Saturday, April 30

Down with the Scunthorpe!

What a shame. Sheffield United are down…

The Boys in the Bubble

Our tickets for Wigan have been bought and Fraser and myself are booked on the free coaches (nice gesture from the Gullivan brothers). Although Matt and Lisa are looking for a boutique hotel in Widnes, which prompted me to point out that Widnes was where Paul Simon wrote Homeward Bound about returning to his girlfriend in Brentwood, Essex.

This prompted Fraser to observe that: “There's no need to worry as our team would still be trying to Keep The Customer Satisfied, but then I thought I'd just content myself with mentioning the weird but irrelevant trivia that Paul Simon's first solo single Mother and Child Reunion was actually written about eating a chicken omelette.”

Matt replied: "I can see how it relates to West Ham’s relegation:"
No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day.

Matt added that” Our attempts to build a Bridge Over Troubled Water will be hampered by the very strong hint on the club website that Parker is out for the season (along with Noble). If we were a Boxer we would be throwing the towel in. We are on our way to Scarborough fair enough (if they get promoted a few divisions). I think The Boy in the Bubble has just faded and died.”

Indeed there’s no Bridge over at the troubled waters of Man City as Wayne’s loan terms forbid him playing against them.

To which I replied that the coaches are leaving at 8.30 am from the main gates at Upton Park, which is My Little Town. Guess we’re Still Crazy After All These Years… It could be The Sound Of Silence from the home fans at Wigan and perhaps we'll beat Blackburn if it's down to you, misses Robinson.

Indeed, as Paul Simon lived in Brentwood in the 1960s and dated an Essex Girl (Kathy of Kathy's Song fame) it's not inconceivable that he visited WHU. Hence the lyrics of Mother and Child Reunion:

I can't for the life of me
Remember a sadder day
I know they say let it be
But it just don't work out that way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again
I just can't believe its so,
And though it seems strange to say
I never been laid so low
In such a mysterious way

At which point I shall get my coat and trust that Robert Green is repeating, I am a Rock to himself.

Wednesday, April 27

Seven points from safety?

Recent defeats for Wolves and Blackburn give us some hope. Having consulted the fixture list, Nigel-style, I'll predict that:

Wolves will get six points from Birmingham A (loss), WBA H (win), Sunderland A (loss)and Blackburn H (win) leaving them on 39 points.
Wigan will get four points from Everton H (win) Villa A (loss), West Ham H (draw) and Stoke A (loss), leaving them on 38.
Blackpool will get four points from Stoke H (draw), Spurs A (loss), Bolton H (win) and Man United A (loss), leaving them on 38.
Blackburn will get three points from Bolton H (win), West Ham A (loss), Man United H (loss) and Wolves A (loss), leaving them on 38 too.

So two wins and a draw (seven points) from our final four games would leave us on 39 points and a bottom three of Blackburn, Wigan and Blackpool (all on 38) and West Ham and Wolves one point above them. So realistically, if we lost at Man City, we have to aim for wins against Blackburn and Sunderland and a draw at Wigan.

Tuesday, April 26

I Don't Want to Go To Chelsea

Chelsea 3 West Ham 0

Plans to watch this one live in a Buntingford pub had to be abandoned as my daughter Nell had to go into hospital with an asthma attack after a combination of smog, record Easter temperatures, pollen and a chest infection. But thanks to the good work of Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge she’s now back home, much better and able to berate her mother for wearing a top with a Gunners badge on it.

The team sheet has Nigel texting “Nightmare!” and Matt texting “The very little chance we had has gone completely!” O’Neil is possibly finishied with football completely, Scotty, the newly-elected football writers’ player of the season, is still injured, Upson is out with illness and bizarrely there’s no place for Tomkins. So we’re relying on the likes of Gabbidon, Da Costa, Sears and Spector.

But the evidence on Match of the Day suggests the score slightly flattered Chelsea as Torres (whom we all knew would score against us) got their second on 84 minutes thanks to an assist from a puddle and their third came in the 94 minute with a Malouda piledriver.

We’d created chances before Big Fat Frank (inevitably) had put Chelsea ahead just before the interval. Thirteen-year-old Freddie Sears had encouragingly beaten Cashley Cole for speed and crossed for Jonathan Spector to test Cech with a diving header. Then Sears himself had a backheel cleared off the line by Cole.

In the second half Luiz hit the bar, but we created further opportunities. Freddie Sears crossed invitingly for Carlton to shoot first time, only for the great twitterer to instead turn and meander into a puddle. Keane and Ba also tested Cech as we showed signs of grabbing an equaliser.

Then Jonathan Spector set up Robbie Keane with a great run and through ball, but the striker missed the target when he should have scored.

Plenty of the usual WHU failings though, conceding a goal before the break and absolutely always allowing players to end their goalscoring ducks against our porous defence.

A disastrous result in terms of going bottom again, and Noble was injured too. But some hope can be gleaned from the performances of Sears (he’ll be dating girls soon at this rate — and we may have to build a side around him if we go down) and Super Jonny Spector in midfield and the news that Parker and Upson might be back for next Sunday’s trip to Man City. Though sadly the games are running out.

Friday, April 22

O'Neil's future in doubt

Disastrous news. Today's Daily Telegraph reports that Gary O'Neil has ripped ligaments in his ankle and his career could be over. It is 50/50 whether he will play again and he is considering suing our old friend Nigel Reo-Coker over the tackle that caused the injury on Saturday.

With Parker out against Chelsea too it's looking bad. It's time for Hitzlsperger and Noble to take responsibility and maybe Obinna to produce some flair. Thee might even be a case for recalling Kovac to add a bit of bulk in midfield. And what are the odds Torres breaks his duck against us?

Monday, April 18

Gift of the Gab?

Today's Sun reports that Danny Gabbidon, who came on as a sub for Manuel Da Costa against Aston Villa, tweeted to fans who were blaming him for the Villa defeat: "U know what f*** the lot of of you u will never get another tweet from me again u just don't get it do you. Bye bye."

The Sun also reports that West Ham Ladies midfielder Stacey Little tweeted in response: "Danny Gabbidon — what a p***k. I think us fans have a right 2b upset. U get paid enough. Be a man and take it!"

Hmm. She seems to care about the club at least. Maybe she could line-up in midfield for the men's side…

Gabbidon did OK for much of the game and the whole side was culpable. But he's right to give up tweeting. Every player should have been reflecting on their performance in private over the weekend and not social networking. And if they must tweet then what sort of comments do they expect?

Matty goes to Wembley

Nice to see Matty Etherington score a great goal and help take Stoke City to the FA Cup Final. Always thought he was a good player for us, if a little fragile when kicked by Neanderthal Championship full-backs.

He probably had to leave London to overcome his gambling problems, but did Zola give up on him too easily? Initially he seemed to be building a team around Etherington in a floating role. If we could have kept him out of the bookies he'd certainly be a useful asset right now.

Saturday, April 16

Just relegation for the claret and blue?

West Ham 1 Aston Villa 2

Ah, no tubes again, must be a match day. The usual Diaspora of claret and blue legions carrying print-outs from Google maps trek from Canning Town station towards Upton Park.

My personal London Marathon passes the Newham Bookshop in Barking Road, where Vivian has many inducements on offer: Mark Thomas, Larry Lamb (Gavin’s dad in Gavin and Stacey) and Stacey Solomon (for details click the link above).

Then it’s on to Ken’s CafĂ© where Carol has a bad leg but is full of praise for Phill Jupitus, whom she’s seen perform in Spamalot. Nigel’s there with his mate Michael, a Plymouth fan, while The Gav is sampling Ken’s best bubble and designer coffee.

Strangely Matt, in Lanzarote with his brother, who's over from Australia, doesn’t fall for my text: “Stop press. Matty Etherington owned by third party (Ladbroke’s). Stoke thrown out of cup. West Ham now in semis.”

All is going well until Nigel opines: “If we lose today we’re down.” I’m inclined to agree with him, with Chelsea and Man City away coming up.

Entering the stadium we’re given “Best of British” claret and blue union jack flags that look like a job lot from Romford Market. Another silly marketing gimmick to go with the clapperboards and the SboBet scarves. What we need is something on the pitch to get the fans going, not PR stunts.

We have decent-ish first half and the perfect start – ahead through Keane’s smartly-taken opener in the second minute after Hitzlsperger heads a cleared corner back into the box. Villa have a seemingly good goal by Bent disallowed when the ref rules he’s pushed Jacobsen. Friedel makes a great stop low down from Cole, who is giving Dunne and Collins problems. But Villa equalise through Bent after Noble dallies on the edge of he box when he should hoof it. This allows the influential Young to get a cross in and Bent to head home. Still, at half-time we look good for a point at least.

Texts of doom arrive from Lanzarote: "Our inability to defend will relegate us," says Matt.

Why do we always play worse in the second half? The only time we’ve improved after the break was after Scott Parker’s speech at WBA. Surely this has to down to the manager? Villa start well with Green making fine saves from Bent and Ashley Young’s free-kick. They go on to absolutely dominate the second half.

We don’t look like a team scrapping for survival. We are heavy legged and strolling while Nigel Mediocre dominates midfield. Villa are a much better team than their position indicates, but without Parker we completely lack leadership.

Grant makes a bizarre substitution when he replaces Obinna, who’s had one of his better games, with the inexperienced Hines, whom we know can't turn a relegation six-pointer. It doesn’t help when Gary O’Neil goes off after being clattered in the box (surely a penalty even if the ball was played first).

Demba Ba comes on and we end up with a strange formation with Cole up front, Ba (who doesn’t look fit) out wide Keane floating somewhere unknown and the side being overrun in midfield. It’s like one of those Guardian Questions and Answers on the size of the universe – is it expanding, contracting or two dimensions contained within a third dimension? Whatever it is it isn’t working.

Matt texts from Lanzarote: “At Cesar Manrique’s cactus garden looking at a millstone – reminds me of WHU.” Matt isn't spineless, which is more than can be said for our midfield.

We finally force a corner towards the end and then a free kick on the edge of the box, but strangely we don’t allow Der Hammer to take it. But Villa’s winner is a sickener – arriving in the first minute of stoppage time. Green makes another good save but we can’t prevent Young getting in a cross for Agbonlahor to head home. We have conceded more goals from headers than any other Premiership side. They deserve it. The Brummies in the corner celebrate wildly as they reach 40 points. Even Fraser must be in danger of losing his Zen-like cool.

Nigel and myself traipse towards West Ham tube discussing who will stay and whether we can build a side round a new manager and Tomkins and possibly Noble if he stays and, erm, Specs and any kids we have left.

Nigel complains that he was 17 when we last won something. And we don't want to play sodding Millwall. Grant has been given the players to do the job — Ba, Bridge, Keane, O'Neil and the returning Hitzlsperger, but we’ve lost three in a row.

‘The results have gone for us elsewhere,” suggests Nigel.

“We’d be fine if we didn’t actually have to play ourselves,” I suggest.

We needed character today but we didn’t show any. And we won’t get a result at Chelsea or Man City unless we have the work rate as a base to then hope for a lucky break. Our only hope is that NATO will impose a no-flight zone around our penalty area.

This is the end my friend, the end. Can’t see any way out of this. We’re going to lose the next two away games and then the pressure of winning the last three will surely be too great.

Doncaster, Barnsley and Scunthorpe (if they stay up) here we come.

Get your writs out for the lads

We're involved in more court cases than Stanley Fletcher from Porridge. Spurs are seeking a judicial revue over Newham Council's £40m loan to West Ham while Leyton Orient want a judicial revue over a decision they claim will put them out of business. Spurs are a small cuckoo club from Arsenal. Why would Newham Council want to make a loan to a club from outside the borough? And surely West Ham's move will benefit residents of the borough in the long term?

Meanwhile Carlton's been charged by the FA over Ghanagate, which has given the rapidly deleted comment far more currency than it deserved. Listen, he's been hanging out with geezers from Essex and makes the odd comment about squatters and asylum seekers. He probably reads the Daily Mail too. Surely the FA should concentrate on something more serious? I fully support the new initiative to take the Y word away from chants about Tottenham — but this seems to be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Sunday, April 10

Northern exposure

Bolton 3 West Ham 0

Don't tell social services but we’ve left the kids outside Ladbroke’s on Turnpike Lane to watch the Grand National as the news comes through on the bookies' TV screen that West Ham are 3-0 down at Bolton.

Two horses die during the National and it seems that our defence is full of unseated riders and most of the side made no show.

It’s no big surprise. Nick Clegg has more chance of becoming the interns’ friend than we do of winning at the Reebok. Pards was sacked after we lost 4-0 there and a 1-0 defeat virtually ensured relegation under Glenn Roeder.

On Match of the Day I’m a little baffled why Grant — banned to the stands for two games— plays Tomkins at right-back and why O’Neil isn’t in the side. Three forwards is brave, but it leaves us outnumbered in midfield.

We’re 2-0 down at the break and Bolton have missed several other chances. While our only effort has seen Wayne Bridge tackled in the box as he prepares to shoot.

We’re a little unlucky with the first goal as it’s a great strike from the edge of the box by Dean Sturridge with no backlift. Green and Noble square up and have to be separated by Matthew Upson at this point. Though it was surely Upson who was more to blame for not closing down.

The second is the result of another good cross by Petrov and a free header from Lee, the smallest player on the pitch. Terrible marting in our defence again.

Bolton’s third comes soon after half time and Sturridge is given too much space in midfield before finishing with another crisp shot from the edge of the box. Is the Chelsea striker better than Torres? We certainly make him look so.

We improve a little with Twittering Carlton Cole on the pitch for the second half. CC forces a save with a header and Demba Ba hits the upright with a great effort, but it’s way too late.

Thrashed by Notlob. We’ve got to win our three home games against Villa, Blackburn and Sunderland to stay up, and hope for a result at Wigan. Draw at home to Villa next Saturday with likely defeats to come at Man City and Chelsea and it’s starting to look really dodgy for the Irons. Maybe a few more of our players need to fight each other.

Saturday, April 9

Don't twitter, Carlton

Something tells me Carlton Cole should give up that career as a stand-up…

From BBC Sport: "Carlton Cole has been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association for his comments on Twitter during England's friendly with Ghana. The West Ham striker referred to the large numbers of Ghana fans at Wembley Stadium in comments he later deleted. Cole, 27, tweeted: "Immigration has surrounded the Wembley premises! I knew it was a trap! Hahahaha.The only way to get out safely is to wear an England jersey and paint your face w/ the St. George's flag!"

Tuesday, April 5

You swear it well, Wayne

Rather amusing that Wayne Rooney's Upton Park swear-fest has now earned him a two-game ban. I'm no fan of players running to cameras (even Scotty) — it's the paying punters in the ground who matter. And whatever happened to the Bobby Moore-esque manly handshake when scoring a goal?

Rooney's obscene rant was heard by thousands of impressionable youngsters and apparently the key consideration for the disciplinary committee was that 13-year-old Freddie Sears was in the stadium…

Hurdling Hammer

The Guardian ran my interview with Sally Gunnell on Saturday in the Family section. The Chigwell-born Olympic gold medal winner who is now an ambassador for London 2012 confirmed that she is indeed an Irons fan as is her husband Jonathan Bigg. She commented:

"I grew up supporting West Ham and Jonathan’s still a massive fan, but all our boys support Liverpool. Can you believe that? Maybe a trip to see West Ham play at the Olympic Stadium might inspire them."

And as a West Ham fan she's presumably used to overcoming hurdles...

Monday, April 4

There's only one effing Rooney

West Ham 2 Manchester United 4

What sort of person gets married without checking the football fixtures? It must be love for my old school friend Nick, as despite being a Man United fan he’s booked his wedding at Brixton Registry Office for 2pm, bang in the middle of the West Ham versus United match.

Still, I’m buoyed by Matt’s pre-wedding texts in Morley’s department store, revealing that we’re, incredibly, two goals up at half time, through a pair of Noble penalties.

“We’ll probably still lose 3-2,” I say to Paul, my fellow West Ham supporting old-Shenfieldian. Out of sympathy for the groom we don’t mention the score.

Jenny the bride looks radiant in her cream silk dress. And the wedding vows are so moving that I can hardly keep my eyes off my phone, which keeps vibrating with three further text messages from Matt. Are we 5-0 up? Am I going to cheer loudly at a vital point of the ceremony like Terry did in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? Then it’s time for my reading of The Lover Tells Of The Rose in his Heart by WB Yeats (is he that bloke who set up a wine lodge in Romford?).

Nick and Jenny successfully complete their nuptials and we head out into the photo area. You’re not single anymore!

It’s a chance to get out my camera and pretend to take a picture while checking my texts. Bloody hell, we’re 3-2 down and Rooney has scored a hat-trick. Suddenly that Yeats reading with its lines, “The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told/ I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,” seems strangely appropriate.

Still, we might yet pull it back to 3-3. Bugger! A new text from Matt says it’s 4-2.

It’s some wedding present for Nick, who is so chuffed he even mentions United’s comeback in his speech at the Prince Regent.

Match of the Day is watched after too many glasses of champagne and wine. Both our penalties are clear-cut and well-executed by Nobes, even though Vidic argues that the second was a foul outside the box. It’s a mystery how Vidic remains on the field. He should have been sent off either for a professional foul on Ba or a blatant hack on Cole, but the ref is Fergie’s new best mate.

United’s come back stems from Noble giving a free kick away on the edge of the box and a brilliant Rooney strike. Rooney then shows world class finishing as he takes the ball away from Upson with his first touch and lashes home with his second.

We seem bamboozled by United bringing on Hernandez and Berbatov and shifting Giggs to left back and the effort we’ve put in to the first 65 minutes. Although United’s third is a dodgy penalty after Valencia flicks the ball on to Upson’s hand from a few feet away. Hard to see how Upson could have got out of the way.

Rooney scores and then runs to the camera shouting obscenities in the manner of Jeremy Clarkson suffering from road rage after a News of the World sting. There’s only one effing Wayne Rooney.

Our defence is at fault for the fourth with Giggs crossing and Upson letting the ball go under his foot and through to a grateful Hernandez.

Championship form from United, but a worrying collapse from us. Maybe we scored too soon. All season we’ve looked vulnerable when ahead.

Back in the bottom three again. But at least our players don’t use industrial language. Perhaps the Premier League will eventually award us the points as a punishment for Rooney’s F word tirade…