Where’s our tube trains gone? Having walked nine miles on the Coledale Horseshoe in the Lake District the previous day, it seems like a light ramble compared to getting to a WHU game. Still, in recent weeks we’ve seen the “Temple of Sewage” Victorian waterworks and Abbey Mills on the Greenway from Stratford, our new Olympic stadium, the best sari shops on Green Street, and the lovely roundabout at Canning Town.
After an hour’s walk Sir Rannulph Fiennes emerges in Ken’s Café to find a fit and toned Gav, alongside Nigel, Jo and Iain, all looking svelte enough to take up fell running. We now have the fittest fans in football.
Nigel and Matt are wondering Jeremy Nicholas will announce the Labour leadership contest over the tannoy in the second half. And they say that Robert Green has been to see the chaplain to discover how Jesus Saves.
The lasagne eaters are playing Bassong and Corluka at the back, which is hopeful for us, while we’ve dropped Cole. Matt says that Spurs have played four teams in a row beginning with W, which is very interesting.
From the kick-off we’re up for it, with Freddie finding Victor, who drags the ball wide. Dyer has a shot deflected just wide and Da Costa heads wide from a corner. the two front men Obinna and Piquionne are mobile and seemingly everywhere. In fact Obinna has given us the audacity of hope. Cole may not get back in on this form.
We’re looking sharp and inventive with Da Costa winning headers at the back, Noble and Parker closing everything down in midfield, Dyer having his best game for club on the flank and Boa Morte steaming in.
Spus come back into the game though, with Jenas and Van der Vaart (“wasn’t he a detective?” asks Matt) having shots tipped away by Green.
After half an hour a Dyer run wins a corner. “We’ve really got to start making something of these corners,” says Mystic Matt.
Piquionne dutifully rises above Corluka and sends a towering header into the far corner before running to the corner. We deserve it too.
Spurs have the quality to come back though and after a Lennon cross is half cleared, Modric volleys towards goal only for Green to shoos turn it on to the bar. It’s what Hansen and Lawrenson would term "a wonder save" and could mark the turning point of Robert's season. A minute later he makes another great stop frpom Van dr Vaart with his legs.
Sadly Dyer departs after 40 minutes suffering from “dizziness” according to Grant. We’re pretty dizzy in the East Stand too.
In the second half it carries on being a great end-to-end game. Huddlestone rounds Green, but pushed wide by the rejuvenated keeper can only poke the ball hopelessly wide.
With half an hour left the crowd sense that West Ham can win and really get behind the side with “Claret and Blue Army” and “Come on you Irons!” chants.
Boa Morte plays in Obinna who has a fine snap half-volley pushed away by Cudicini. Never thought I’d say this, but Boa has been really good; playing in good balls to the front two and really getting stuck in. And Gabbidon starts to dribble at left back. Blimey.
Noble strikes a fantastic shot for the top corner that Cudicini brilliantly tips over. Substitute Barrera crosses causing the mother of all melees in the goalmouth but we can’t poke it in.
“Even under Curbishley when we finished tenth we never played this well…’ declares Nigel. “And we don’t look fragile…” He’s not looked this happy since the last AC/DC album came out.
“Why is it time goes so slowly when you’re winning?” asks Matt.
“Stephen Hawking never covered it on A Brief History of Time… possibly all the laws of physics are relative,’ I answer.
The whistle blows and Spurs are beaten. Redknapp’s first loss as a manager against the Irons. Robert Green applauds in front of the Spurs fans ands then makes an "up yours" gesture towards the press box. And why not? He’s won the game for us.
“We can still make the Europa League!” I declare.
The long trek to West Ham doesn’t seem so bad now. We could probably do a marathon not a sprint. The Labour leadership results have come through too.
“Ed Milliband should make the second item on the news after us,” I suggest.
Nigel walks down Corporation Road in a daze muttering “We won… Ed Miliband won… we won… Ed Miliband won…” All the old certainties have gone. If he were a computer he might overload.
If you were choosing man of the match it would be hard to choose between Parker, Noble, Piquionne, Obinna and Green, which has to be a good sign.
We looked like a football team. This might be the end of our new labours and the start of the Grant era.
A great win at the Stadium of Shite and all while resting the likes of Green, Upson, Gabbidon, Noble and Cole and without the cup-tied Jacobsen. Sunderland were below strength too of course, but had a good side with Gyan and Bent up front.
Looking at the highlights Piquionne and Obinna seem to be forming a vibrant partnership and combined superbly for Freddie’s opener. Piquionne rounded the keeper to apply an expert finish — it’s just headers under the bar he has problems with.
It was a sloppy to concede Gyan’s equaliser from a corner, but again we produced a fine move for the Hammers' winner, with Parker and Barrera combining on the right to cross. Is Vic there? He was indeed.
Credit too to Stech for securing the win with a late save with his feet.
Nigel says he’s on or a Cup Final breakfast in Kew. Not that we’re getting carried away, but if Avram Grant can be photographed smiling then anything is possible.
It’s an early start on the Virgin Pendolino to Stoke, accompanied by the back page of the Sun claiming that we’re already in Dyer Straights. The paper claims Kieron Dyer has walked out after only being named as a sub today — although Dyer’s agent swiftly denies this. Matt texts to say, possibly with some irony, that "Kieron is just the sort of tough tackling pitbull type you need at Stoke".
On arrival it’s a swift walk to Hanley past the sign proclaiming ‘University Quarter’ and then a tour of Stoke’s “Cultural Quarter’ (it’s got a museum and theatre alongside many boarded up pubs and shops). Indeed it’s so cultured that I purchase a 94p packet of oatcakes for Her Indoors from Wrights bakers.
Then it’s on to the Gardners Arms with Terry, my second cousin once removed on my mum’s side, now living in Crewe, and his son David, an exiled Stokie in York. The Pedigree’s decent when you can finally get served and everyone’s impressed by Tony Pulis turning up at half time against Aston Villa on the day his mum died. Although the City fans still don’t understand why he plays four centre backs.
I fear my couple of pints will be necessary to ameliorate another Hammers debacle as we pass the incinerator and walk across post-industrial wasteland to the Britannia. I’m in the Boothen End with the Stokies.
An interesting selection by the absent Avram. Da Costa’s in for Ben Haim and Ilunga is dropped for Gabbidon, while Piquionne floats alongside Obinna and Cole.
Stoke look pedestrian in midfield as Noble and Parker pass it around nicely. For once we don’t concede early on and the side looks better balanced with Jacobsen efficient at right back and Da Costa winning aerial balls.
Pennant threatens to skin the put of position Gabbidon a few times, but you can see Grant’s thinking in playing another centre back, as Gabbidon’s height proves useful when Delap launches his long throws.
Stoke’s only threat is from a free kick, when Green appears to find the ball covered in extra virgin virgin olive oil and it squirms away to Huth, who hits a post.
“Dodgy keeper!” chant the Boothen End, and “Nice one Robert, nice one son!”
We’re playing controlled football and Obinna and Piquionne are causing problems with their speed on the break. Collins fouls Behrami and from Obinna’s free-kick Parker bundles the ball home after it rebounds in the box. The unthinkable has happened, we’ve taken the lead for the first time this season… I can’t cheer but I can quietly clench a fist in celebration.
“You can stick your f***ing bubbles up your arse!” chant the home fans, along with a few cries of “cockney c••ts” and “get stuck in to these southern pansies!”
Then Piquionne picks up the ball in midfield and fires a thirty-yarder against the bar. We go in at the interval deservedly leading.
Stoke come out fired up for the second half. City’s best player, Jermain Pennant, fires in a fantastic cross that eludes Green and Jones dives in front of Da Costa to score a classic centre-forward’s goal.
Defeat appears to be looming as City fans sing a bizarre song about “Etherington, Etherington, running down the wing!” to the tune of Robin Hood. Jones muscles his way past Upson and Green makes a fantastic fingertip save to push his shot on to the post.
We survive ten minutes of panic, and Kovac, on for the injured Behrami, does a good job breaking down attacks and calming things down.
We nearly score when Obinna has a shot palmed past the post by Sorenson and then the keeper makes a great stop from Da Costa’s header from the corner.
Fuller heads a Delap long-throw in to the ground and it bounces on to Green’s bar. Phew.
The last five minutes are agony but somehow we hold on for our first point of the season. Green even manages to catch a long throw, which will do his confidence good. If we’d lost five in a row it would have looked terminal. "We've got a point, we've got a point, we've got one… West Ham's got a point!"
An encouraging performance; we didn’t let three in for once, the defence was more solid, the three-pronged attack showed promise and we showed an ability to dig in for a result. Now let’s bring on the Lasagne-Eaters.
At least Avram Grant will miss the game at Stoke, whereas I'm stuck with it. The fear is that we'll be done up like a Yom Kippur by the rampaging Kenwyne Jones and, of course, you can bet on Matty Etherington to score.
Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement, which seems rather apt for Hammers fans. It's accompanied by 25 hours of fasting and repentance — pretty similar to how most of us feel after West Ham games.
Grant lost several family members in the Holocaust and takes his faith very seriously,so it would be a little churlish to criticise him for observing this one day. And he'd receive serious flak in Isreal too if he worked on Yom Kippur.
Interestingly though, the Daily Mail did come up with one possible solution:
"If Grant were to arrive in Stoke before nightfall on Friday, attend a synagogue service in the area, return there on Saturday morning and then walk to to the stadium, without coming into contact with his players, it might be considered acceptable.
Particularly if he then returned to a synagogue after the match, although again he would be expected to walk - and not in leather shoes."
Although the nearest synagogue to Stoke is four miles away in Newcastle-under-Lyme. And would anyone really want to walk four miles through Stoke?
Another week and another football game has taken TfL by surprise. It’s September 11 of all days and we’re playing Chelsea, who have their share of nasty away fans, so let’s ensure everyone has two miles to walk to the ground…
One day you fear this is going to lead to a “serious incident”, possibly against Spurs in the next home game, as more tube closures are planned.
After a Sir Ernest Shackleton-style trek from West Ham, it’s a cup of tea in a sweaty Ken’s and a walk to the East Stand.
“We’ve never lost the opening four games in our history,” opines Fraser.
“We’d never lost our first three until last week,” says Nigel.
The team looks better on paper, with Behrami back in midfield, Jacobsen and Ben Haim coming in to defence and Obinna partnering Cole up front.
Only our game plan of not conceding a goal in the first 90 seconds is soon ruined. A Chelsea corner sees Essien rise above a tentative challenge to head home, via Carlton Cole whose diving header can only help the ball into the net. How many Premiership teams concede a goal from a simple corner?
We recover reasonably well. Jacobsen looks better than Spector or Faubert, Parker and Noble look up for the game in midfield and Victor Obinna has a scuffed chance drift into Cech’s arms.
“Who were the one-hit wonders who did Is Vic There?” I ask.
“It was by Department S, they had a singer called Vaughan Toulouse, whereas we were just born to lose,” suggests Matt.
On 17 minutes the inexplicable happens. Poor Robert Green spills an innocuous Drogba free kick, the ball spins out to Matthew Upson who surely must clear, but he boots the ball straight at Kalou’s heel and — in a moment that would cause Professor Stephen Hawking to question most of his established theories in A Brief History of Time and establish that there is no Grand Design — the ball loops agonizingly over Green and into the net.
As comedy goals go it’s one of West Ham’s all time-greats — a moment to rival Steve Walford’s own goal against Southampton many seasons ago. Green’s confidence is shot after the World Cup and Upson is contributing his own share of calamities too.
“England England’s number one!” chant the Chelsea fans.
You can’t just give two goals to Chelsea. Oh dear. It’s going to be ten. But bizarrely, we aren’t playing that badly. Cole chips in to Barack Obinna, only for the new striker to shoot wide when he should score. The orange-booted Vic then cuts in from the left and fizzes a shot just wide of the post. His energy is at least causing Chelsea a few problems. Mikel hits the bar with a languid shot and we go in 2-0 down at half time.
Dyer comes on for Boa Morte and has a few promising runs. We bring on Piquionne for Behrami later to make it three up front. We perform better in the second half, although Chelsea take it at training game pace. Green, to his credit, makes a smart save from Drogba.
But it’s all over after 85 minutes when Chelsea cross from the right for Essien to easily outjump Ben Haim and head home. Should Green have come for the ball? Meanwhile Ben Haim has played some good balls and looked reasonably composed, but he’s about as tall as Barbara Windsor, which seems a bit of a problem for a centre back.
At least we keep going. Two minutes later Cech punches to the edge of box and Parker scores with a delightful lob, silencing the away fans’ chants of “Chelsea reject!”
And then Obinna crosses for Cole to glance on and the onrushing Piquionne somehow contrives to head on to the bar from the goal line.
And that’s it 3-1, bottom of the league, played four, points nil, for 2, against 12. No wonder Grant is wearing an all-black outfit.
“These special merchandise offers, do they include a Robert Green piggy bank for people who don’t really want to save?” asks Fraser in a desperate attempt to make the blog as we file out of the East Stand.
How do we solve a problem like the WHU defence? Should Green, undoubtedly a great shotstopper on his day, and Upson be rested to restore their confidence? Or give the new line-up a chance to bed-in? Or just close down the Boleyn Stadium every fortnight for planned engineering works?
Still, at West Ham we’ll never walk alone — mainly because there’s no bloody tubes. We trek down Green Street and then Romford Road to finally find a real ale-free bar near Stratford that combines the worst aspects of both a disco and pub. Burnley versus Preston is on the TV to remind us what Championship football looks like.
But at least the four of us are getting to know Canning Town, West Ham and Stratford very well and West Ham will soon have the slimmest fans in football. We might even get a place in our defence.
Interesting article in Saturday’s Guardian by Jamie Jackson, headlined “Grant forced to lower ambitions as he picks up West Ham pieces”.
Reads like he has a few inside sources and it claims that Grant was shocked to discover a lopsided squad with no right back, one forward and no holding midfielder apart from the unconvincing Kovac. Grant sees Parker and Noble as basically attacking players.
It also claims that even Championship clubs passed on Spector and Da Costa and that Behrami’s summer move to Roma failed because the Italians refused to pay a fee for him.
Jackson’s article says of the Gullivan Brothers, “privately they would now happily accept a 17th place finish”.
And there's also Grant saying he wishes he had as much money as Stoke…
Ah, but did Wayne Rooney ever share a twin bedroom with William Hague?
Even with the weight of the News of the World on his shoulders Rooney still managed to score a penalty against WHU.
Meanwhile young entrepreneur Jenny Thompson has apparently slept with several other Premiership footballers according to the ever-reliable Daily Star.Let's hope none of our lads are implicated. Although I suspect they might make too many passes before failing to hit the target, while leaving their £1,200 with that nice Icelandic chap at the bar...
Who'd have thought Paul Konchesky would end up at Liverpool? Always thought he was a decent player (though probably not England class) as well as being a West Ham fan. He was rather unfairly treated by Curbs, but a good manager in Roy Hodgson got the best out of him. And, of course, but for Scaloni's clearance to Gerrard, he'd have scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final.
Looking back at that 2006 FA Cup Final it's interesting to see how quickly teams change and how many players moved on to supposedly bigger clubs. The side was Hislop, Scaloni, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Fletcher, Etherington; Harewood, Ashton. Subs: Zamora, Sheringham, Dailly.
Reo-Coker and Harewood were not worth the money Aston Villa paid, while Ferdinand has struggled to get in the Sunderland side. But Konchesky and Zamora have done well at Fulham, as has Etherington at Stoke, and Benayoun has been a qualified success at Liverpool and now Chelsea.
As ever with West Ham, it's a case of "what if?". Without Dean Ashton's injury, managerial upheavals, Tevezgate and the Icelandic bankers, that side might have achieved a lot more.
Well, today's Guardian reckons we missed out on Yakubu and Pompey's Marc Wilson as we're skint.
But we can't really complain too much. We've kept Parker and Cole, and spent £8 million, recruiting eight new players — Hitzlsperger, Barrera, Piquionne, Reid, Ben Haim, Obinna, Jacobsen and the memorably-named reserve keeper Ruud Boffin — while raising £2 million through the sales of Diamanti and Daprela. Which isn't too bad for a club that's £100 million in debt.
Maybe not ideal, as Barrera, Obinna and Reid are untried at Premier League level, but we might soon be fielding a side of:
It seems we've signed a right back at last, Lars Jacobsen from Blackburn. He's also played for Everton and has 35 caps for Denmark. From what I remember, he likes to get stuck in and must surely be an improvement on Spector and Faubert.
Mind you, this being West Ham we've done it so late on deadline day that it's all subject to Premier League approval. Please let it go through...