Friday, December 30

Pottsy wants it

One good thing to emerge from our injury crisis is that we may have a player in 17-year-old Danny Potts. The lad's looked confident and solid in both games he's played and can swing in a good left foot cross. And having recovered from leukaemia he's certainly going to have his feet on the ground, realising he's lucky to be both alive and a professional footballer.

Dad Steve was always a very underrated player and a great reader of the game, rather unfairly marginalised when Harry bought Rieper and Bilic. Might Danny eventually emerge as a centre-back like his father? Wherever he plays, we might have unearthed another Academy gem.

Wednesday, December 28

Drawing drawing West Ham

Birmingham City 1 West Ham 1

Manage to catch the game at the Fox and Duck in Buntingford, accompanied by Vulcan the border terrier, (though you'd think he'd support the Terriers of Huddersfield), a packet of crisps and two pints of IPA.

Perfect start after four minutes when Piquionne flicks on and Cole pounces on a defensive mistake to fire home confidently into the corner. We have two penalty appeals, for a push on Nolan and a blatant handball after Faubert's header is blocked. At the end of the half Gustave Faubert crosses and Cole spins and shoots to produce a brilliant save from Myhill. Brum have had one free kick saved by Green and that's about it.

The second half is a disappointment. We fail to exploit the fact Spector is their right back and resort to ugly long balls aimed at Cole. Substitute Lansbury turns inside nicely and his shot is well saved, but there's no striker following up the rebound. Diop has a good game screening the back four and Potts is dependable again but we let Birmingham back into it and they equalise on 81 minutes with a header from Murphy after we fail to deal with a corner. Green is clearly furious we've no man on the post to clear it.

The referee also has a cunning plan to suspend our entire side as bookings for Nolan, Faubert and McCartney mean all three are suspended for the Derby game.

We should have won, but still, a point at Birnmingham is a reasonable result, though we're now only second on goal difference. And who will play against Derby? Could Big Sam have to make a comeback?

Monday, December 26

Boxing Day disasters

Nice of the Guardian to print a picture of West Ham losing 8-2 at home to Blackburn on Boxing Day 1963 in today's feature on Boxing Day football. My personal favourite Boxing Day debacle was a 0-2 home defeat to Orient, though I think we also lost 2-1 at home to Ipswich one year when Ipswich had no shots, scoring an own goal and a penalty.

Miraculously we managed to win 3-1at Fulham last Boxing Day so let's hope we do the same at Birmingham today. We're off to my mother-in-law's at Buntingford, where I hope to catch the game live in the Fox and Duck…

All stations to Stratford?

Interesting that Andrew Altman chief executive of the Olympic Park Legacy Company has claimed that the future of the Olympic Stadium is "not necessarily dependent on football". He's mentioned rugby, cricket and concerts as other possible ways of raising revenue. Apparently any WHU lease would be for 99 years, which is good, but there are still several problems to consider such as:

Sharing our stadium with other sports and concerts - what will this do to the playing surface?
Giving priority to athletics tournaments and having to possibly move fixtures
Renting a stadium and not owning it
The fact Spurs are now out of the race reducing the pressure on WHU to do a deal
That athletics track and how to put seats over the top

Yes, it's much better for transport links and close to Westfield if you want a right royal cockney knees-up in John Lewis. But there's still much to be discussed.

Wednesday, December 21

Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium

Anyone seeking a Christmas present for a West Ham fan could do worse than try match day announcer Jeremy Nicholas' Mr Moon Has Left the Stadium, published by Biteback. It's very funny and available via the Amazon link above or from the Newham Bookshop in Barking Road on match days. Jem is a regular in Ken's Cafe and has presided over more communal wailing than that newsreader in North Korea. He says that Mr Moon will receive a cut of the royalties once he stays in his seat all game...

Sunday, December 18

Papa's got a brand new goal

West Ham 1 Barnsley 0

The queues at Ken’s Café are stretching out into Green Street. Luckily my old pal Alison O’Brien (no relation to Joey although her sister Roz does live next to the Basildon golf course where James Tomkins plays) and 16-year-old son Scott are up from Maldon and Scott queues for egg, chips and beans two slices and a mug of tea on my behalf, restoring my faith in young people's community spirit.

Nigel and Matt arrive with the news that Nigel is ahead in the office trivia quiz and Matt has seen Dave Gilmour at an outdoor performance of Shakespeare, which presumably left the Pink Floyd man’s posterior comfortably numb. Oh and Mystic May prophesises a nervy 1-0 win.

Upton Park is full  with 34,700 fans brought in by the sensible policy of pricing tickets at £15 and £5 for kids (though if we’re in the spirit of Scrooge us season ticket holders have still paid £40 plus).

For a few minutes everyone apart from Fraser misses the fact that Danny Potts is playing at left-back. Faye has injured himself in the warm up and George McCartney has moved to centre back, with young Daniel, as Big Sam refers to him, coming in for his debut. It’s an emotional moment for Nigel, who has long maintained that Pottsy senior is the greatest player ever to grace the claret and blue.

“That’s 400 appearances for the Potts family,” says Nigel, referring to the fact that the legendary Steve Potts made only 399 appearances for the Irons, before being cruelly left on the bench by Glenn Roeder in his final game against Bolton.

We really are down to what Harry Redknapp would term the bare bones. O’Brien and Collison are suspended and Faye, Reid, Demel, Taylor, Bentley and Baldock are all still injured. John Carew who's unfitter than me and you, can hardly run with a back problem. Carlton Cole doesn’t look completely fit either.

We get the ideal start after six minutes when Papa Bouba Diop meets Mark Noble’s corner to head West Ham into the lead. It’s Papa’s first goal in English football for six years.

Barnsley look a reasonable mid-table side and with Vaz Te prominent, force Green to make a good low save, before poking a one on one wide.

But our makeshift side creates several chances, with Noble taking responsibility in midfield and Faubert dangerous on the right. Freddie Piquionne has what seems a certain penalty turned down and then Carlton Cole produces great feet in the box to beat two defenders and round the keeper before poking wide. Young Danny Potts is steady on his debut and makes a couple of decent crosses.

The best moment of the first half is when Nigel falls for my comment that Barnsley may go out of business before the return game on April 7. He needs just that one trip to Oakwell to complete his set of 92 grounds and the look of panic on his face is worth the price of admission alone.

At half-time the fact Montenegro is on the bench inspires us to try to think of other West Ham players who have countries as names. My brilliant call is  Pat Holland. For the second half Nigel has us naming the England Players named after London boroughs (Alex Stepney, Bobby Charlton, George Eastham, etc) which probably says something about our struggle to hold on for a 1-0 win.

At the start of the second half a cat runs on to loud cheers, outpacing even Alan ‘Whippet’ Taylor and disappearing into the Alpari Stand, possibly having seen a fox in the box. That’s another feline mess at West Ham. Robert Green then makes a save that is better than anything from  Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti, brilliantly getting down to his line to stop Edwards' header, which looks a certain goal.

Cole and Sears fail to shoot when well placed. Carew has to go off to be replaced by Freddie Sears and even Faubert gets injured and is replaced by Lansbury.

Danny Potts is clattered late by a Barnsley defender and Nigel nearly rushes on to the pitch in protest. Big Sam reacts in a similar fashion and is then sent off for kicking a water bottle after Freddie Sears races into the box with the speed of a kid opening his advent calendar, only to fall in the box and spark a penalty claim.

Pottsy recovers to make some good clearances to Cole and we end the game with a back four of Lansbury, McCartney, Tomkins and Potts. People will say it’s only Barnsley, but with our small squad it’s still a performance of some character to hold out for the win.

After the game we rush off to find the special bar (the Demba Bar?) open to season ticket holders that the club has emailed us about. Will David Sullivan be behind the bar serving real ale and Karren Brady leading a Christmas knees-up? We expect a private room but instead find it’s a bog standard bar in the draughty Alpari concourse selling rubbish beer with three people there. So it’s off to the Central instead.

Southampton draw the next day so we’re only one point behind the leaders. A nervy win, but in the circumstances it’s a great three points.

Saturday, December 17

Dyer straights

My pal Matt says he is "currently flat on my back having been hit with a feather". This is after hearing the news that Kieron Dyer may not play again this season. He limped off during an attempted comeback in QPR reserves and is set to have an operation on his foot on Monday. So he's played just five minutes football all season. Neil Warnock says QPR will not be activating a termination clause in Dyer's contract that is triggered in January

You have to feel sorry for Dyer as a person, but he's surely the most injury-prone player in the history of the Premiership, worse than Darren 'Sicknote' Anderton, and we wasted £6 million and 80k a week on him. He's made just 41 appearances in five seasons, most of them as a sub. Surely the time has come for Dyer to retire and move into punditry.

Wednesday, December 14

Oldly going up?

According to today's Sun we're after Crystal Palace's 19-year-old winger Wilfried Zaha, who can play on either flank. You do wonder if we're picking up so many injuries because the side is getting on a bit. Apart from youngsters Tomkins, Reid, Collison and Baldock, the side is full of players approaching or over 30, such as Diop, Taylor, Nolan, Faye, Carew, Demel, McCartney and Piquionne.

Even Cole and Faubert are both now 28. Older players are bound to pick up more knocks and a little youthful resilience and energy would surely help. It might also be a moment to give 21-year-old Freddie Sears a game, as at least he runs around a lot and was one of our best players in his last appearance against Bristol City.

Monday, December 12

Paolo goes off on one…

Our old mate Paolo di Canio wasn't too pleased after Swindon let in a late equaliser on Saturday. Imagine how he'd react if they'd lost 3-0 and had two men sent off...
"I've already asked the chairman for three players, now I want four or five otherwise I will discuss my contract," PDC told BBC Wiltshire. "With this team, and this mentality, I can't win the league. Today I didn't recognise this team as my team. After two minutes I said to Fabrizio [Piccareta, assistant manager] 'to win this game we are going to have to be lucky' because four or five players had no courage, no heart, no desire. If we play like today we deserve to be relegated. I have some experience in football. Christmas time is coming and for some of the players it's unusual for them to play over the Christmas period. 
"Maybe they would like a winter break, they're thinking about shopping, organising somewhere to go next weekend for two or three days. That is typical. Their brains are somewhere else. Maybe Rafa's [Raffaele De Vita] is already in Italy? He is one but there are others - Mehdi [Kerrouche], [Lukas] Magera, [Lander] Gabilondo. I attack Gabilondo because I know he is better than this, and I get angry as his brain is probably in Spain.
"From now on I will not treat them as men, because six or seven don't deserve to be treated as a man. We arranged a day off after next weekend. If they don't win against Morecambe we don't have a day off. They are not man enough to have two or three days off to go and celebrate before Torquay. I'm sorry for the six or seven who always give their best but when we talk about a group, everybody must pay the price."

Sunday, December 11

Reading rampant against red-card Irons

Reading 3 West Ham 0

We’re in Colchester at a boutique B & B celebrating our wedding anniversary (strangely Her Indoors wasn’t tempted by Reading away) wondering what the Romans ever did for us. Matt texts from Reading, revealing that he is in his lucky Dukla Prague away shirt accompanied by WAG Lisa. They're at Reading Art Gallery and Museum for lunch looking at a Robert Gillmor retrospective. I raise the middle class football fan stakes by revealing we’re at Tudor Dancing in the pre-Norman Trinity church made from recycled Roman bricks and stone.

Sadly that lucky Dukla Prague away shirt appears to have turned West Ham into a team of Half-Man Half Biscuit. As we’re touring Colchester Castle, built on the site of the temple sacked by Boudica, we discover that West Ham are also under siege from barbarian tribes. Matt’s text reads: “0-3 down + down to 9 men. 4 minutes left – would take a draw.”

Our cause isn’t helped by Demel going off injured after two minutes. Looking at The Football League Show, Faubert nearly sets up Collison and we almost score through Diop. In a scrappy game we look fairly comfortable at 0-0 at half-time. But the Irons suffer from Joey O’Brien stupidly getting involved in some handbags with Hunt and then lunging in on McAnuff for two quick yellow cards. From the free kick West Ham reject McAnuff finds space on the left to set up Pearce to score. The second goal sees La Fondre cross over the stranded Green and the unmarked Church head home.

Jack Collison compounds the situation by also getting red-carded. Kebe extracts the urine by miming pulling up his socks and Collison retaliates by clattering into him. He was provoked by Kebe’s showboating, but it’s a stupid reaction.

Reading score a third as Church gets ahead ofCole, on as a sub, to score with another header from a set piece.

Two defeats in a row is getting worrying, though we remain second. Our defence, so solid all season, has conceded five bad goals in two games. Cole had a really good game against Burnley, but was on the bench against Reading, which seems strange from Big Sam, while we have O’Brien and Collison suspended and Taylor, Demel and Baldock injured. Suddenly Barnsley becomes a very important game indeed.

Saturday, December 10

Fit again Irons

Good news is that Henri Lansbury is fit to return to the squad at Reading today, compensating for the possible loss of Matt Taylor again.

Meanwhile it's also pleasing to see Gary O'Neil get 45 minutes action with the development squad after a terrible ankle injury against Aston Villa last season. An unsung team player, he might, arguably, have kept us up last season had he stayed fit. He's still six weeks away from first-team action but O'Neil played in the Portsmouth side that won the Championship and may have a big say in the final 20 games of the season.

Friday, December 9

Olympian Hammerettes

The Government has controversially doubled the budget for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics to £80 million. Apparently David Cameron saw the original plans and authorised an extra £41 million. A strange decision in this age of austerity and surely a waste of money when the answer lies in E13. Couldn't we just get Jeremy Nicholas and the reformed Hammerettes to do it instead? If The Kids Are United, Bubbles and Twist and Shout would surely get the Games off to a rousing start...

Wednesday, December 7


Watched the premiere of Cass Pennant’s new documentary film Casuals at Borough High Street’s Roxy Bar last week.

It’s a fascinating piece of soccer sociology, exploring the terrace-inspired Casual look of the 1980s. At the height of Thatcherism, suddenly the terraces were full of lads with wedge cuts wearing Fila, Tacchini, Pringle, Ellesse and pre-chav Burberry.

Produced and written by Pennant, and directed by Nick Kelly, Casuals is narrated by Peter Hooton of The Farm, and has contributions from the likes of Pat Nevin and Paolo Hewitt.

Casuals begins in Brighton and looks at how the mod look was updated by the Casuals. The movement started off in Liverpool, where everyone wanted what they called  “Adeedas” (Adidas) trainers.

The Scousers would use European trips to search out and purloin ever more exclusive brands.  It was all about one-upmanship, and some lads could return from spending a week’s wages on the latest Tacchini gear only to find that another more exclusive label was in vogue. Bizarrely Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe became terrace fashion heroes as the kids bought into Fila and Ellesse tops. 

There’s interesting contributions from female casuals such as Helen Thomas from the Cardiff Soul Crew and Bev Thompson from Leicester Baby squad, as well as Asian Riaz Khan and the “Lacoste Lefties” from the Cardiff Soul Crew.

Quite a few (designer) anoraks are on display too. From the bloke who’s got 400 Adidas trainers round his gaff, to Neil Primett owner of 80s Casual Classics with his endless racks of Fila tops.

Casuals is an excellent social document of a time when football was in a different pre-Sky/Premier League age. 

Could the Casuals return? Well, my crew in the East Stand favours Dukla Prague away shirts (Matt), Somerset Maugham jackets and cigars (Fraser), AC/DC denim jackets (Nigel) and Berghaus fleeces, Craghopper trousers and DMs (me), though strangely no young Scallies have started to imitate us. Give it time though, and they’ll realise we’re style icons.

Sunday, December 4

Festive mugging

West Ham 1 Burnley 2

There’s much excitement in Ken’s Café: Matt has been on a mini-break to Aylesbury that didn’t involve going to a football match while Nigel has met Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, along with CQ dressed in purple (a Strange Kind of Woman?). He’s not looked so excited since he bought Made in Japan on vinyl. Though he does admit it might be a Black Night if West Ham lose.

Worryingly though, Nigel is so elated by his Purple encounter that he has decided to embrace positivity with West Ham too. Having declared that we’d beat Bristol City by “a cricket score” he announces, “soon the floodgates will open”. Matt, Fraser and myself know that you should never interfere with West Ham’s karma in such fashion; always assume we are going to lose.

Sure enough we dominate the first half but Taylor heads over and Nolan prods wide when surely he should score. Green has not had a shot to save. Cole is having a good game, bringing other players into the game with his knock downs and making some good runs, but you do wonder if we should have two up front at home.

Finally we make the breakthrough when Cole nods on Green's goal kick and Nolan cleverly lobs the keeper after 52 minutes. We take Taylor off for Piquionne. Nigel says it proves us Jeremiahs wrong.

Only five minutes later Burnley's Junior Stanislas (sold by Big Sam) pings over a routine cross and McCann rises above Faye and heads home with their first effort on target.

We batter the Burnley goal and completely dominate midfield. It’s actually one of our better home performances of the season. Collison hits the post and Piquionne makes a fine run but releases the ball at the wrong moment.

Green makes a fine stop from a long distance Burnley effort. Nigel says we'll score soon and that as Southampton are losing "we'll go top if we win". After 75 minutes Burnley get their first corner. Sam Vokes rises above Nolan to score with a powerful header. It’s a complete mugging.

West Ham continue to press with Carew, Cole and Piquionne up front and Faubert’s woeful header wide summing up our afternoon. Every cross seems to land on a Burnley head and we look tired and demoralised. Nigel's floodgates remain barred and triple-locked by Banham. Piquionne has a goal bound shot stopped by a defender's face and Cole shoots narrowly wide.

“There’s only one person to blame and that’s Nigel,” exclaims Matt, although Nigel feebly tries to argue that the players and manager might come into it also.

We’ve been desperately unlucky, but have been punished for bad defending and poor finishing and Nigel’s Deep Purple-inspired over-confidence.

We’ve been undone by Burnley’s Machine Head. And there could be Smoke on the Water when Nigel burns his lucky West Ham baseball cap by the Thames.

Saturday, December 3

Hayden Foxe where are you?

In yesterday's Evening Standard Sam Allardyce reveals that it's the players' Christmas party after today's game. We have a glorious tradition of misbehaviour at these events, dating back to Hayden Foxe weeing in a plant pot in 2001 and Trevor Sinclair getting into a fracas with a car in Romford in 'Arry's time.

Still, Big Sam, and Davids Sullivan and Gold will all be attending, presumably on the principle that if the headmaster's around the players will behave. Kevin Nolan is organising the bash, and as Andy Carroll's former landlord (his car got burned out while Carroll was lodger) you have to hope he knows how to deal with any miscreants.

Though if they all go on to Sugar Hut afterwards, who knows what might happen...