Thursday, March 31

Spurs: Get over it!

Spurs have sent written questions to the Olympic Legacy Company and are considering going to a judicial review over the Olympic Stadium.

Even Tottenham's MP is against this.David Lammy MP comments: "I'm deeply disappointed that Spurs are still looking to move to Stratford. A judicial review is a costly and lengthy process that will only line the pockets of lawyers, leaving the club, its fans and the Tottenham community in limbo. We have made real progress in the last few weeks to kick start the redevelopment at White Hart Lane. That is what fans want, it is what Tottenham wants and it is what London wants."

Mr Levy, no one wants Spurs in Stratford. Or as Harry Enfield might put it: "Oi! Levy! NO!!!"

Wednesday, March 30

Size matters

Karren Brady was on Sky News this morning talking about reconfiguration of the newly-completed Olympic Stadium and pointed out that the small grass area we see now is not the size of the pitch, which will be bigger. Thank goodness.

What we'd all like to see now is a proper diagram of how far the pitch will extend and the size of the post-Olympics track…

Monday, March 28

Super Scotty Parker

Good to see Scott Parker play so well for England against Wales and earn praise from Fabio Capello. No England manager has ever been able to get Lampard and Gerrard to play well together and England look a much better side with Parker in a holding role and Wilshere and Lampard going forward.

A manager like Brian Clough would surely never have been caught in such a quandary - he would have selected one from Lampard and Gerrard and put the interests of the team before fielding the big egos. Hargreaves was our best option a few years ago but now Parker should be a regular (though please don't get injured against Ghana, Scotty).

And just to complete the Superman image Parker turned out at Spurs the day after his father's death. And what's more he's played superbly in a team that's been at the bottom of the league for most of the season. He's reminded me of Billy Bonds the way he just gets on with the job every week.

And further good news was Robbie Keane finding the net for Ireland…

Friday, March 25

End of the golden generation?

The Guardian speculates that Frank Lampard might be dropped in favour of Scott Parker in tomorrow's England match against Wales.

Meanwhile Rio Ferdinand could be out for the rest of the season and the so-called "golden generation" that West Ham sold are perhaps beginning to fade now they reach their thirties.

Glen Johnson and Joe Cole have had poor seasons at Liverpool, Defoe hasn't been scoring for Spurs and Michael Carrick has been criticised at Man United (though he'll probably be briliiant as an emergency centre back against us).

Maybe soon we'll be able to forget about the players whom we sold through incompetence and lack of ambition and create a new generation of heroes who stay at the club.

Sunday, March 20


Tottenham 0 West Ham 0

The customers of the Famous Cock Tavern at Highbury Corner are not inspired by this fixture. There’s one other Hammers fan in front of the screens and that’s it. Still, we're saving fifty quid by watching it in the boozer.

In the first five minutes Dawson hits the bar with a swerving shot after Modric has cut the ball back to him and then Judas Defoe flicks the ball just wide. Modric is running everything and it looks like we’re in for the usual battering. My pint of Doombar sounds rather apt.

Matt and Lisa arrive to offer moral support and announce that under Nigel’s Patented Survival Calculations this is a no-lose game, as we only have to beat Villa, Blackburn, Wigan and Sunderland to survive.

Unexpectedly we create a chance, as Cole lobs over the bar. Then Ba plays a great ball to send Carlton through, only for CC to shoot against Gomez’s legs. Had he rounded the keeper or chipped it we would surely have scored.

We’re defending well now, with Upson and Da Costa looking solid. Match analyst Chris Coleman picks out Wayne Bridge as the pick of our defenders for the way he forces Lennon inside. We knew he could attack but this proves he can defend too.

Lennon is forced to try a stint on the left flank and cuts inside to hit our post. The ball rebounds to Defoe who gets his feet all wrong and pokes horribly wide as if he’s a defender. Jermain is on 99 league goals. Matt and Lisa have noticed that he’s got a t-shirt on under his Spurs shirt with bold lettering declaring “100 goals”. A great incentive for our defenders to keep him out.

The second half begins with a lingering close up of Sandro throwing up on the pitch. The commentator apologises for surely the most explicit Technicolor Yawn ever seen on live TV. Has Sandro been eating lasagne?

We start well with Cole having a good effort saved by Gomez after some fine footwork in the box.

Ba comes to life and goes close with a vicious shot tipped wide by Gomez.

Noble chips way wide when well placed and it looks like we might nick a famous win. But back come Spurs with Modric forcing Green to save again. Defoe runs wide and gets his shot all wrong and has another effort saved by Green’s legs. Try a t-shirt with less bold printing next time, Jermain.

It gets tenser as Scotty hurts his shoulder again but plays on and clearly more crisps and Doombar are needed.

After 85 minutes Rob Green does fantastically well to tip Bale’s free kick on to the bar and then Jacobsen acrobatically clears the ball off the line.

Bridge makes another match-saving tackle on Defoe. Somehow there’s four minutes of injury time, but we survive.

Even Nigel doesn’t mind that we’ve put his survival calculations out of kilter. A great result at a ground where we haven’t won for 12 years. And a performance by Spurs that made Sandro sick.

Unbeaten for four games. A clean sheet. A really solid performance by the back four and keeper even though Spurs hit the woodwork three times.

Four points off Tottenham this season and we beat them to the Olympic Stadium. And Jermain’s t-shirt hubris rounds the day off nicely.

Thursday, March 17

Brady sues the Mirror

Should be interesting if the Mirror has to name its sources. The UK Press Gazette reports:

West Ham United vice-chairman Karren Brady has launched a legal action against the Daily Mirror over stories she claimed linked her to a campaign to undermine manager Avram Grant.

Brady, who also appears in The Apprentice TV show with Alan Sugar, is suing publisher Mirror Group Newspapers over two stories and two online versions of those articles – all from January.

In a writ filed at the High Court on her behalf by lawyers Henri Brandman and Co, Brady claims a story headed “Upton no good” suggested she sent text messages to West Ham players encouraging them to rise up against Grant and demand his sacking.

Brady claims the story, and an online version of the article, suggested she undermined the relationship between the club’s players and manager.

Both versions of the story, the writ claims, suggest that she behaved in a “shameful, utterly disloyal, grossly reprehensible and wholly unprofessional manner”.

Brady, who spent sixteen years as managing director of Birmingham City Football Club before joining West Ham, is also suing over a story headed “Jibe was just banter but Dad so sorry”.

The writ claims that by innuendo, the story suggested that Brady’s public denunciation of comments made by sacked Sky Sports football pundit Andy Gray and colleague Richard Keys was hypocritical as she laughed and joked with Keys about his comments when they spoke privately on the phone.

Brady claims her personal and business reputations have been injured by the stories, which have also caused her anger and distress.

Wednesday, March 16

Dyer straights

Interesting interview with Kieron Dyer in yesterday's Guardian. Now he's at Ipswich on a month's loan he appears frustrated with our club doctors:

"I've been wrongly diagnosed with a lot of my injuries," he says. "I was out for a whole season with a hamstring injury but then I go to see a certain specialist and he says it's because I have a 10-centimetre piece of scar tissue. Who's to blame for that? A thigh injury has kept me out for most of this season but then they found out I needed an injection and I haven't felt my thigh since."

Seems a little like buck-passing to me as surely our medical team improved under Nani and would have tried everything possible to get a return on a player who's cost us millions? Or are they not as good as we think?

Monday, March 14

We just couldn't take any more…

Stoke City 2 West Ham 1 (FA Cup)

There’s a nervous wait from the team that meets in caffs (Nigel, Matt in his Dukla Prague away shirt, Lisa, Fraser and myself) for Mike and his daughter Isabel at Euston’s Café Nero. Mike has the match and train tickets, but finally makes it from deepest Gerrard’s Cross. So we’re on our way to Wemberley via Stoke.

We arrive at 13.10 in a sunny Potteries and walk along the Morrissey-esque canal past the local sights — an old pottery kiln, Same Day Beers, gravel pits, flattened factories, iron bridges and the incinerator.

We’re in the Britannia by kick-off but there’s one absentee from the away team. Having secured all our tickets, Big Joe is marooned near Cannock. There’s empty seats in some parts of the stadium, which is pretty poor for a side vying for Wembley. Ba is rested and O’Neil cup tied so Obinna stars and Cole and Piquionne play up front.

Stoke start well and look much more purposeful than last Saturday. Bridge allows Pennant too much space to cross and Green makes a brilliant reaction save from Etherington’s header. Where did Matty learn to head the ball?

The Stokies in the corner next to us spend the whole game gesturing at us, making throw-in gestures, singing that we’ve got one song and saying they’re going to have the cockney in the Dukla Prague away kit.

Stoke take the lead with a thoroughly predictable goal from Delap’s long throw. Upson is blocked off by Walters and Robert Huth strolls though to score with a free header.

Obinna challenges high with a Stoke player. Victor writhes on the ground and rolls over eight times hoping his cunning plan will fool the ref. It doesn’t and he’s booked.

Even our easy passes are going astray and apart from a tame Noble effort it’s one-sided in the first half hour. Etherington is the best player on the pitch and Pennant is causing problems on the other flank.

Bizarrely we then equalise. Hitzlsperger plays a great through ball, Piquionne controls and lobs over Simonsen into the net, getting injured by a defender as he scores. TV replays later show that he’s controlled the ball on his arm. Pulis goes mental. Still, one shot, one goal, not bad.

There’s even a new Freddie Piquionne song from the West Ham fans, as Freddie limps off and is replaced by Specs.

“Where’s your famous atmosphere?” Suddenly we play with more confidence. Half time arrives and there’s still no sign of Big Joe. Even DC isn’t this late.

Pulis has clearly bent the referee’s ear at half time. Fifteen seconds into the second half Parker challenges in the box and Etherington goes down as if he's just seen his one-time 800k tab from the bookies and come over all faint. It's a dive but the ref points to the spot.

“You won’t beat England’s number one from there,” I tell Matt, and justice is done when Green springs to his left to make a great save from Etherington's spot kick.

But we keep giving free kicks away and the ref gives everything to the Potters.

The ref awards a second kick on the edge of our box after it strikes a raised arm in our wall. Two Stoke lumps stand in the middle of our wall then scarper and Higginbotham shoots through the gap and if off the post even though Green gets a touch. Bugger.

To our credit, it’s all West Ham at the end. Parker breaks on the right but passes straight back to Etherington, seemingly forgetting that he now plays for Stoke.

Hitzlsperger dinks the ball to the previously anonymous Obinna, who turns quickly and has a powerful shot brilliantly tipped over by Sorensen.

Keane comes on for Victor and at least looks angry, haranguing the ref with a penalty appeal for handball, shouting at Carlton for not playing the simple ball when he’s in space and then having a near post shot tipped round the post.

“We never score from corners,” says Mystic Matt, as Hitzlsperger takes a corner and Upson thumps a header against the bar. Great effort.

Da Costa loiters up front and Tomkins is incensed after he’s bundled down by Walters in the box and gets nothing.

But as the Stoke fans sing, “We’re all going to Wemberley!” the four minutes of stoppage time ends and there’s a huge chorus of Delilah as they reach their first Wembley appearance in a major cup since 1972. Big Joe hasn’t missed much.


Our passing game has never really got going and we need Ba, O’Neil and Jacobsen back for Spurs. The buses to the station never materialize. So we walk along interminable Stoke roads past the drifting tumbleweed and eventually make the station. Mike puts a brave spin on it by claiming that a replay would have been disastrous for our survival hopes. And Matt can now look forward to the family holiday his exiled brother has organised without missing Wembley.

At least the train is quick and Matt produces the best piece of trivia of the day revealing that Huth is Stoke’s top scorer with seven and if he finishes as top scorer he’ll be the first defender to do so since Julian Dicks in 1995-96.

We stop for an excellent pint of Snake Slayer in the Doric Arch at Euston. Stoke have drawn Bolton in the semi. Still, we never beat bloody Notlob anywhere.

And with the foolish optimism of the eternal fan we wonder if we’ll need to go to Wigan away for our penultimate game. Yes, we can now concentrate on the league.

Saturday, March 12

We're so fit it's unbelievable

Two amazing things have happened. First we've managed to dispatch 80k-a-week Kieron Dyer to Ipswich on a month's loan.

And secondly the Guardian's Saturday team sheets list West Ham as having no injuries. None, bugger all, not a sausage. Even Collison is fit. So expect at least three hamstring pulls in the warm-up tomorrow…

Thursday, March 10

Cheer up Neil Warnock…

Oh the delicious irony. From

"QPR have been charged with breaches of seven Football Association rules over third-party ownership and agents. They relate to the signing of Argentine midfielder Alejandro Faurlin in 2009 and a contract extension last October. Punishment for the club could range from a fine to being docked points, a damaging scenario given that QPR currently sit top of the Championship."

All this and Sheffield United in the relegation zone too…

In the zone

Nice to see we're back in the bottom three after four days of escape from the drop zone thanks to Birmingham drawing at Everton... Interesting piece in last Saturday's Guardian showed that the bottom three have more combined points at this stage of the season than ever before. Without a useless side like Derby of a few years ago we're going to need 42 points plus...

Wednesday, March 9

Writ hits the fan

They're just a small club in Arsenal. Spurs are still thinking of suing over the decision to award the Olympic Stadium to WHU claims today's Guardian. Along with Leyton Orient, where Barry Hearn is angling for enough compensation to build a new ground. Daniel Levy is poring over statements by Seb Coe and Boris Johnson and probably about to claim that they looked at him in a funny manner, M'Lud.

Surely a sensible judge will decide that the only appropriate solution is to give Orient the new ground they deserve at White Hart Lane and award Spurs the East London home they crave at Brisbane Road. Sorted.

Tuesday, March 8

Avram Grant's a football genius?

West Ham 3 Stoke 0

“We came from Canning Town because the tubes are down!” A few old songs might have to be rewritten thanks to the never-ending closure of Upton Park tube this season. It’s a free game for Academy members, so I have to persuade my daughter Nell and her friend Fernanda that a two-mile hike from West Ham to Ken’s Café is all part of the fun. At least Stratford should be open every week in 2013.

Inside Ken’s is Jeremy Nicholas, partaking of a light luncheon with Mr Moon. Jem makes a cryptic allusion to the fact it’s the tallest line-up West Ham have ever fielded. Then it’s on with the girls to the Newham Bookshop where we buy a Wimpy Kids book for Nell and an Ian Dury biography for myself.

Within the stadium we discover that Avram Grant has changed a winning side, dropping O’Neil and Jacobsen for Piquionne and Da Costa to add some height to the side to counter Stoke’s set pieces. Matt, Nigel, Fraser and myself all agree that this is ridiculous tinkering and that we shouldn’t worry about the opposition and instead play the side that gave the best performance of the season last week against Liverpool.

Stoke play reasonably well for the first 21 minutes. Nell amuses herself by taunting “Jermaine Peanut” on Stoke’s wing.

We take the lead in bizarre fashion. Noble plays a through ball and Wilson and Begovic leave the ball to each other. Their indecision is final and Ba nips in as the ball trickles towards the goal. He still has to outpace Wilson and use his strength to bundle the ball home.

Phew, at least the girls have seen a goal, unlike the Birmingham debacle that was Nell’s last game. It’s as soft as the own goal against Wolves, but even Nigel applauds, despite the lack of aesthetic appeal in the build-up. We could get to love route one at the Academy.

After 28 minutes we go 2-0 up with another goal Stoke would be proud of. Da Costa springs from the turf to head home powerfully from Hitzlsperger’s free kick.

“They just can’t cope with our direct football!” I suggest.

“Avram Grant’s a tactical genius!” confesses a bemused Matt.

Hitzlsperger has a rocket tipped over the bar and Piquionne should make it three when he pokes the ball wide after Ba’s shot is deflected to him, but we’ll take 2-0 at half-time. Seems we can’t stop scoring. Tomkins, Da Costa and Upson have been commanding at the back and Parker inspirational as ever. Blimey.

Mark Ward’s on the pitch at half-time wondering if the Hammers will let Stoke out of jail. The Potters improve and Delap forces a low save from Green. Pennant is replaced as Pulis gambles on Matty Etherington, who gets a nice round of applause.

Nell and Fernanda shout “Come on you Irons!” and then chat and relax with the optimism of youth, thinking that West Ham can’t possibly blow a two goal lead. Us adults know differently.

Matt starts to get very agitated with our dropping back. Fuller comes on and then Kenwyne Jones, who loves playing against us. Immediately Jones heads just wide.

But we’re roused from complacency by that near miss. Carlton Cole has had a good game leading the line, and after another Stoke mix-up has a lob tipped away by Begovic. A few minutes later he produces a mazy dribble in the box and has a clever shot tipped past the post by Begovic.

We put the game to bed after 83 minutes. The ever-energetic Parker overlaps down the right, takes the ball from O’Neil and cuts it back to Freddie, whose shot is blocked and rebounds to Hitz Man Tomas. Der Hammer does just that and nearly takes the roof of the net off. Never mind passing the ball into the net. If in doubt blast it is a technique I can endorse from my games of five-a-side at the Sobell Centre. Hitzlsperger leaps into the Bobby Moore Stand and we’re 3-0 up with a new cult hero.

Amazingly we then keep a clean sheet and Jeremy Nicholas announces at the end that we go out of the relegation zone.

After the match it’s a trip to the Who Shop and a long bus journey to Canning Town, via a fire at Stratford station forcing us to travel the other way to Waterloo. But despite essential engineering works we get home as happy Hammers. Three wins in a row? Grant as a master tactician? Fourteen goals in four games?

As England’s Graham ‘Turnip’ Taylor once asked: “What sort of thing is happening here?”

Saturday, March 5

Home defeat for Carlton

Carlton Cole has squatters! The Hammers striker tweets:

"Correct me if I'm wrong but am I right to get angry & upset wen I find squatters have occupied 1 of my properties & find out they av rights!"

Not the first case of someone connected with West Ham leaving the back door open this season. Or is it just Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross starting their man marking early?

Thursday, March 3

Wages of sin

Interesting piece on our accounts for the year ending May 31 2010 in today’s Digger column in the Guardian. It claims: “Davids Gold and Sullivan have been able to strip out £13m of staff costs (mostly from players). This has caused the club's wages-to-turnover ratio to fall to 70% from a completely unsustainable 79%.”

Not sure how much credit for this can go to the Gullivan brothers or indeed how much our wage bill has fallen. They got rid of Davenport and Quashie at the end of last season, along with loan signings Jiminez, Ilan and Franco. But bigger savings probably came from unloading Lucas Neill, Savio and James Collins under the Icelandic bankers. And let’s remember Sullivan and Gold gave Benni McCarthy 40k a week that January,

In the current accounting year we’ve signed players on biggish wages in Hitzlsperger, Jacobsen, O’Neil, Barrera, Ba, Bridge and Keane but only unloaded Diamanti, Daprela and Behrami.

So my guess is that there is still a lot of pruning to do, starting with 80k a week Kieron Dyer who is out of contract this summer.

Wednesday, March 2

Raising the Ba

The most encouraging aspect of Sunday's win was the form of Demba Ba. Not only can he finish, his control is much better than Carlton's and he can whip in a tasty cross. He can defend too. In fact there's a hint of a young Didier Drogba in his strength and power.

He's also had a motivating effect on those around him. Piquionne willingly ran wide all game and when Carlton Cole came on he looked fired up and indeed scored his fourth goal in three games. With Robbie Keane due back in two weeks and the maverick somersaulting enigma that is Victor Obinna also set to return we have five quality strikers challenging for two places.

Our defence might still wobble but perhaps we can outscore Wigan, Blackpool, WBA and Wolves in the fight for survival.