stoke fans.

On and there’s a blow-up doll being waved in the Stoke end. “They probably found it in our boardroom,” suggests one fan.

We make a spirited response but lack creativity. Times must be bad when Jonathan Spector is our best player — he’s showing determination and commitment on the left. Cole heads wide from one Specs’ cross and that’s about it. We fire high balls at Stoke’s massive defence and never get down the line. Diamanti comes on but looks devoid of all confidence after the chairman’s public rubbishing and fires a late free kick tamely into the Stoke wall.

We file out of the ground in numbed silence. Six defeats in a row. Hull have won and are level on points. Surely not selling all our players again? Or playing Doncaster at home?

In Ken’s Steve sits with his cup of tea mumbling "No creativity… what’s happened to Behrami… how did Mido miss… we never looked like scoring…” in the manner of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. He’s lost his anger, which is a bad sign. “It’s like when we stopped Fortune’s Always Hiding,” he says, "you can’t be funny about something that’s breaking your heart.” I just hope his therapist in SF can analyse this.

We drive to Michelle’s gaff near the new Olympic Stadium, ideal for watching West Ham versus Scunthorpe. News arrives on the Internet that Zola is considering his future. He can’t even resign decisively. We wonder if Ray Winstone might be appointed caretaker manager.

Trying to find my way to Bow Road down the deserted Wick Lane is as convoluted as West Ham trying to find the route to goal. The emptiness of the streets seems to match our long day’s journey into night.

Zola is a nice man but I doubt if he has the ability to cope when things are going badly or use the transfer market Harry-style. Sullivan’s public criticism seems to be a crude attempt to force him out and avoid paying £3.5 million compensation for firing him and Clarke.

But really there’s no point in Zola going now. Whom could we get for six games? Hughes or Bilic certainly wouldn’t come to a club that could be in the Championship next season. And Souness or Hoddle would hardly unite the fans.

For the moment we all need to stick together for the final six games. Sullivan should shut up and Zola should stay and try to salvage his managerial reputation by keeping us up. The players at least competed today and even they now know they are not too good to go down. Zola will surely be gone in the summer, but for now let’s hope for any lucky win to boost confidence, stick to one system and everyone at the club move in the same direction.

Saturday, March 27

Zola flares

Yet more signs of strain between Zola and the Club Landlord. Yesterday when asked if he thought the Club Landlord's letter might be a way of driving him out Franco said: "That is a good question. I don't know. Obviously I understand the Chairman is very much concerned about the situation."

When pressed about Sullivan's labelling of the side as shambolic he said: "I tell you what I think about the situation. I think 'What the hell is going on here? Jesus Christ!' And then I question am I doing everything I can? I say yes, I'm doing it with passion. I'm doing it with honesty."

Zola also labelled Sullvan's tirade painful and damaging: "I was very disappointed and he [Sullivan] will know that although I have not spoken to him directly. You have to be careful how you use those words because sometimes they can be painful and cause more damage than you can imagine."

Zola said he would stay "professional". When asked if this implied Sullivan was not professional he merely said he refused to judge the Club Landlord.

Meanwhile David Gold continues to play the good cop, saying that Zola will keep his job even if we lose at home to Stoke.

With such an open breakdown in the relationship you can't see Zola keeping his job beyond the summer.

Although with Sullivan and Gold doing the Hale and Pace Management act you do wonder if a strong manager like Mark Hughes would tolerate such public lambasting of the side.

Still, Sullivan has made a lot of money, presumably through knowing when to place a rocket under under-achieving employees. We can only hope it works against Stoke today.

Thursday, March 25

The Sorting Hat

Before we play Stoke Zola has to get the Harry Potter Sorting Hat out and solve the following issues:

Is Carlton Cole fit or injured? If he's injured then I think we have to rule him out and rely on the fit players we have. Remember England trying to nurse Bryan Robson's shoulder in the World Cup? It doesn't work fielding half-fit players.

Is McCarthy going to find his form after injury or should we stick with Franco? Franco made a difference on Tuesday so presumably he'll start.

Should he drop Tomkins and bring in Da Costa? Probably so.

Should he reinstate Ilunga at left back? I'd say yes, as Daprela is promising but raw.

Is Kovac worth a place in the side? Yes, he's improved, but would a more mobile player like Noble or Collison be better?

Do the flashes of brilliance from Diamanti compenesate for not tracking back a great deal and is he suited to a relegation struggle?

Is Faubert or Spector a better choice at right back or could we play Behrami there to try and make the defence more solid?

Should Stanislas keep his place as he offers some width even if he's lightweight?

Should we bring back Steve Potts?

None of us really know the answers to these problems but it's what Zola's paid for. But what we have to do is play as a unit and inject some pace into the side. Over to you, Franco.

We're so s**t it's unbelievable! (says the chairman)

Maybe David Sullivan was in the Central with us on Tuesday night. He's labelled the performance as "pathetic" in a letter to season ticket holders, and you have to respect him for telling it as it is. Although of course it breaks football's quasi-masonic rule of never slagging off the players in public.

He's also quoted in the Guardian today saying that he couldn't believe we sold Collins and bought Diamanti, which will presumably have Diamanti's agent banging on his door.

Zola won't like it but let's hope it works for Saturday. The start of Sullivan's letter reads:

"I had no sleep last night, having watched the shambolic performance by the team against Wolves. I was as angry and upset as every supporter in the stadium at the disorganised way we played, allowing Wolves too much space so that they looked more like Manchester United. This was the culmination of five defeats in a row, including an appalling performance against Bolton.

"We have a few very talented players in our team, but it is a very unbalanced squad. Individually we have some very good players, but this is not being converted into a good team performance. Nobody at the club should delude themselves that we are a good team. The table at this stage of the season does not lie.

"However, with some of the outstanding players we have, we can and must do better as a team. I apologise to every supporter for the pathetic showing on Tuesday night but I fully expect a dramatic improvement today as we have so much individual talent."

Wednesday, March 24

Devoured by Wolves

West Ham 1 Wolves 3

Outside Ken’s Café Jo remarks that the last time Wolves won at Upton Park Kate Bush was number one with Wuthering Heights. Which makes me wonder if we’ll be Running Up That Hill later on or is it just The Dreaming.

It's Her Indoors' birthday, but, perhaps wisely, she's declined the offer of dinner in Ken's and Dances with Wolves.

Inside the ground we’ve all been given clapbanners. It feels a little too American. West Ham fans can generate their own atmosphere under the lights. And it must have cost a week of Mido’s wages to buy all these.

Cole, Parker, Faubert and McCarthy are back in the line-up but from the off we seem slower to the ball than Wolves. Jarvis outpaces our defence to fire against the bar. McCarthy does play in Cole with a good ball but he’s tackled as he shoots. Faubert scuffs the ball wide and our short corners end in calamity.

The game hinges on a 28th minute howler from James Tomkins. The centre back gets his body shape all wrong when dealing with the ball and it skims off his left foot into the path of Kevin Doyle who races clear to shoot across Green and in off the post.

Just before half-time, in the Hammers best moment, Parker races 40 yards to fire against the inside of the post. He shoots from the rebound but the alert Hahnemann gathers the ball.

Zola replaces Tomkins with Spector at half-time, a risky strategy when Spector hasn’t played centre-back for years, and replaces Kovac with Stanislas.

Parker makes another good run to cross from the left but it’s headed clear. Just as the crowd get a “claret and blue army” chant going David Jones find Wolves’ right back Ronald Zubar in space on the edge of our box and he fires home crisply in the 58th minute.

Three minutes later the game’s over as Jones finds Jarvis, whose touch takes him into hectares of space between our centre backs and he fires home from the edge of the box. Beaten for speed again. Three-nil in our cup final. They’ve had four shots and scored three goals.

A rain of clapper banners are thrown towards the pitch. “At least we’ve found a use for them,” I muse.

“You’re not fit to wear the shirt!” chants the Bobby Moore Stand, which is not what we need. They’re trying, but the players lack pace and the big game mentality and simply aren’t good enough.

What must our old stars think of this? Morley and Bish must be turning in their wet look leather jackets. So much for resting key players. We need to play to win every game.

This is the end, my friend, the end. Will we get 55,000 fans watching us play Scunthorpe at the Olympic Stadium?

“It feels like the Charlton away match,” muses Nigel. “The game that spawned the ‘We want a new back four’ chant”.

We start to wonder of Zola will be placed on gardening leave and Mark Hughes employed as a technical consultant on football matters.

Franco replaces the disappointing McCarthy and at least we keep going. Franco makes a difference and has a shot well saved by Hahnemann. Diamanti has another low effort pushed away.

In the third minute of stoppage time Franco scores with a subtle chip but it’s way too late and greeted in near silence.

The lads and Zola are booed off at the end. It’s the worst defeat of the season and for the first time I think we’re going down.

Nigel receives a text from Gavin (on holiday in Iceland possibly trying to get a season ticket refund from Mr Gudmundsson) saying that West Ham have played 21 Premier League games on Tuesday and only won one of them.

I wonder if they serve absinthe in the Central, Matt suggests straightforward cyanide might be better.

We talk of possible managers and come up with an availability list of Mark Hughes, Curbs (well, it would save on compensation suggests Fraser), Glenn Roeder, Trevor Brooking (no, he got us relegated), Phil Brown, Julian Dicks, Paolo Di Canio, Hayden Foxe (now at Sydney FC) and The Gav.

It’s so bad Matt is now drinking the Central’s finest whisky. And then we reminisce about our most dispiriting games. Defeats at Reading, home to Brighton, home to Sheffield United, away at Oldham, home to Wimbledon, away at Gillingham, home to Wrexham, etc, etc.

The Central dissolves into a Proustian blur of bad lager merged with Sky Sports 2 and Dave Jones and Alan Curbishley dissecting our missing defence. I don’t know what’s wrong or real any more. And never mind Kate Bush. Like her modern equivalent, Lily Allen, we’re being taken over by The Fear.

Tuesday, March 23

Fifty seven thousand Muppets

Arsenal 2 West Ham 0

Saturday begins with a bizarre story in the Guardian that Gianfranco Zola has joined Bob Geldof, Bono and George Clooney in being awarded this year's Man of Peace – an award given by former Nobel Peace Prize winners to someone who has made "an outstanding contribution to international social justice and peace".

Zola does some quiet work for Unicef, but even so, it seems a little unlikely. Perhaps it’s due to his efforts mediating between David Sullivan and the team after that 25 per cent pay-cut furore.

As it’s a 5.30 kick-off there’s time for a cockney knees-up round at my gaff, disturbingly close to the Emirates, with Matt, Nigel and Fraser. Today we’re a West Ham safe house in N4. We hope that Fraser’s pint of Tangle Foot isn’t indicative of our performance and give a big cheer when Pompey get a late winner against Hull. Burnley have lost too and again the results have gone for us.

Inside the Emirates there’s some healthy chants of “My name is Ludek Miklosko!” and “60,000 Muppets!” although as Matt points out it should strictly speaking be “57,000 Muppets”. This week the Guardian mentioned our “Does your butler know you’re here?” chant at Fulham fans. Perhaps it should be “Does your PA know you’re here?” for the Gooners. They’re such a bunch of touchy-feely part-time aromatherapists that the DJ only announces the first names of the Gunners' line-up.

We’ve rotated again. Zola has left Cole out, which is perhaps understandable as he’s apparently using rest and careful management on his knee rather than having an operation. But we’ve rested Parker too, who if he’s booked is suspended for two games. A dangerous game to play, prioritising the Wolves match. West Ham are notoriously erratic and just as likely to get a result here and lose to Wolves. And it sends out the signal to the rest of the side that we’ve already accepted defeat. Plus I've paid £48 for this and a £1.50 booking fee.

After five minutes we’re a goal down. Spector is beaten and Upson heads it clear, but after we fail to win tackles on the edge of box Denilson passes the ball into the net.

”The first goal was scored by Denil!” announces the irritating git on the Arsenal PA.
It looks like we’re in for a thrashing. Arshavin is superb, Song dominates the midfield and they pass through us at times. But slowly the Irons come back into it.

Spector starts to play quite well against Arshavin, Tomkins is doing well and Daprela looks solid too in only his second league game. Diamanti puts a dipping free kick just over the bar, Mido just misses Stanislas’s low cross and Diamanti elects to pass to Franco when he could have shot.

Right on half-time Franco outpaces Vermaelen and goes to ground. He’s received a slight nudge although it’s a soft-ish penalty. Even better Vermaelen is sent off and Wenger starts to go mad. And we know Diamanti won’t miss – except he does. Almunia is about eight miles of his line and pulls off a good stop. Sod it.

At half-time Matt’s cheered by a text from Lisa saying that it looked like Wenger was haranguing the Arsenal mascot, the Gunnersaurus, who was standing next to the fourth official. And we always play better against ten men, apart from the endless games when we haven’t.

In the second half we give it a go and make Song, now at centre-back, look the best player on the pitch. Cole replaces Franco after 57 minutes and it’s a full 70 minutes before McCarthy replaces Mido, who at times threatened to break into a walking pace. Noble comes on in place of Kovac while Wenger takes off Bendtner. It’s a clever move as Arsenal have no forward, and we still face the same number of men in midfield.

The closest we come is when Carlton turns when the edge of the box to send a low shot against the foot of the post. At times the Arsenal fans almost create an atmosphere and after 83 minutes they’re waving their red and white scarves and singing “We are top of the league” as the ref awards a penalty. The ball’s hit Upson on the hand, a little unluckily, from about two yards, and Fabregas strokes it past Green.

Still, there's a bonus as we leave the Emirates. We find Ian Bishop and Trevor Morley sitting among us, in their wet-look leather jackets looking tanned and rather like 1980s rock stars. It's tempting to give Morley a tap on the ankle and see if he falls down in the box, but we resist. Nigel rushes up to shake The Bish's hand and promises never to wash it again.

In the end it’s another game we should have got something from, and Parker might have made the difference. The only consolation is that we now face Wolves with Parker, Cole, Faubert, Noble, Ilunga and McCarthy all fit.

Friday, March 19

Life after debt

Whatever the merits of the individual departures, at least the new owners appear to be taking control of the financial mayhem and acting decisively.

In the last month Davenport has gone, along with Scott Duxbury, Gianluca Nani and Ludek Miklosko, while Luis Jiminez was returned to Milan.

According to the Guardian the lads are a little upset that Sullivan is withholding image rights payments until the tax situation is sorted out with the Inland Revenue, which seems fair enough from the club's viewpoint.

And Kevin Mitchell is going to box at Upton Park which will at least bring in a bit of extra revenue from Peggy Mitchell on the bar, Frank Butcher running the car park and Phil Mitchell taking on Grant in the bare-knuckle fighting. While you're about it Dave, could we have Mickey Rourke as Randy The Ram verses Julian The Terminator Dicks on a WWF-style bill too please?

Farewell Head on a Stick

So farewell Head on a Stick. Calum Davenport has had his contract terminated by mutual consent. After his stabbing in an incident with his sister’s boyfriend that was probably the best option for all parties.

But it’s a shame that Davenport never achieved what he should in the game. He looked a really good player when he joined us on loan from Spurs in the Championship.

Perhaps he left Coventry too soon. At Spurs he was loaned to Southampton, West Ham and Norwich, before signing permanently for the Irons. After some poor performances in the early days of Curbs he was injured then loaned to Watford where he broke his neck. He started off last season quite well and scored in the 4-1 win over Blackburn. But Zola clearly didn’t rate him, and even though he played in the 4-1 win at Portsmouth he was dropped again, fell out with Franco, and loaned to Sunderland.

Was it too much too soon? Clearly Zola was not impressed. Whatever the outcome of the court case where he’s charged with assaulting his sister, an early morning fracas in which he was stabbed might suggest off the field problems.

Davenport really needed to find a club where he played every week to develop as a player. Instead he’s had more loans than RBS and now, at 27, looks set to move down the leagues.

Wednesday, March 17

I don't want to go to Chelsea

Chelsea 4 West Ham 1

Matt’s text sums it up: “Great Scotty goal. But selection and tactics suspect and yet another nightmare for Spector — absolutely murdered by Malouda.”

At 1-1 the tension is too much so I leave Sky Sports News and retreat to the garden to feed the chickens and watch our terrier Vulcan run around yapping like John Terry in the WAG mating season. But the life of the urban farmer offers little solace. When I go back it’s 2-1 to Chelsea and there’s no hope.

The Match of the Day evidence proves Matt right. Poor Specs gives Malouda far too much space. He tries, but it’a an indictment of all at the club that we have no quality right back after Neill left.

Zola's selection is strange too. Why rest Carlton Cole? OK, he’s not fully fit yet, but surely we could have given him 60 minutes before subbing him? Presumably Zola had given up on the game before we’d kicked off and was saving him for the Wolves and Stoke games. Mido does well early on to cross for Ilan to miss an open goal. It’s definitely not like watching Brazil.

In midfield Kieron Dyer makes his first star since the opening of the season, but it’s a big ask against the Blues. It’s also odd to bring in Gabbidon after a long lay-off for such a testing game, even though Tomkins had a torrid time against Bolton.

Diamanti is out because he’s not a tracker-back, but then where’s the creativity in our side? The selection of Daprela is enforced by injury to Ilunga and Faubert and he makes a couple of tasty blocks on the tele. But our defence is nowhere for the headers by Alex and Drogba and Gabbidon slips before Malouda eludes two tackles to stroke the ball home.

It’s all too easy for Chelsea in the end. Let’s hope we pick a team to go out and win at the Emirates. Having watched The Wonders of the Solar System the next evening, Brian Cox (ex D:Ream pop star who still looks young enough to do a job for us in midfield) might observe that our rotation system is more Pluto (a dwarf planet) than Saturn.

Monday, March 8

Home truths

West Ham 1 Bolton 2

In Ken’s Café we find a face from the past, Mike P, definitely not the inspiration for Porky’s seminal Part-Time Percy cartoons in Fortune’s Always Hiding.

These days Mike’s living in deepest Hertfordshire. He’s with his two kids and is one of the “million” West Ham fans David Sullivan is inviting to rejoin us in the programme. He’s too embarrassed to say when he last saw a game but he does say that he’s looking forward to seeing West Hampstead play again. And he’s reassured that like the clock at Grantchester, Ken’s Café never changes (Big Joe arriving breathless, DC arriving after kick-off, Carol bawling out numbers, Don looking downcast after home defeats, Etc).

Nigel arrives with CQ (Mrs Nigel) and The Gav, fortified by last night’s Heavy Metal Britannnia documentary. While in the queue for the counter Phill Jupitus reveals that he’s been busy working on Good Morning Nantwich, his new book about breakfast show DJs, out in August. Let's all buy it and keep him in toasted cheese sarnies.

It’s all very jolly until we remember that we always lose to Bolton.
Sure enough, we’re two goals down after 16 minutes. Lee has acres of space on the right and crosses. It looks as if Tomkins should head it, but he gets under the ball and Kevin Davies bullets the ball home with his bonce. Diamanti goes close with a free kick but then Tomkins tried to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick, only Davies nicks in and crosses for Cohen to set up the impressive on-loan Gooner Jack Wilshere to volley home. Bolton only have a few hundred fans in the away section and even they can't believe it.

Bolton are really coming at us and passing impressively. It’s nearly three when Elmander first misses from an angle and then wildly firing over after another tantalizing cross — an absolute sitter.

We look flat all over the park. Spector and Tomkins are being exposed and Franco is muscled off the ball. Diamanti does produce a good save from another free kick and Carlton looks certain to score only to be robbed by a well-timed tackle from Ricketts.

Nigel wonders if this will be Zola’s last game for the club. The owners won’t be impressed, particularly if we lose at Chelsea and Arsenal. In the second half we bring on three subs, Dyer for the injured Faubert after 47 minutes, with Behrami going to right-back, Mido for Franco and Stanislas for Kovac. Dyer shows one or two glimpses of speed and the player he could have been if injury hadn’t intervened.

The referee helpfully sends off Bolton's Cohen for a second yellow card but as ever we still struggle against ten men.

My kids have wisely opted to see Mamma Mia the Musical instead of this.

“The winner takes it all…” I mutter, “ and West Ham are sending out an SOS.”

“This could be our Waterloo,” suggests Nigel.

Just as we’ve settled for numbing defeat, on 88 minutes Diamanti curls in a beauty from the edge of the box. Oh no, we have hope.

On 90 minutes I have to break the habit of a lifetime and leave early as I’m reading for the Newham Bookshop in support of Book Aid at Stratford Circus at 5.20. I feel like Part-Time Percy myself, jogging to the tube, and there’s still a big queue when I get there.

In the five minutes of added time Zat Knight crosses for Davies to hit the bar for Notlob (the palindrome of Bolton as John Cleese would tell you) and at the death Junior Stanislas chests down and volleys against the underside of the bar. A big "Oooh!' comes from the stadium as I gaze at the brick wall while kettled by Upton Park tube.

A win today would have left us looking safe; instead we’re two points behind Bolton facing Chelsea and Arsenal away. Now our fate may not be decided until the last Sunday of the season. Mamma Mia, here we go again.

Friday, March 5

Wheeling and dealing

Well, Gianluca Nani has finally gone, a little unluckily in that, Savio apart, he's picked up some decent free transfers, plus Diamanti, Ilunga and Behrami. What's probably done for him is a reluctance to deal in English players. So the old director-of-football system has gone and really it looks doubtful if Sullivan and Gold trust Zola (unproven in the market) to buy players. The signings of Mido and McCarthy seem to have come directly from the Club Landlords.

An interesting article in the Daily Telegraph today claims that Sullivan has vetoed a five-year contract for Behrami and wants to cash in on Valon and Diamanti, putting him at odds with Zola. He's also refused a new contract for Collison it claims.

In Sullivan's defence, five-year contracts proved disastrous in the cases of Ashton, Dyer and Ljungberg and we are £100 million in debt. And Behrami has three years left on his current contract.

The Telegraph has a number of "sources" at Upton Park claiming that Zola is unhappy, and sad to say, it will be no surprise to me if he's gone at the end of the season and Mark Hughes installed.

Wednesday, March 3

The horror, the horror

Our horror accounts are out and we recorded a loss of £16 million in 2009-10. They also lay bare many disasters. The Mail highlighted “£12 million on two men for 15 games” (that was Davenport and Quashie) while the Independent’s “horror accounts” highlighted the £34 million that Dyer and Ljungberg cost us over the length of their contracts.
What’s striking is how it could all have been avoided. We’ve wasted:

£34 on Ljungberg and Dyer

£12 million on Quashie and Davenport

£5.8 on giving Dean Ashton a five-year contract when he was crocked

£21 million to Sheffield United for Tevez-gate

£5 million fine for Tevezgate.

£10 million (by my estimate) on transfer fee and wages for Luis Boa Morte (no-one seems to have spotted this).

£2.5 million for sacking Curbs

£1.5 million (my estimate) to pay off Pards.

That's more than £100 million! And all this when we had the brilliant Tony Carr producing a never-ending stream of fine young players on low wages such as Noble, Ferdinand, Stanislas, Collison, Tomkins, etc. Even free transfer Nobby Solano achieved much more than Dyer and Ljungberg. A fine example of how not to run a football club.