Wednesday, April 28

Who's in charge?

West Ham have had a £4 million bid for West Brom's Graham Dorrans rejected. Seems like it's Sullivan doing the bidding, which is a bizarre situation indeed, particularly as defenders are our priority.

The Machiavellian view is that the Club Landlord appears to be doing his best to get Zola to resign. He's told the Telegraph today: "Zola has repeatedly said he's a coach and doesn't want to be involved in the selection of players for the club. I'm sure he'd accept the departure of any player if we brought in a better one."

Sullivan also said of Zola: "No decision has been made. He did indicate he might resign at end of the season."

Although today's Guardian claims that Zola wants to negotiate a dignified pay-off reflecting the £1.9 million value of his contract.

Meanwhile a new manager might have a set of players purchased by his joint-chairmen — who do at least have a proven record in spotting a pair up front. It's hard to see Sir Alex Ferguson accepting that. And it's no way to run a football club.

The Management should get the new man in, promise not to interfere, and let him sign his own men.

Tuesday, April 27

Under the Hammer

Thought the Club Landlord had been quiet recently. David Sullivan has secured another back page on the Sun by saying that all our players are up for sale "if we get the right bid", except for Scott Parker.

It's a non-story really in that this applies to every club, even Man United, so you wonder why Sullivan has spoken to the Sun, knowing that they'll exaggerate this into a fire-sale story.

One interesting fact to emerge from the Current Bun's story is Sullivan's line: "The manager has indicated he doesn't wish to be involved in signings. He wants to be the coach."

This leaves no one purchasing players unless it's Sullivan and Gold. With no director of football, this surely means Zola will be leaving as sacking Nani means we have to have a gaffer who can work the market.

We are staying up

It's hard not to be pessimistic as a West Ham fan until we're mathematically safe. Just to reiterate we're definitely staying up unless:

We lose 7-0 to Fulham and 7-0 to Man City in the final two games and Hull win 7-0 against Wigan and 7-0 against Liverpool and then they'd be one goal ahead of us on goal difference, in the ultimate great escape.

The Premier League discover that all our players are secretly owned by Kia Joorabachian.

Sheffield United sue us for looking at their players in a funny manner and demand a ten-point deduction.

Wigan demand a replay because their vision was obscured by volcanic ash.

Although even this Iron might wager a fiver we'll stay up...

Monday, April 26

Beam us up Scotty

West Ham 3 Wigan 2

Ken’s Café is full of the extended West Ham family, united in suffering; Matt, Nigel, Jo, Mike, Michelle, Phill, Big Joe and even an unnaturally early DC, although the Gav is repairing a puncture somewhere on the motorway.

My old Essex school pal Alison is there with her son Scott, who has a cool touch phone that my kids admire and are soon demanding Daddy purchase. Al and Scott went to Everton in the home end and said the Scouse fans are just like us; moaning a lot and saying the away side were much better.

After a three-year exile in Spain Alison famously rerurned to London and described visiting West Ham in 1988 as “like walking into a room full of really angry men” and I fear she might be in for a further shock today, particularly if she sees the Vicar’s Son getting irate.

Eleven-year-old Lola sensibly prepares for the next day’s three-mile mini-marathon with Ken’s isotonic egg, chips and beans with white bread and sugared tea.

Us fans have done everything we can. I’m taking my daughters — even at £17 a ticket— because they have only seen West Ham lose three times out of a combined 33 games. Matt’s wearing his lucky red England World Cup shirt and Nigel’s brought CQ, his talismanic missus.

We leave young Scott trying to demolish a big breakfast with five minutes to kick off and head in to the Boleyn Stadium.

We concede a corner early doors. The Bobby Moore Stand howl to the referee that Ben Watson has put the ball outside the D but he ignores them. Ginger Watson proceeds to whip in a straightforward corner and Jonathan Spector inexplicably heads the ball into his own net after just three minutes. All going to plan. Erm, you head it away from the goal, Specs.

I wonder what I’ve done taking letting my kids witness this. Nell looks like she’s going to cry and I’ve lost out packet of Starbursts too.

Wigan look much the better passing team. We misplace simple passes and the tension is evident. But we should equalise when Cole capitalises on a lapse by the Wigan back four to round Kirkland and stroke the ball towards goal only for Caldwell to block at the last.

The Wigan keeper has been accidentally caught by Cole’s trailing foot and needs stitches on the pitch.

“What would happen if we broke all the Wigan players’ legs?” asks Lola.

Gently I suggest that this might not be quite the Corinthian spirit that I’ve tried to instill in my children.

Upson looks completely out of form in defence while Behrami and Faubert misplace endless passes. It nearly gets worse when McCarthy hits a 30-yarder that Robert Green brilliantly tips on to a post.

“That could be the turning point of our season,” says Matt. Although so could Cole’s miss.

The crowd are still behind the Irons, willing the side on and chanting “Your support is F***ing s**t!” at the small band of Wigan fans, along with what the kids believe to be a chorus of “Dirty northern custards!”

Then comes a breakthrough. On half an hour Ilan cleverly finds Cole, who drifts wide beats a hesitant Melchiot and crosses for Ilan to score another excellent poacher’s goal. Yes! Even a point would be something.

On half time we’re awarded a free kick after Cole is bundled over on the edge of the box.

“Haven’t we got any players who can take free kicks?” asks Lola.

“Noble can’t. The only player who can is on the bench,” Matt says sagely.

The curse of Mystic Matt works superbly, Noble bends a brilliant free kick over the wall, Kirkland can only punch it up in the air and Kovac heads into the empty net. Two-one in our cup final. And Hull are losing at home to Sunderland too. And to emphasise that fortune is no longer hiding I find the missing Starbursts under our seats.

As the half-time talk turns to the election I wonder if we could decide relegation through a TV debate. Zola would be much more telegenic than Iain Dowie and has a nice smile to impress the floating voters.

“Only Dowie’s a rocket scientist, so he might win,” points out the pragmatic Nigel.

We look even more nervous when we’re winning than we do when we’re losing. Sure enough, five minutes into the second half we’re undone by another simple corner. Watson again doesn’t place the ball inside the D, we lose a flicked header and Rodallega pushes it in with his midriff — although our embarrassed defence claims for hands.

“Wigan are poohy dogs! No, I like dogs, Wigan are poohy crocodiles!” says Nell. “Boo Wigan!”

Wigan really start to look impressive with their quick passing game. Only Da Costa and some great tackles from Parker keep us in it.

A crude foul by Spector stops a fine dribble by N’Zogbia on the edge of the box. Green gets down well to palm away the free kick.

We launch endless high balls at Carlton Cole, who is carrying an injury and now resembles the player of two years ago as the ball cannons off him in a Dowie-esque array of angles.

But we’re still fighting. A Kovac header from a corner skims along the bar. On 77 minutes another long punt is headed on by substitute Franco to Parker, who has time on the edge of the box to fire home an unstoppable shot into the far corner.

It's a fantastic goal. The normally reserved Scotty runs to the crowd with an expression not seen since Ray Winstone hit that bloke with the pool balls and announced “I’m the f***ing Daddy now!” in Scum.

The fired-up Hammer shouts at the crowd and then runs to embrace Zola on the touchline in a not-so-coded message to the Club Landlord.

The next 13 minutes are an excruciating mess of whistling and worry as “Super Scotty Parker!” rings round the ground.

We take the ball into the corners, lose it, concede free kicks and waste some time bringing on Daprela in the third minute of added time. Lola and Nell are as tense as everyone else and I’m pleased to se it, but sure we’re going to concede a Gerrard-like shot late on.

And finally the whistle blows. Jeremy Nicholas announces that Hull have lost and plays Bubbles followed by Hi Ho Silver Lining. Upton Park erupts in exhausted celebration as a 33,000 fans wonder if Burnley can win three games or Hull make up a minus 23 goal difference. No, even we can’t mess this up, surely?

A text arrives from my mate Nick, whom I’d informed of the "we’re desperate so I’ll take the lucky kids ploy” reading “It worked!” I text Her Indoors the news. We celebrate at the Who Shop (newly moved to Barking Road) by buying the girls a Doctor Who comic and novel and nipping into the Tardis with Amy Pond to move forward five years to see us win the Premier League at the Olympic Stadium.

We even get home in time to see the Weeping Angels (Hull City fans maybe?) on Doctor Who. It’s one of the most emotionally exhausting games I’ve ever been to but now we can dream of survival. As long as we don’t lose 24-0 to Fulham that is.

Friday, April 23

Toothless Tigers

we must be thankful that Hull are so useless. City losing at home to Villa means that one more win could mean safety for the Irons. Another win would take us six points ahead of Hull with a better goal difference, meaning that Hull would have to win two and draw one of their last three games to stay up - which seems unlikely on current form.

Let's hope that Hull's morale is so low they capitulate to Sunderland on Saturday and we can get it all over with.

Wednesday, April 21

We'll only pay four grand

Today's Sun claims that if we're relegated Sullivan and Gold will "only" pay a new manager £4000 a week (£200k a year).

Doesn't sound too bad as long as there's a big bonus for promotion — in fact I'll do it for a mere £3k a week. And I'm sure North Bank Norman would return from the States and do the job gratis as long as he could display his tae-kwondo skills on our defence.

Tuesday, April 20

Woeful woeful West Ham

Liverpool 3 West Ham 0

Her Indoors has booked tickets to see Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre without consulting the football fixtures. So luckily I’m spared having to watch our annual capitulatution at Anfield.

Jerusalem is the story of Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron, a man living in a caravan deep in the woods who drinks vodka, milk and raw eggs for a hangover-curing breakfast and hangs around with teenage misfits smoking dope and doing lines of cocaine. He’s barred from the Cooper’s Arms and under threat of eviction from Kennet and Avon council for anti-social behaviour. You can only assume that at some stage in his life he must have been a West Ham supporter.

Matt’s text to our restricted view box reads like a line from a post-modern footballing version of Waiting for Godot, only bleaker. “Lost 3-0 utter tosh throughout fans MOM again no silver lining”. Nigel follows up with “Lawro just sd 1 word summed up WH: Championship”.

The next day’s Guardian comments “Woeful West Ham put Liverpool on easy street” following up with “Here, on a night when fighting spirit was a prerequisite for a team in trouble, was the embodiment of Premier League surrender.”

It’s a big indictment of Zola and Clarke that we go into games at Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool assuming we’ll lose. We haven't won at Anfield since 1963. And Zola saying that he looked into the eyes of the players and knew they’d react against Wigan isn’t inspiring us with hope.

The management has failed to motivate the players and even if we win all the final three matches we will still have only 40 points. Which with the players we have isn’t good enough. We have failed to build Jerusalem in E13's green and pleasant land.

Could all that volcanic ash in the sky actually be the result of a huge eruption from David Sullivan’s gaff in the Chigwell vicinity?

Monday, April 19

Green day

Interesting interview with Robert Green in yesterday’s News of the World.

He reveals that at Norwich he used to throw up before games and that this season he’s been overcoming his fear by reading Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albion.

The NOTW writes: “The best-selling novel by Mitch Albom depicts a series of meetings between a dying teacher and a former student and the life lessons and wisdom that pass between them. A key message it conveys is about detaching yourself from experience in order to appreciate it more fully.”

Perhaps we could all do with some detachment from reality this season.

Green is also asked if David Gold and David Sullivan were responsible for improving results by lambasting the team in public and he diplomatically implies the lads ignore them.

"If you really think that, then that's great," was the response.

"The owners can say whatever they want. They've just bought their childhood club.

"I think what they want is what's best for West Ham United. I don't think they're doing their utmost to deliberately nark everyone off…

"For the owners to say whatever they want to say is fine. I personally don't take any notice of it. They air their views and they're welcome to them.

"While things are not 100 per cent on the pitch we don't have time to pay attention."

Match Fixer

Just finished reading Match Fixer by Neil Humphreys. Neil is a Dagenham lad who worked in Singapore for six years and has written a novel about Chris Osborne, a former West Ham reserve caught up in Singapore's S-League match fixing.

Humphreys really gets over just how endemic the betting culture is in Singapore. It's an atmospheric book where you can really sense the heat of the streets and the tackiness of the ex-pat hostess lounges. It's full of believable characters such as Danny 'The Spear' Spearman a washed up fat ex-footballer now making a living as Singapore's version of Alan Hansen.

It has undercover detectives, drug dealers, many West Ham references and a mention of Faces night club.

Humpreys did a signing at the Newham Bookshio[p before a recent match and is a nice guy writing from his own experience. Well worth a read and enough to give those seeking to root out corruption in the game a spot of floodlight failure.

Thursday, April 15

Hayden never lets you down

Great to see Hayden Mullins finally make the FA Cup Final - and beating the Chas and Dave X1 is a bonus for all us Irons fans. Hayden played at left back against the knee-tremblers and performed well while out of position. Poor old Harry and Jermain…

As for Hayden, I expect Pards is preparing a £10 million bid at this very moment…

Wigan peer into the abyss

Good news for WHU. Wigan only drawing with Portsmouth last night drops them right back in the mire. The flat-cappers have the worst run-in of the bottom sides, facing Arsenal and Chelsea away along with the Irons at Upton Park and a trip on the highway to Hull.

Burnley are surely down as their remaining four fixtures are Sunderland and Birmingham away and tricky home matches against Liverpool and Spurs.

Hull have a chance of redemption with home games against Aston Villa, Sunderland and Liverpool and away games at Birmingham and Wigan.

With Wigan having to play Hull I'd say that if we can win against Wigan at Upton Park that might be enough, as long as the moons of Saturn are aligned correctly with Professor Brian Cox's head - although it's hardly a triumph to survive on 34 points when Glenn Roeder's side went down with 42...

Tuesday, April 13

Irons in the soul

Quote from Carlos Tevez in today's Daily Mail:

"It is unthinkable that I will score a goal that will send West Ham to relegation. Their supporters feel football; they are passionate, these people invested great support in me. I wish to play again for West Ham before I finish my career. I have some unfinished business there. To score such a goal against them would change my history with them

"When the game comes, I hope City have already secured fourth place and West Ham are safe. That is the best I hope for."

Yes Carlos, we want you back too — and preferably before you're 39...

We are staying up?

West Ham 1 Sunderland 0

You’d think there was an election on. Jo and Iain are Twittering and discussing Blackberry apps, politicos and spin doctors in Ken’s Café.

An uneasy thought occurs. What if David Sullivan had Twitter? Think of the instant abuse the side might receive. At least the Club Landlord’s been safely shut away in the build-up to today’s game and Nice Guy Gold is doing the programme column.

Meanwhile, Nigel’s musing on who will be the Independent’s new editor, while Carol informs us that Ken Livingstone says she does the best bacon sandwich in London to confirm that Ken’s is the political salon de nos jours.

It’s replica shirts and sunshine at a balmy Upton Park. Bubbles is played at the kick-off and then taken up acapella around the stadium. The spring sun seems to engender a mood of optimism and the weather is reminiscent of the day we beat Bolton to secure survival n the Tevez Season.

Except we don’t go 3-0 up this time. The sides appear evenly matched. Sunderland are a compact unit and hard to break down.

Early doors Malbranque’s corner whips across our six yard box and Bent lobs just over Green. Behrami plays a one-two with Ilan and fires in a low shot that Gordon spills.

The Sunderland keeper then handles outside the box after Noble has sprayed a pass out to Cole. Stanislas messes up the free kick.

But it’s encouraging, with Noble making a great tackle and finding Cole, whose pass to Ilan is blocked at the last by one Anton Ferdinand.

Da Costa fire up a long ball and Cole appears to challenge Gordon fairly. The Scottish custodian drops the ball and rugby tackles Cole. A penalty and a red card? No, the ref gives a free kick to the over-protected goalkeeper.

At half-time Hull and Burnley are drawing 1-1 and we still have it all to do. One goal might well win it.

“Ilan hasn’t done much,” muses Nigel.

“He’s the sort of player who doesn’t do much until he scores,” replies Mystic May.

Sure enough, 30 seconds later Da Costa fires in a high free kick, Cole nods it on and Ilan shows great sharpness to latch on to the ball and prod home before the Bobby Moore Stand and release an outpouring of relief

Oh no, we have something to lose. It’s gong to be a long last 39 minutes.

Cattermole fires just wide after a flowing Sunderland move. Then Jones comes on, which looks ominous, as Sunderland go with three strikers. Jones’ first move is to play in Bent, who stumbles in the box.

Bubbles echoes around the stadium, but you can feel the tension as the fans try to sing the lads home. We bring on Franco for Stanislas and withdraw Ilan to midfield, which appears a bizarre move.

“Best keep the cigars in their box,” I tell Fraser.

“I’ve got ten, just in case,” he replies.

We give a free kick away on the left side of our box after hesitation between Behrami and Spector, but Green makes a fine stop from Henderson’s shot.

Spector makes a great run up the left flank, only to fall over and, bizarrely, win a free kick on the edge of the box. The US defender then plays through Carlton Cole who fires narrowly wide on 90 minutes. Hull are 3-1 down. Bloody hell, this feels like Old Trafford again.

Faubert plays another long ball into their box, Franco controls with his arm and fires home. Midfield general Franco and most of the side rush away to celebrate in the corner, Guillermo does some embarrassing badge clasping and no-one seems to realise it’s been disallowed.

The Sunderland players want to take the free kick but the ref rules it’ would be unsporting, thank goodness.

But in the fourth minute of added time there’s still time for Sunderland to win a corner, Gordon to come up, and there’s one last mighty attempt to block and clear from the Irons before the whistle blows.

“We are staying up! I said we are staying up!”” comes the chant. Our first win since February 20. Hull have lost 4-1. Anton Ferdinand runs to the corner flag to applaud the West Ham fans. A great day.

“We never win with that Scott Parker in the side,” says Nigel.

An encouraging performance. There’s been crowd pleasing tackles and a willingness to play from Noble, some gutsy defending from Da Costa and co and Ilan is proving a match winner.

We retreat to the Central thinking that one more win might do it. Although in this season, you suspect there might be a few more twists yet.

Friday, April 9

That's Zamora

Who'd have thought it? Paul Konchesky and Bobby Zamora in a European semi-final.

A very good manager in Roy Hodgson has finally unleashed Zamora's undoubted talent. He was great for us when confident, but would then go ten games without scoring and disintegrate in one-on-one situations. We sold him because we had Cole and Ashton at the time and we were brassic, but you still wonder what might have been had we kept Bobby.

Konchesky was rather hastily dispensed with after falling pout with Curbs, but despite his erratic crosses I always rated him and he did play like he cared.

We had the basis of a decent side in the 2006 FA Cup Final. Had we acquired genuinely rich owners and avoided ego trips and injuries we might have built on the legacy of Zamora, Ashton, Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Ferdinand and Konchesky. Oh, what might have been.

Meanwhile we'll always love Bobby for making Sol Campbell crack up and scoring the play-off winner and sometimes hitting Row Z or the back of your head. Let's hope he gets to the Europa League Final and wins it against Liverpool.

Thursday, April 8

Drawing drawing West Ham!

Everton 2 West Ham 2

We never win at Goodison. And Matt, the Don Draper-like smooth operator of the East Stand, is taking Lisa on a romantic mini-break to Scouseland for the game. He’s had a dream that Collison scored a goal for us but there was a hole in the net and the ref disallowed it. As the psychiatrist said on Fawlty Towers: There's a whole conference in that.

I’m at my mother-in-law’s in Buntingford, fortified by champagne and wine over Easter lunch, looking for a pub. The Fox and Duck has a nice screen but the commentary is drowned out by the jukebox.

Behrami is missing having injured himself in the warm-up. Still, we appear to be competing in midfield and Parker is outstanding, wining tackles everywhere and even heading the ball while on the ground. Noble is playing well too and you wonder if the law of averages means we must get a point somewhere. Only Parker is booked by Howard Webb, wrongly as he won the ball, and will miss the next two games.

The jukebox accompanies the action with Walk This Way, possibly a tribute to Mido, and some country song, rather aptly about going down to the town of lonely hearts.

At this moment appalling defending does for us again. On 24 minutes Spector heads the ball up into the air, Da Costa loses the second header and Bilyaletdinov steps across Upson to score with a header. Oh for James Collins, or anyone who can head simple balls away from our box.

But at least we don’t fold, and right on half-time Cole is running at Distin in the box and is nudged over. Penalty! Distin was the last man but is inexplicably only booked not sent off.

Oh no, we have hope. There’s a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s Mido shaping up to take the penalty. Why oh why when Noble and Parker are on the pitch?

“He needs the money!” suggests one punter at the bar.

It’s like the Cup Final all over again when we watched Zamora run-up knowing he’d miss. There’s a terrible slow motion moment as Mido strokes the ball into the corner for Howard to make a fine save.

It’s a killer to miss a penalty before half-time and I move pubs to the Black Bull where there’s only about four customers but a nice pint of AK and Sky with sound.
We start the second half with purpose. The fans start a Claret and Blue army chant and it appears to galvanize the lads. Finally the players look angry. Mido puts over a cross and even finds our players with some of his lay-offs.

Mark Noble finds the ball rebounding off a defender into his path and he hits the bar with an exquisite lob.

Kovac wins a couple of tackles on the edge of the box, Billy Bonds-style, and finds Stanislas who plays in Cole only for the England man to shoot wide when well placed.

We’re taking the game to Everton and look the better side. We win a corner and amazingly Da Costa bundles the ball home with a chip over the keeper. Could this be where our season turns?

We survive a valid penalty appeal when Da Costa catches Saha late with his leg and David Moyes looks like someone’s spilt his pint. It gets very, very nervous from now on, but surely we can hold on for a point, if not three.

But no, we have the mark of a relegation side. On 85 minutes we fail to cope with Baines’ cross and sub Yakubu gets between Da Costa and Upson to head home. Sodding West Ham, another defeat we don’t deserve. Seven defeats in a row.

Everton will easily hold out now especially as there’s only Faubert on the right playing in a fantastic cross and substitute Ilan diving to power home an unstoppable header into the back of the net. YEEEES!!! I find myself jumping up with my fists in the air and shouting in n deserted pub. Buntingford hasn’t seen scenes like it since West Ham last got a point. What a cross from Gustav!

Somehow we hold out for three minutes of stoppage time to draw. “Plenty of fighting spirit and the fans were great,” texts Matt.

Iain Dowie in the Sky studio looks stunned. We’ve got a point, we’ve got a point, we’ve got one, West Ham’s got a point!

Thursday, April 1

Would Dubai one used football club?

David Sullivan and Karren Brady are apparently in Dubai looking for investment. We can't seem that attractive a proposition at the moment to anyone but those dodgy ex-Portsmouth owners.

Meanwhile we've complained to the PL about Fulham fielding a weakened side at Hull (although our case is weak as we rested Cole and Parker at Arsenal) and it's said in the Guardian today that Fulham are still suing us for 500,000 over the Tevezgate affair. Still, at least we're no longer legal pushovers under the new regime. Perhaps we could sue Stoke for scoring from our short throw-in too...