West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul and Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals.
Monday, December 10
West Ham 2 Liverpool 3
The day begins with a
trip to Romford Waterstones where Ian Ayris is signing copies of his West Ham-themed coming-of-age novel Abide With Me and I’m
pleased to see my book The Joy of Essex on sale at the counter. Returning to Upton Park proves difficult. There’s a suicide at Goodmayes (could it be a shock jock?) and the station’s closed so it’s
an interminable bus ride to Stratford, where I get off at the top of Green
Street and leg it to the ground. One piece of serendipity is my excellent pre-match curry at Khana Kazana in Green Street.
So it’s no Suarez and
Liverpool have been detained an extra night in Italy after their Europa League
exertions on Thursday. What could possibly go wrong? Inside Ken’s Café Nigel’s
been to see Eddie and the Hot Rods the previous night and is sporting the badge
to prove it. Apparently they did anything they wanna do. While Matt is
delighted to be going to West Brom, the highest ground in England, not that
he’s a collector of football trivia.
Liverpool start of
well and take an early lead after 11 minutes as Glenn Johnson beats Jarvis and
cuts inside to unleash an unstoppable thirty yarder into the top corner. He
doesn’t celebrate but we’re still a goal down. Johnson breaks again and sets up
Sterling for a shot that he fires just wide.
Sterling has the
beating of Demel, but slowly West Ham start to show some of the form they
displayed against Chelsea, with Diame rampaging through midfield and Jarvis
getting in a series of crosses. On 29 minutes someone called Joe Cole comes on
for Liverpool and gets sporting applause from the home fans.
FEED THE SCOUSERS!
Diame has a goalbound shot
deflected wide by Cole’s posterior and Agger brings down Diame with a crude
professional foul on the edge of the box. Jarvis gets in another cross, it’s headed out
to Demel who shoots into the hands of Liverpool’s Allen. His arms are raised
but it’s hard to see how he could have got out of the way. Still, we’ll have
that and Noble dispatches the penalty into the corner, though Reina gets close.
“Feed the Scousers! Let them know it’s Christmas time…” sings the Bobby Moore
Stand in festive mood.
With three minutes to
go to the break a quick free kick finds Jarvis wide on the left again and his cross
is inexplicably headed into his own net by Steven Gerrard. He deserves that for
the Cup Final. Best own goal since Iain Dowie scored for Stockport.
If The Kids Are United by Sham 69 comes on at half-time to round off
a satisfying 45 minutes. McCartney replaces the struggling Demel after the
The second half kicks
of with Mystic Matt saying: ”We can’t sit back as Joe Cole is certain to
score.” Liverpool are playing some good passing stuff but don’t like it when we
cross into the box. Carlton is visibly buoyed by several choruses of “Always
believe in Carlton Cole!” and even displays some speed to pressure the
Liverpool backline. Liverpool, still threaten and Jussi does very well to tip
over Sterling’s first-time shot.
Then disaster hits us
after 73 minutes, Diame is running down the left and pulls up with an obvious
hamstring pull. “I wonder if that’s the turning point of the game,” wonders
Mystic Morris. Diame is now out for 10-12 weeks. Bizarrely Allardyce brings on
Tomkins instead of O’Neil who is at least a natural midfielder. “Why’s he
trying what failed last week,” bemoans Matt. If we give Big Sam the credit for
his substitutions last week then he has to take the blame for his poor decision
this week. Tomkins us not mobile enough to play in midfield against Allen, Cole
and Gerrard and Sam’s stubbornness is baffling.
Three minutes later a sharp
interchange of passes between Sterling and Shelvey plays in Joe Cole, who fires
home an excellent cross shot into the corner. He refuses to celebrate too. It
gets worse. On 79 minutes Henderson crosses and Collins and Shelvey lunge for the
ball. It deflects off Collins’ boot and spins wickedly over the keeper.
Allardyce waits an age
to introduce Maiga and then gives him only four minutes. He then fires a
terrible free-kick over the bar and gives the ball away. Matt goes into
meltdown “Don’t just sit there Allardyce do something! Where’s the *******
midfield? That is terrible Maiga! How can we be tired against a side that
played in Europe on Thursday night?”
DOWN TO THE BARE BONES
The whistle goes.
Jeremy Nicholas plays the Arctic Monkeys and the Scousers celebrate. “Assuming
Shelvey got the third, all three goals were scored by players who at some point
have played for West Ham,” muses Nigel. We retreat to the Central to sample the
least-edifying ales known to humanity with Nigel’s mate Ken. Michael the
Whovian heads off early to watch the London Symphony Orchestra. Matt and Nigel
tell him it’s not worth it as they don’t have any original members. And then
Dylan’s Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of
Hearts is an unlikely choice over the speakers and soon empties the pub. We
head back to the station past the flash motors and personalised number plates
of David Gold and David Sullivan, with Nigel getting a wave.
We try to remember
that we are after all a newly promoted side with 22 points. It’s been a good
game and Liverpool look like an improving side that will make the top six. We
still have eight points from Sam’s batch of eight difficult fixtures. But the
squad is thinner than most of the models on the front of Heat. We need a fit Diarra to replace Diame and to get Vaz Te,
Carroll, Benayoun and Collison back, plus another couple of squad players in