Sunday, July 24

Taylor made?

Credit to Big Sam Allardyce, we've attracted a third Premiership player in Matt Taylor. Harry Redknapp rated him at Portsmouth, he did well at Bolton and he's got a great shot from long range. He could solve our left back problem and can also perform in midfield.

Blimey, I'm starting to feel optimistic...

Saturday, July 23

On me head, son

"Headhunting was like a football match, they took the heads for trophies," explains Twymy one of the Descendants of Tetepare, the largest uninhabited island in the Pacific, now operating as an small eco-resort. It's an incredible place with dugongs, sharks, crocodiles, sea eagles, monitor lizards, turtles, virgin rainforest and much more. Better than a trip to Millwall, anyway.

No-one knows why the residents of Tetepare, a large 35-kilometre-long island, scarpered 150 years ago, but Twymy says headhunting, dysentry and gossiping women annoying the spirits have all been put forward as possible reasons.

His football analogy is interesting - headhunters were perhaps similar to the ICF and their calling cards. It's sobering to think that had West Ham finished bottom of the SI league 150 years ago our lads' heads might have been on display in the Pacific equivalents of Wigan and Wolverhampton.

We've visited Skull Island today in the Western Province, where groups of skulls of ancestors and headhunting victims are displayed in trophy shelves on a mound of volcanic rock. Only one shelf was empty of skulls - presumably belonging to the headhunters' equivalent of West Ham...

Eidur no

So the Gudjohnsen deal has fallen through after he hesitated over our offer. A piece of strong management from Allardyce - maybe we're no longer a retirement home for players who want easy money? The last thing we need is another Benni McCarthy...

Friday, July 15

The Iceman cometh?

Plenty of transfer rumours. Looks like Eidur Gudjohnsen might finally be joining us on a free. He's 32 and was a great player - as was Benni McCarthy! - so let's hope his attitude is still there. He's a player who Allardyce knows well, so presumably he'll establish his hunger before paying big wages.

Meanwhile Carlton Cole has failed to agree terms with Stoke (has he never seen Stoke's Cultural Quarter or tried an oatcake?) after a six million fee was agreed. Turns out touchy Cole didn't like Stoke's chairman Peter Coates questioning his injury record on Sky, or so it claims in the Daily Mirror. While Scotty Parker may go to Villa or Chelsea if a seven million fee is paid...

Tuesday, July 12

If the kits are United...

Interviewed David Sau, the only man in Solomon Island history to become a FIFA-qualified referee’s assistant, before the second Solomons versus Vanuatu friendly at the Lawson Tama Stadium. David now works for the Solomon Islands Football Federation and is the field coordinator at Lawson Tama, organizing the ball boys and flag displays among other duties. When Malaita Eagles fans threw stones and burned down the SIFF Clubhouse, he says “I took the ball boys into the centre of the pitch and we formed a circle for their own safety" - as you do.

Sau, who is from Malaita Province and has two children, looks a bit like a Solomons version of Chris Hughtonand is proudly wearing an England training top, as does Solo gaffer Jacob Moli. David officiated at an Australia versus New Zealand Oceania World Cup play-off in 2001 and at the under-20 World Cup in Argentina. He retired in 2004 because of a knee injury.

David has had a pitch named after him at Bekabeka School in the Western Province. He tours schools with SIFF and says the soccer-crazy children desperately need new kit.

The average wage in Solomon Islands is around £600 a year, so help is needed. If any philanthropic readers have old England kits, or indeed West Ham or Dukla Prague away kits, then please post them to David Sau, Solomon Islands Football Federation, Allen Boso Complex, Honiara, PO Box 584, Solomon Islands, and he can distribute them to schoolkids. Enough Irons kits and we could get an extra 500,000 fans.

Saturday, July 9

Diamanti light

West Ham are calling for Allesandro Diamanti to be suspended as Brescia have not delivered the latest slice of his transfer fee. That's the same Brescia that sold us Savio for a ridiculous fee.

Interesting to note that Diamanti has won an Italian cap while at Brescia. He had skill which shouldn't have been dismissed so lightly. If we could have instilled EPL workrate alongside those deadball skills he could have been quite a player.

Friday, July 8

Groundhopping in the Pacific

Groundhopping credibility boost for wandering WHU fan…




Welcome to the Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara, for Solomon Islands versus Vanuatu. The incessant heat has abated and there’s a pleasing drizzle and mud feel to the day. It could almost be Wigan away with beetle-nut instead of burgers.

After lunch at the Lime Lounge (Honiara’s answer to Ken’s CafĂ©) we ask at the Coca Cola tent about tickets and are told that they go on sale at two o’clock. Bizarrely you give the money through a mesh fence to a bloke who returns with the tickets. The grandstand costs a fiver, the hill a quid. And there’s no match programme – which would be enough to send Matt into pre-match meltdown.

The Lawson Tama has one Rotherham-style wooden grandstand, six rows deep, and on the other side of the ground a small bank of uncovered seating. The rest of the ground is – literally – a hill. If West Ham were ever to play here it’s the sort of stadium where we’d lose in a cup upset.

Earlier that morning we’ve been inside the Lawson Tama for the 33rd anniversary of SI independence celebrations. All very colonial with parades of police and a brass band playing When The Saints Go Marching In just like at West Ham in the 1970s. In Prime Minister Danny Philip’s speech his mention of SI winning the Oceania futsal tournament gets the biggest cheer of the day. Philip then announces our host, the legendary Mary-Louise O’Callaghan. has been awarded a Solomon Island Medal. We are not worthy indeed.

GO SOLO GO!
We’ve donned “Go Solo Go” bandanas for the match. As the game kicks off. the crowd on the hill shelter beneath umbrellas. There's no chanting, the crowd are pretty quiet early doors and my daughter Lola compares it to the Emirates Stadium. We’re with Jenny Wate, married to SI’s West Ham supporter Arthur. She explains that it’s an atmosphere of respect today, as it’s a friendly international ad a public holiday. Games between the provinces are livelier. A couple of years ago a disallowed goal in a Honiara versus Malaita Eagles match resulted in stones being thrown, the offices of the FA being burned down and a riot in Chinatown.

What gets the crowd going is laughter. There’s mass giggling when Vanuatu miss and then when Solo’s number 11skillfuky creates an opening only to fire over the bar. Jenny uses the all-purpose pidgin exclamation of “Sey!” when Solo’s quick passing game misfires. The number nine Benjamin Totori, has played in Australia and New Zealand, as have several other players, she explains. The ball boys are barefoot and there’s a gap behind the seats, so that if you place your bag too far back it disappears into the void beneath.

On 63 minutes the Solomons take the lead after good work on the right. Joe Luwi boxes clever and scores from close range at the end where the parked cars are. A five-year old ball boy gets a big cheer for some ball juggling and then Solo score again as Benjamin Totori beats keeper Bong. Interestingly Solo substitute Gideon is captain of both the futsal and soccer teams. Late on Vanuatu pull back a deserved goal. So it’s two-one to the Solo Boys. A decent match and a groundhopping expedition completed that surely beats Matt’s trip to the Faroe Islands…

Wednesday, July 6

Writs hit the fan

The Olympic Park Legacy Committee has announced an independent review of the bidding process for the Olympic Stadium. This follows the Sunday Times story about OLPC director Dionne Knight, who has been suspended following the revelation that she had been employed by West Ham on consultancy work without the knowledge of the OPLC, as well as having “a personal relationship” with WHU’s Olympic Stadium Project Director Ian Tompkins.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson says the stadium will still go to WHU, we’re threatening to sue Spurs, who have used a private security company to dig in the dirt, and generally the whole thing reads like the plot of a John Le Carre novel.

You do fear the whole stadium project might go the way of the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit in Dickens’ Bleak House, with the stadium rusting away for the next 20 years as the clubs fight interminable battles in Chancery…

Sunday, July 3

Solomon Islands Irons

My fellow WHU fans Matt and Nigel might call themselves groundhoppers, but they will struggle to match this. We have just visited the Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara, the national stadium of the Solomon Islands, and seen a schoolboy futsal tournament in the sports hall next door.

SI players are skilful, have plenty of dribbling ability and like a tackle. The best have moved on to play in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia and WHU could do worse than get a scout over to the Pacific. The greatest result in SI history was a 2-2 draw away to Australia in the World Cup qualifies of 2004, ensuring SI played Oz in an Oceania group play-off, resulting in huge parties back in Solo. This helped to unite the country after ethnic unrest had resulted in 200 deaths and the intervention of the the Australasian military peacekeeping force of RAMSI (Regional Assistance to the Solomon Islands).

There are already some West Ham links in the Solomons as we've discovered a school called Allardyce (long ball studies compulsory) on the island of Isabel.

There's even a West Ham fan in Honiara. Back in the early 1990s I took Arthur Wate, now number two on the Solomon Star, to West Ham versus Wimbledon. A 3-1 win and goals from Super Johnny Hartson and Eyal Berkovic made him a convert.

Indeed, Solomon pidgin seems particularly suited to discussing West Ham's fortunes. Avram Grant hem nomas good. Robbie Keane hem makem me karange for good now...