A text arrives from Alison in Maldon suggesting ”West Ham with a £35 million player debut AND new Dr Who today! Are you in heaven?” Which makes me wonder if West Ham will now lose 5-0 as it all seems to be going too well. But the day gets off to a good start as my daughters are here on kids for a quid tickets and Lola’s pal Yasmin is at her first West Ham game. We visit the Who Shop in Barking Road pre-game, where lots of Whovians are very excited by the new show being on the red button and Nell picks up a Rory the Centurion Lego figure.
Before the kick-off Jeremy Nicholas introduces Yossi Benayoun and the injured Matt Jarvis to the crowd before playing Twist and Shout and Bubbles. There’s some bloke who needs an alarm clock arriving late in the first minute (hang on it’s Matt, back from the Welsh coast having missed Matthias Fanimo’s debut) but amid all the seat shuffling Collins heads the ball back into the Fulham half and Carroll wins the ball in the air to flick it on Vaz Te who shows good composure to cross for Nolan. The clucking midfielder half volleys home with a great finish and does his obligatory chicken dance. What a start.
It’s a good turn out from our squad, with Matt and Lisa, Nigel and CQ back from cycling round Dutch dykes, Fraser, and Michael the UNIT-membership card carrying Whovian, with the kids for a quid threesome behind us.
The presence of Carroll seems to make every other player raise their game. Big Andy wins another header to set up Diame, whose shot is tipped on to the bar by Schwarzer. Nolan goes close with a lob and then in an intricate passing move (Big Sam will have to knock that out of them) Vaz Te fires just wide. It looks a completely different side to the team that capitulated at Swansea. On 29 minutes we win a corner and Reid powers home a header. Blimey. Two minutes later the Fulham defence are so worried about the presence of Carroll that Hangerland misheads into the path of Taylor who drives his volley into the corner. The Fulham fans splutter into their white wine and start ordering their butlers to prepare for an early departure.
SWEET CARROLL TIME
It’s a great first half. Psychology is often underestimated in football and perhaps Andy Carroll just wants to feel loved. He’s at a club where the fans are excited to have him, the team will play to his strengths and he won’t be dropped every other week. And there’s no £35 million transfer fee to burden him. We have to congratulate the chairmen and Big Sam for being determined enough to get him. My daughter Lola also “likes the way he prances” around the pitch.
Diame has also had a great game, not only winning tackles but getting forward to shoot and showing more skill than you expect from a holding midfielder. While Mark Noble who’s West Ham through and through, makes several finely-timed tackles. James 'Voldemort' Collins is steadier this week and Reid makes several fine interceptions as well as scoring.
Early in the second half Vaz Te wins a free kick and Taylor’s effort pings off Schwarzer. Fulham have a better half and sub Berbatov makes a difference. The enthusiastic Carroll falls awkwardly competing with Hangerland and tweaks a hamstring. It wouldn’t be West Ham is something didn’t go wrong. Still, at least he won't be able to celebrate at Faces or Sugar Hut. Carroll’s cheered off as Cole replaces him. Jaaskalainen makes a fine double save to deny Rodallega and Duff late on, which should be good for his confidence. Even Nigel admits we might have at least a point as we reach 90 minutes without mishap. And for a couple of hours we're in a Champions League spot.
The perfect day is rounded off by a further visit to the museum through the Tardis door in in the Who Shop followed by a visit to the Newham Bookshop and Dr Who returning on tele with the Asylum of the Daleks to which Martin Jol might be admitted, as he is whinging to the press about long-ball goals. We actually played a lot of good football in the first half and as Big Sam says: “In between our ‘long ball three goals’ we outplayed Fulham, that is simple, totally and utterly. If Martin can’t defend properly with his team then he really shouldn’t criticise the way we scored our goals.”