Monday, August 30

There must be an answer, Avram G...

Manchester United 3 West Ham 0

Managed to find a Hobgoblin pub in Gloucester Road, Bristol, after the Rovers game to witness the demise of the Hammers. The jukebox was playing rolling Beatles songs, starting off with, appropriately enough, Don't Let Me Down, followed by Get Back (hopefully not to the Championship).

It's another bizarre team selection from Grant. Hitzlsperger is injured and Obinna has presumably signed too late to play, but he still ignores new signings Barrera, Piquionne, Ben Haim and Reid. What's the point of buying £8 million worth of talent and not playing them?

Spector, Faubert, Dyer, Boa Morte and even Danny Gabbidon have all been found wanting through poor form and injury, yet Igor the Butler seems to be trying to build a team around them.

Cole is completely isolated up front and looks despondent throughout. Faubert gets a few crosses in to the feet of Man United players and Dyer hits the side netting. We hold out for half an hour and Robert Green makes a great save to tip Nani's shot onto the post. But then 90-year-old Ryan Giggs strolls past Spector and is brought down by the haplass Specs for a penalty. Rooney sends Green the wrong way for 1-0. Mystic Matt sends a text reading: "Spector utterly useless wherever and whenever he plays".

It's over early in the second half when Nani cuts inside to score a second. The juke box plays The Long and Winding Road, possibly referring to our season, and then Let It Be.

Grant does nothing when he should have made substitutions at half time. We're not going to get anything from the game without scoring so why not bring on another striker? We always lose when we set out to keep the score down so what is the point with persisting with such tactics? Let's adhere to the West Ham tradition and at least have a go.

All I can do is drink another pint of Hobgoblin and despair as Bristolian Mancs cheer on the Red Devils. It's not until 75 minutes that Grant brings on Barrera and finally Piquionne, way too late. Dyer clips the outside of a post as United ease off a little, but Berbatov finishes the game with a gymnastic volley while unmarked in the box. We almost score a consolation, but Parker skews wide.

The only good thing to come out of the game is that Gabbidon and Upson have decent games in defence, Ilunga looks better and Green makes several fine saves. The rest of the side looks a relegation waiting to happen.

Finally the jukebox stops playing Beatles songs and instead we have the White Stripes' I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself. How true.

We need changes for the Chelsea game and some ambition up front and, as ever, a right-back. There must be an answer Avram G, please don't let it be.

Remembrance of things Pards

Poor old Pards. A bizarre decision by Southampton to sack him today following the death of their owner. The new man obviously has someone lined up, but having seen an impressive Southampton win 4-0 at Bristol Rovers on Saturday it seems particularly churlish.

The Saints outplayed the Gasheads and it looked as if Pardew was putting together another decent side. Good keeper in Kelvin Davis, strong centre backs, a skilful midfielder in Jason Puncheon and a decent strike force of Ricky Lambert and ex-Spurs man Lee Bernard, who looks like he might go further up the leagues.

And they have Adam Lallana, who scored just to prove that Southampton's directors are living in Lallana land. Another bonus for a vacationing Iron was the late appearance of David 'Angry Ant' Connolly, who came on to produce a couple of saves.

Let's hope Pards gets another job soon.

Friday, August 27

Is Vic there?

It's not often you see a home Victor at Upton Park. But we've secured a loan deal for Victor Obinna, the Nigerian striker, from Inter Milan. Obinna was on loan at Malaga last season.

His scoring record is only one in four, but on the face of it he has an impressive pedigree, having won a title at Inter and 30 caps for Nigeria including two appearances in the last World Cup. Hopefuly this doesn't mean we're selling Carlton Cole...

Memo to Grant: this summer we've signed six players in Hitzlsperger, Barrera, Piquionne, Reid, Ben Haim and now Obinna, none of whom are right-backs. Now I don't want to worry you old chap, but if we don't sign a right-back by Sep 1 we'll be relegated.

Thursday, August 26

Nurse, the screens

Watched a game of Goalball betwen London and Southampton at a Paralympics Possibles event at Bath University last night (London won 9-6).

Both teams have three goalkeepers, the ball has a bell inside it and as the players have different levels of vision, both sides wear blindfolds so that everyone is performing on a level playing field. Games have to be watched in silence (a bit like the Emirates) but you can cheer when a goal is scored.

Perhaps the Premier League should take note and ensure that both West Ham and Man United wear blindfolds on Saturday to ensure a fairer game?

Wednesday, August 25

Graduating against Oxford

West Ham 1 Oxford 0

Stuck in the West Country for this one, but at least we're through after Scotty Parker's 93rd minute effort. Sounds like a struggle, but I'll take any kind of win and at least the likes of Ben Haim, Sears and Spector got some match practice and Stech pulled off some good saves. As Dr Grant says, we have a "psychology problem" and we desperately needed a victory to boost our low self esteem issues.

And good to see that Karren Brady's pricing policy paid off with a 20,000 gate.

Wembley here we come!

Diamanti's not forever

So we've sold Allesandro Diamanti to Brescia for £1.8 million (rising to £2 million if they stay up). Not a great deal considering we paid £6 million for him a year ago. Although it's no surprise as early on Sullivan indicated he saw Diamanti's signing as an act of folly by the old regime.

Diamanti had many faults, such as not tackling back and drifting out of games and shooting from every conceivable angle, but I'm not sure he should have been discarded. Class is hard to come by and he was the best dead ball kicker and crosser at the club.

He had a great record at penalties and scored some memorable goals from open play including two fine efforts against Bolton, one against Arsenal in the Cup and a stunning free kick against Birmingham. Remember how he turned the game against Arsenal from 0-2 to 2-2 after coming on as a sub? And his backheel against Man City to set up Boa Morte?

Yes, he was a show pony, but he had more creativity than anyone in the current side. And yes, we'd have been better off keeping James Collins last season.

But Diamanti could still have contributed as an impact substitute this season and with the side floundering after two league games it seems a little premature to be discarding someone who can unlock Premier League defences.

Monday, August 23

Points failure at Upton Park

West Ham 1 Bolton 3

We're housesitting in the Limpley Stoke Valley so it takes some effort to arrive at Upton Park. Particularly as TfL has closed all the tubes around the Boleyn stadium. A walk down the footpath at Black Acre and then across green fields and down the canal path to Avoncliff station, a local train to Bath, then Bath to Paddington, followed by the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines and a lengthy two-mile walk down Barking Road from Canning Town. Maybe Benni McCarthy should travel by tube to improve his fitness levels?

It's another strange 4-4-2 line-up from Grant with Dyer, who's had more regenerations than the Doctor, and Gabbidon coming in after long injuries. Still, the first half is promising.

Elmander should score in the first minute but after that we play some good stuff. Barrera looks frail but lively on the wing and has three efforts at goal, while Piquionne almost makes a goal with a great bit of skill. Gabbidon does the simple things well and it's all looking OK.

The key moment comes when Cole is shoved in the back and the ref awards a penalty.

"The last time he took a penalty he injured himself," I mutter darkly.

Carlton duly strokes the ball at the keeper and our chance has gone.

There's still time for Cole to have a shot tipped away by Jaaskelainen and Dyer to run on to Parker's brilliant through ball and hit the post.

At half time we agree that's it's been much better. "When did they start doing backheels?" asks a bemused CQ.

"And more good news is the Oxford game's only £10!" says Matt.

"They'll have to pay more than that to get us to come," quips Nigel.

Only in the second half we go off the rails. We're undone by a simple goal kick. Upson is possibly fouled by nasty Kevin Davies and Mattie scores a great own goal with a classic diving header, breaking his nose in the process and then having to go off. You could say he's carrying on his World Cup form.

Sub Winston Reid has a promising run upfield and goes close with a volley from a corner, while Piquionne volleys over when maybe he should score. But Barrera disappears just like the district line.

We show a similar lack of spine to last season when Young beats Ilunga to cross and Elmander easily beats Gustave Faubert in the air to power home a header. Another player whose career we have revived. Our defence is looking as efficient as Tfl's weekend planning and our season is going down the tube.

There's hope when we gain a lucky penalty after Parker is adjudged to have been shoved and Noble dispatches it with ease.

But then comes another defensive slump, with a goal kick causing chaos, Ilunga failing to clear and Elmander prodding home his second. So it's the usual 3-1 home defeat to streetwise Bolton then. We still need a right back and a new centre-back at the least.

We walk to West Ham tube and try to take the positives (Barrera and Piquionne look promising and hey, Kieron Dyer lasted 77 minutes).On the Jubilee line Matt discusses why we bothered to go at all. "There's always that optimism of the first home game of the dseason," he suggests.

"I lost my optimism at Villa last week," says the fan opposite. "It could have been eight."

Oh well, at least we've got rid of our optimism early. While our defence requires major engineering works every weekend.

Friday, August 20


That's the number of medals won by Craig Bellamy since he left us for trophies at Manchester City. And one paper even claimed we tried to sign him back again before he went on loan to Cardiff...

Good player, but I'm looking forward to ignition the first time he visits a Cardiff nightspot or eats an undercooked leek in the club canteen. But we should be grateful to Man City for spending £12 million on a player they discarded a season and a half later. Quite possibly Bellers' sale kept us in business...

Wednesday, August 18

Hand of pod

BTW if anyone wants great West Ham podcasts featuring the likes of Phill Jupitus and Ray Winstone then try Stop! Hammer Time, available on iTunes. Here's their latest request to Irons fans:

In return for delivering another season of FREE, quality Hammer-shaped entertainment, we need your help in two areas, particularly if you want to hear the likes of Winstone, Jupitus, Akabusi and Frost returning this season.

1. Please invite some friends to this group. 847 members is embarrassing! We're the most popular WHU podcast in the World and a we're Premier League club for gawd's sake!! This is a team effort. Let's have at least 1,000 members by the end of the week, eh?! EVERYONE, invite 2 new members!

2. If you use iTunes, click SUBSCRIBE again to make sure that your subscription is registered with Apple, or Sp**s will likely lead us in the podcast chart on iTunes and that's just unacceptable. If you're really feeling gung-ho, use the Tell-A-Friend button smartly by sending an invite to yourself that you can forward to your friends by email more easily!

2.a. Or post all the WHU Facebook groups you're on with; and tell them what they're missing!


Tuesday, August 17

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Avram Grant’s personal email to fans has a familiar ring to it.

Back in the 1980s when John Lyall got a little too comfortable in the West Ham hot seat, we used to regularly lose to Aston Villa on the opening day and he’d come out with bumpf like, “Well, we lost 4-0 but we learned a lot.”

And this is what Avram says after Saturday: “We learned a lot and there are some obvious changes to make… When you play away from home, anything can happen and we didn't want to lose this game… We will learn and be much, much better during the season.

Please, couldn’t we learn a little less and just win more matches?

Who ate all the pies?

Anyone remember Benni McCarthy our 40k-a-week striker? David Sullivan — who blames the signing on Zola — last week told Big Mac to lose weight or be fined having said earlier "He's almost as fat as me!".

Sullivan said: "It's like a jockey being overweight. He can't ride a horse and no-one is going to pay him… I think we are fully within our rights to say 'you are not honouring your side of the contract'.

"We are not being unrealistic. We've given him a target of losing a kilo (2.2lbs) a week. He has to lose five or six more kilos. He is training very hard so he must be eating or drinking something very wrong. Short of spending 24 hours with him, we have to assume that.

"You expect him to turn up in a state to be a footballer. We are not starving him. It's just don't eat ice cream, don't eat cakes, don't drink wine."

There’s only one thing for it, Dave. Best put Ken’s CafĂ© under 24-hour surveillance.

A mountain to climb…

Aston Villa 3 West Ham 0

You’d think you could escape the misery of being a West Ham fan on top of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain at 3247 feet. It’s not as if you can even get mobile phone access in most of the Lake District.

But no, as our family nurses sore calves and takes in a stupendous panorama of mountains and sea views across to the Isle of Mann, there's a group of lads who have discovered that there's mobile reception on top of Scafell Pike. And there’s one of them in a Chelsea shirt reading out the half-time score of “Aston Villa 2 West Ham 0”.

What should have been a triumphant return past Scafell Crag and down Brown Tongue to Wasdale Head is marred by the thought of impending defeat. And after a welcome pint of Ennerdale Blonde, the TV confirms we’ve lost 3-0.

Match of the Day proves we were abysmal. Admittedly Hitzlsperger and Behrami are injured, but a midfield containing Boa Morte, Kovac and Faubert looks weak from the start, and we’re playing Cole alone up front. And what’s the point of signing Piquionne and Barrera and not playing them?

Early on James Tomkins is apparently dreaming of a host of golden daffodils, loses the ball to Carew and then prods the ball against his own post. It gets worse. Green punches clear — Alan Hansen thinks he should have caught the ball — but makes a good save only for Downing to score from the rebound. Poor Robert is bereft of defensive help and looks as lonely in his penalty area as Alfred Wainwright on one of his solitary fell walks. On 40 minutes Petrov beats Faubert in the air to score with a fine header.

At half time Grant brings on Frederic Piquionne and Barrera. Boa Morte has a shot on target saved and Freddie sets up Gustave Faubert only for the French novelist to shoot wide in the manner of Madam Bovary.

That’s about it from WHU. Poor Tomkins is skinned by debutant Albrighton who tees up Milner to score a farewell goal. Tomkins is subbed off for Diamanti and there’s time for Green to scramble across the goal as Villa hit both posts.

We’ve lost 3-0 to a team without a manager that’s about to sell its best player to Man City.

Monday’s Guardian comments: “If West Ham play like this for the rest of the season they will be relegated.”

It’s all very worrying. Does Grant know his best side? Will Tomkins ever fulfil his undoubted potential or is he a Championship player?

For the Bolton game we should give Winston Reid or Da Costa a chance at centre back and buy a proper right-back. We should play Barrera out wide as he cost £4 million and play Piquionne alongside Cole. And hope that Behrami, Hitzlsperger and Collison eventually return to reinforce the midfield.

Still as Nigel texted on Monday night: “If the Red Scum win 4-0 we’re out of the bottom three.” Which, of course, meant than Man United won 3-0 and we’re in the drop zone already.

Sunday, August 8

Winston fights them on the pitches

Must say I'm quite hopeful about the signing of New Zealand defender Winston Reid. He impressed me in the World Cup and even scored a last minute equaliser against Slovakia. The spirit of the Kiwis was admirable in those three draws and if Winston's anything like Ryan Nelson at Blackburn we'll have a bargain.

The good thing about Kiwis is that they give it everything, which will surely endear him to the Upton Park faithful. Reid's also the first Iron of Maori descent — will Specs and co now be joining him in doing the Haka to intimidate the opposition? Dicksy would certainly have enjoyed the odd war dance.

We've also signed Ben Haim on a five-month loan and although many fans have reservations, he's still only 28 and surely worth a punt on those terms.

Meanwhile we've won the SBOBET Cup on pens after drawing 0-0 with Deportivo. Better end the season now…