Tuesday, January 31

Run over by the Tractor Boys

Ipswich Town 5 West Ham 1

Disastrous result at Portman Road, the only slight positive being that Southampton only drew leaving West Ham still top. A fan handcuffed himself to the post at Everton, but it seems a few WHU fans should have also handcuffed themselves to Robert Green's posts in an effort to keep the score down. Conceding after two minutes is very poor and just when we get it back to 2-1 we concede a dodgy penalty to go 3-1 down at half-time. Cole headed against the post early on, but this is surely proof that we need those new players. Ravel Morrison has just signed but buggered if I'm going to wait up for the close of the transfer window after this…

Three strikers in?

"Moons of madness!" as the Captain in the Doctor Who story The Pirate Planet once hollered. It's getting frantic on deadline day. Instead of Tevez we could be getting Vaz Te, claims Eurosport. Barnsley striker Ricardo Vaz Te has knocked in 12 goals this season and, surprise surprise, used to play for Bolton. Meanwhile Sky Sports News claims that Bristol City's Nicky Maynard is in talks at Upton Park. Both are players who can score in the Championship and should be reasonably priced, paticularly as Maynard's contract expires in the summer. And we're also supposed to be after Brazilian striker Ze Eduardo…

Shopping at Morrison's

Today's Guardian claims we're about to sign Man United wonder kid Ravel Morrison. Good in one sense, in that Sir Alex Ferguson reckons he's the most naturally gifted kid he's seen since Giggs and Scholes. Getting him, after Newcastle showed an interest, would be something of a coup for West Ham. The downside is that United have given upon him because, apparently, he has a huge attitude problem.

In last week's Observer there was a big feature by Daniel Taylor on Morrison. He's reportedly asked for 30k a week (denied by the player), missed training and almost been to jail for intimidating a witness and in another case smashing up his girlfriend's phone. Can Sam Allardyce succeed where Fergie has failed? It might be good to get him away from Manchester, but then think of the temptations in London and indeed Sugar Hut... Would be entertaining at least, as it's a long time since we've had a proper bad boy.

Monday, January 30

Plan B?

Just over 24 hours left in the transfer window. It looks like Rangers; Jelavic is going to Everton, so let's hope Allardyce has a Plan B. Carew and Piquionne haven't been good enough as back up strikers, so we really need someone to supplement Cole and the inexperienced Baldock.

Southampton have just signed Billy Sharp from Doncaster, so we too have to increase our firepower and reduce our reliance on 1-0 wins. It's going to be a difficult day to do business while also playing at Ipswich, but hopefully our new scout Wilkins Micawber will turn something up.

Sunday, January 29

Farewell Herita

Herita Ilunga has had his contract terminated by mutual consent. So that's his £3 million transfer fee written off. A shame, as Ilunga looked a really good find in his first season under Zola. Sadly, he's never looked the same player after a series of injuries. However, he's played in the first four games of this season and also been getting a game at Doncaster. Presumably the decision to rip up his contract and pay him off has been taken to get his salary off our books. A vote of confidence in Danny Potts, if nothing else.

Not up for the Cup

A quiet weekend for West Ham. When was the last time we went out of both cups in the first ties we played? I make it 1998-1999 when we lost to Northampton Town over two legs in the League Cup and Swansea City in an FA Cup replay at Upton Park. Let's hope it's worth the sacrifice by gaining automatic promotion.

Friday, January 27

No one likes them, but please go to the game

Just had an email from West Ham inviting me to bring a guest to sample the "brilliant atmosphere" against Millwall. Now I've been to many Millwall games, but I wouldn't actually describe the atmosphere as brilliant. Not unless your idea of relaxation is a holiday in Somalia, Syria or Libya during the civil war. Hope it all goes off peacefully, but it's not exactly a pleasant day out, as we saw in that infamous League Cup tie.

Striker light

We've upped our offer for Rangers striker Nikica Jelavic to £7million. Big money for a Championship side, but it shows the board are ambitious enough to give the side that extra impetus to ensure the Irons gain automatic promotion. Could be we lose out to a Premier League club though... We certainly need to sign someone as can't see Cole and Baldock playing every game.

Wednesday, January 25

Olympic bid in flames?

Today's Evening Standard reports that the move to the Olympic Stadium is in fresh doubt. West Ham are not going to submit a formal bid by March 23 without improved terms and reassurances on a number of issues, including a say in the redesign, naming rights and the fact that the athletics season gives us only two weeks for a grass football pitch to be prepared. We're also refusing to possibly share with London Wasps on the grounds that rugby would damage the pitch.

It might just be the board playing hardball, but they are right to do that, as West Ham is the only football show in town. We don't have to sell Upton Park and move unless the deal is right.

Interesting too that in the bbcsport.com video of David Gold at Saturday's game he said that the seats would be no further away from the pitch than the current gap between the Alpari Stand and the pitch. If we're not offered that then it's time to stay at Upton Park.

Tuesday, January 24

Harry's 300K

Interesting to note that in the Harry Redknapp court case the Inland Revenue first started investigating him after he received £300,000 from the £18m Rio Ferdinand transfer from West Ham to Leeds in 2000. There's a whole chapter on Harry in Tom Bower's book Broken Dreams, which suggests this £300k was a bonus for "not spending any of the Rio sale money on new players", which always sounded odd, as Harry splurged most of the dosh on the likes of Song, Camara, Soma, Dailly, Todorov, Schemmel and the loan of Diawara. Was it actually a percentage of the Rio fee instead? It would be revealing to hear what West Ham's chairman at the time, Terry Brown, has to say about this, particularly as Redknapp was sacked in mysterious circumstances at the end of the 2000-01 season.

Monday, January 23

We are top of the league, I said we are top of the league!

Great result at St Mary's. Southampton have just lost 2-0 at home. We're three points clear and guaranteed to be top for another eight days until we play at Ipswich next Tuesday. OK, we're not playing well, but my children are 13 and 10 and it's the first time we've been top of anything in their lifetimes. Have just dispatched my man down to the cellar to break out the real ale. Rejoice!

Tomkins tied-up

Great news that James Tomkins has signed a new four year contract with the Irons. Presumably we've had to up his wages with Newcastle, QPR and Spurs sniffing around, but he's worth it. As a former firm but fair centre half Big Sam will recognise his talent. The Basildon-born Tomkins has certainly looked far too good for the Championship this season and is the player we should be building our defence around...

Keane as mustard

Was the Robbie Keane who scored two brilliant goals for Aston Villa at Wolves on Saturday related to the Robbie Keane who missed an easy chance against Blackburn consigning us to relegation and scored just twice in his loan spell at the Irons? He's a good player, but Avram never quite know whether to play him or not and we certainly failed to get the best out of him. Or was he a double agent for Spurs all along?

Sunday, January 22

We are top of the league (just)…

West Ham 2 Nottingham Forest 1

Matt says David Gold has been in Ken’s CafĂ© with a camera crew. Carol has declined to have her photo taken with him and remembers the times Gold was growing up as a young entrepreneur in Green Street. “The stories I could tell you about him…”

There’s a full house in Ken’s: Matt, Nigel, The Gav, Michael the Whovian, and Big Joe organizing Peterborough away tickets. My daughters Lola and Nell get in free today as they’re Academy members and announce the sausage, egg chips and beans plus a Coke and two slices up to par.

We’re strangely muted in the first half in front of 31,000 fans. Forest miss a good chance when Tudgay blazes over and have the better of the early stages. Collison forces a good save from Lee Camp and Diop pulls up with a hamstring injury to be replaced by Lansbury.

Faubert looks our most dangerous crosser but we achieve little. The best moment for Lola and Nell is when the ball gets lodged on the roof of the East Stand.

Right on 45 minutes we get a piece of luck. Lansbury’s cross hits Guy Moussi on the hand and Noble thumps home the penalty.

We play a little better in the second half, with Lansbury a more creative force than Diop.

Forest also threaten and look better than their league position suggests. Green produces a good save from a one-on-one chance and then the men in black have a corner cleared off the line.

After 63 minutes we get another penalty. No one at our end can see what it’s for, but the TV cameras later reveal a clear handball. Noble strokes this one home to seemingly make the game safe.

There’s a nice round of applause from the home fans for Forest’s Marlon Harewood when he’s taken off.

It would be nice to actually score from open play though. Camp makes a brilliant save from Lansbury’s snap volley. Mark Noble drags a shot wide. Jack Collison fails to shoot early enough, beats a couple of defenders and then allows Camp to pull off a fine tip-over. You can see why we need a new striker. Baldock is taken off and Carlton Cole heads wide when well placed and has a volley go out for a throw-in.

We’ve not played well and had some luck but at least we see the game out. Tomkins has been excellent at the back and wins the MOTM award, while Reid has played well too.

“I’m feeling quietly confident,” I tell Michael the Whovian in the third minute of added time. Immediately McGugan sweeps home a fine 20-yard volley for Forest.

Luckily the ref blows for full time almost immediately. Jeremy Nicholas plays Bubbles but there’s a bizarrely muted atmosphere for a team that has just reached the top of the league for the first time this season. It’s not been pretty, and we’ve relied on penalties and luck, but the side has at least shown a collective resolve to get a result when playing poorly.

As Allardyce says on The Football League Show, he’s shifted 22 players and brought in 12, so asking for flowing football at this stage may be a bit premature, though we do surely deserve better than our slow first half performance. Even though we need a new striker and winger we’re still top of the league, which has to be better than expected progress after the debacle of last season. Let’s hope Southampton drop points on Monday night.

Saturday, January 21

What larks, Pip

Nice to see a full page advert in yesterday's Evening Standard offering cheaper tickets for today's game. It's also fee for Academy members so I'll be bringing my daughters.

That Standard ad featured pictures of Russell Brand and Ray Winstone by the offer of VIP seats from £59. Ray Winstone recently played Magwitch as an Essex geeezer on the run in Great Expectations on the BBC at Christmas. As David Nicholls' screenplay had a few rewrites, perhaps a modern twist to the Dickens tale might involve Pip being told he's got Great Expectations by Mr Jaggers only to discover that Magwitch has in fact bought him a box at West Ham?

Meanwhile having given up on Huddersfield's Jordan Rhodes it seems we've made Glasgow Rangers' Croatian Nikica Jelavic our number one target and have bid £6 million according to various papers... Irons!

Friday, January 20


Thanks to everyone who's ever logged on to this blog and helped it reach a landmark 150,000 views. Your time is much appreciated. COYI!

Tuesday, January 17

Winston's bulldog spirit

Is Winston Reid the most battered player in the Championship? In the last two games he's won two penalties and seen Norris of Portsmouth sent off for fouling him. The Kiwi centre back has made an impressive return to the side after two months out and looks a different player this season. One impressive thing about Allardyce is how he's got the defence playing as a unit and reinvigorated Rob Green. He's certainly restored the confidence of Reid and with Tomkins, Faye and John vying for two spots we actually have competition at the back.

Monday, January 16

Are you sure that's entirely wise, Captain?

With not quite perfect timing, on Saturday the club website invited fans to join a June cruise on a luxury liner with legends Phil Parkes, Alan Taylor, Alan Devonshire and Mark Ward. The text reads:

A group of West Ham United legends will be joining guests on a special Mediterranean cruise taking place in June. Phil Parkes, Alan Taylor, Alan Devonshire and Mark Ward will all be joining holidaymakers on a trip around some of the most eye-catching destinations in Europe. Each night a different legend will take part in an exclusive show before autograph and photo opportunities for fans. The seven-night trip takes place from 16th-23rd June 2012 and takes in Villefrance, Livorno, Civitaveccia, La Goulette and Barcelona and costs from £799 per person, which includes all food and drink. For more information on the trip, which is run by nexttrips.co.uk, call 0844 357 1635.

Sunday, January 15

Sticking it up Pompey

Portsmouth 0 West Ham 1

Another good away win thanks to Mark Noble's penalty, won by Winston Reid. Sounds like we missed a lot of chances against ten men after Norris' sending off, with Collison hitting the bar and Nolan slicing wide. Matt was at the game and his verdict was:  "Very poor. Green, Reid and Tomkins did well. Faubert had a nightmare. Cole was isolated and often offside and we passed badly and kept giving away possession."

Still, winning while not playing well is not a bad habit to get into, though as usual Big Sam insists we played some great stuff without finishing it off. If we ever do get it together we'll surely tonk someone.

Saturday, January 14

Jermain Defoe: serial club lover

Nice to see Jermain Defoe has asked to leave Spurs just as they're challenging for the title. That will be really good for morale and the silly striker doesn't seem to realise he might actually win something and play a decent number of games. Almost beats handing a transfer request in within 24 hours of West Ham being relegated. Still, anything that stops Spurs winning a trophy has to be good for us.

Ullo John, gotta new motor?

We've got George John to add some competition to the centre back spots alongside Tomkins, Reid and Faye. George, whose parents are Greek, has been signed on loan and with an option to buy in five weeks time.

The 24-year-old John has played 93 times for Dallas in the National Soccer League in the United States, so is reasonably experienced. The standard may not be great there, but it's improving and the success of Donovan at Everton and Holden at Bolton offers some hope he may turn out to be a bargain. Let's hope Sam has done his homework.

Friday, January 13

Beatles reunited

Big Sam says we're close to signing George John from from MLS side FC Dallas (a move set up on a grassy knoll?). The question is, when do we get Paul and Ringo?

Wednesday, January 11

Alas poor Yannick?

Sky Sports News claims we're after Benin international Yannick Sagbo, who plays for Evian (a watered down side?) in France. He's also Guy Demel's half-brother, though hopefully less injury-prone. The 22-year-old striker has told Sky: "Joining West Ham would be ideal for me." And at least Sagbo has chanting possibilities, as well as sounding like a character from Lord of the Rings.

So far we've apparently been after Cardiff's Peter Whittingham, Jordan Rhodes of Huddersfield and Townsend of Tottenham, who ended up at Leeds, and some defender playing in the US. Be nice to see something happen 11 days into the window.

Monday, January 9

There's only one Kenny Brown

Nigel Morris reports on Kenny Brown's Tooting Army 

We all remember Kenny Brown for the goal he scored against Manchester United in 1992 to halt their charge towards the title – Alex Ferguson later said it was the “luckiest goal imaginable” and moaned about the Hammers’ “obscene effort”.

Stopping Man Utd could be child’s play compared with his latest task – helping to turn around the fortunes of a struggling non-league team.

I was among the 303 at the Imperial Fields, Morden, to see Kenny’s Tooting and Mitcham team – third from bottom in the Ryman Premier League – host table-topping Billericay Town on Saturday.

On paper it should have been an easy away win for the Essex boys, who have already beaten the ‘Terrors’ 5-1 this season. To borrow an old Peter Cook joke, it was a shame they were playing on grass at the weekend.

After trailing 2-1 at half time, T&M turned it round to romp home deserved 4-2 winners. And guess who scored the third goal? Bertie Brayley, a stalwart of our glorious 1999 Youth Cup winning team alongside Joe Cole and Michael Carrick.

He didn’t make it in the Premiership but, illustrating how little separates success and failure at the top level, has had a very respectable career in the non-league. Brayley, now 30 and Brown’s deputy, showed a flash of class to chip into the net for the crucial breakthrough.

Brown only went to T&M last month…and appears already to be injecting some spirit into his squad. His players went into a mass huddle after the final whistle, before sprinting off in a lap of honour. The crowd cheered the team off and chanted Kenny’s name…just like that glorious afternoon at Upton Park nearly 20 years ago.

It’s early days yet – T&M are now fourth from bottom – but Brown’s boys might just be heading in the right direction. I’m sure he would appreciate a visit from any Hammers at a loose end in south London….

Extracting the urine

In Robert Peston's Among The Managers, a Radio 4 programme , comparing football and business managers, Sam Allardyce revealed: "I like to start off in the morning with a urine test, testing the nutritional value of breakfast, that kind of thing," said Big Sam, referring to his players. We've had many a manager in the past who's taken the urine, but never before in the name of science.

Sunday, January 8

Concentrating on the league

Sheffield Wed 1 West Ham 0

A predictable defeat for our weakened side in the FA Cup, going down to a late winner. As my late Uncle Arthur used to say, we didn't know if it was Sheffield Wednesday or Shrove Tuesday.

Matt's second half text, written after visiting a Sondheim musical in Sheffield on Saturday night and a metalwork exhibition at the Millennium Gallery today, summed it up: "We are making them look good. Just can not see who will score for us today. Sears and Carew miles off the pace - might as well try Hall, Monty or Noubs." At full time, fortified by drinking Tether in the Red Deer, he comments: "Poor performance esp Carew, Sears and O'Neil with Lansbury v disappointing and Sam's tactics with the subs baffling."

Listening to the second half on Radio London it seems Wednesday missed a couple of sitters in the first half, Baldock had a penalty well saved and Nouble missed an open goal in the 11 minutes of injury time.

Meanwhile Nigel comments "Cup Final breakfast postponed for another year. Looks like I will be getting  my pension first." And Fraser says: "Ah well, it means Sam can concentrate on scraping through in the league with dull 1-0 wins."

Wednesday weakened

Interesting whom Allardyce has left out today. No Green, Tomkins, Noble, Nolan or Cole in the line-up suggests these are the five players he doesn't want to see getting injured if we are to win promotion.

Meanwhile some good opportunities for the younger players, though sad to see the FA Cup is now a distraction, six years after it gave West Ham the greatest moment in the club's recent history. Though with 46 games and the club in massive debt, you have to say Big Sam is right to prioritise the league.

Friday, January 6

Hands off Tomkins

Today's Daily Telegraph claims we're in talks with James Tomkins about an extended five-year contact, following reported bids from Newcastle and QPR and possible interest from Tottenham. We would be crazy to sell unless it's an Andy Carroll-style silly money offer and Sullivan and Gold appear to realise this.

Better news is that QPR have now bid for Blackburn's Christopher Samba, who might also interest Newcastle. Now all we have to do is confiscate Tomka's mobile and keep him locked up in a windowless room under the Alpari Stand until Jan 31.

Thursday, January 5

The Ex Files

Another great goal from Demba Ba for Newcastle against Man United last night. Inspired by Pards as manager as well.

Wherever you look in the Premiership it seems you can find ex-West Ham players. Scott Parker and Defoe at Spurs, Collins at Villa, Rio Ferdinand and Carrick at Man United, Lampard at Chelsea, Reo-Coker at Bolton, Matty Etherington and Matthew Upson at Stoke, Zamora at Fulham, Johnson and Bellamy at Liverpool, and Anton Ferdinand, Gabbidon and Dyer (though of course he never plays) at QPR.

Many of these players left due to two relegations, but even so, to see so much talent elsewhere is a sign of long-term mismanagement on an epic scale.

Wednesday, January 4

I'm dreaming of a Frankie Nouble?

Could Frank Nouble save us a few Euros in the transfer window? His performance as a sub against Coventry was really encouraging. He looked hungry and a viable alternative to Cole, and definitely more lively than Piquionne and Carew this season. Admittedly, he put his one chance against the keeper after a poor back pass, but generally he made things happen and lifted the whole side.

The lad scored his first WHU goal against Derby and has bagged five in eleven games while on loan to Gillingham. With Cole apparently unable to play every week he may well deserve a run in the side and could be a decent foil for Baldock.

Tuesday, January 3

The winner takes it all

West Ham 1 Coventry 0

My train back from Northallerton arrives at Kings Cross at 13.43 and then it’s a dash across London to make the kick-off. The 'voice of darts' Russ Bray is on the pitch and he's invited by Jeremy Nicholas to announce the teams. He rasps out our side like a hungover Ray Winstone who's just swallowed a packet of Fisherman’s Friends for a dodgy throat.

Part-time Matt is in Sweden looking at the Northern Lights – only couldn’t he have waited for our trip to Barnsley to see them? Or maybe he's on a secret Abba tribute tour. In a bid to make the blog he texts: ”Have been studying statues at Kiruna Cathedral of human states from prayer to desperation – reminded me of WHU.” But Fraser, Nigel (who thankfully makes no rash predictions of "cricket scores" and "floodgates opening") and his pal Michael, a man who wrote a book about Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart from Doctor Who, are all present.

We have a new team on the pitch with the Gang of Four returning from suspension and Baldock fit to start up front. We create several chances, but as usual come up against an inspired goalkeeper in City’s Murphy. He saves with his feet from Nolan and then makes a great stop from Collison’s shot.  Faubert has a shot just wide — “that was novel from Faubert” suggests Nigel — and it’s clear we need to be patient for the breakthrough. Nolan has a couple of lobs over the bar. Tomkins has a great game forcing another inspired save from Murphy and causing lots of problems going forward, but generally we make City’s defence look solid, while they threaten occasionally on the break.

In the second half, after an early scare, we batter their goal once more, although we have no natural winger and all our crosses are delivered from deep. Murphy tips Baldock’s shot on to the bar and palms away a Collison header.

Finally the breakthrough comes on 66 minutes, McCartney crosses from the left, Tomkins heads across goal and Nolan places his header in the corner before running off to do his chicken dance. That’s his seventh goal of the season and we need Mark Noble to show a similar ability to put the ball in the net.

Frank Nouble comes on and looks lively making some fine runs down the flanks, After Carew and Cole it’s a pleasant change to see a pacy, 100 per cent fit striker. We should make it two when a poor back pass leaves Nouble clear. His shot is blocked by Murphy and Noble slices the rebound wide of an empty net.

Predictably we almost allow City back into it in the final ten minutes. On full time Tomkins makes a great block, and the ball loops up to deflect on to the bar. This happens just as it’s announced that Jack Collison is man of the match, when surely it should have been Tomka or Nolan for making the breakthrough.

We hold on and I text Matt that it's the greatest 1-0 victory ever seen at Upton Park, which strangely he doesn’t believe. Results go our way with Boro and Southampton both losing 3-0 to leave WHU joint top, but second on goal difference.

We retreat to the real ale-free zone of the Central where we’re pestered as usual by that woman selling iffy DVDs and watch Joey Barton get sent off.

Big Sam does his Dr Pangloss impersonation afterwards by claiming that we have played “very, very well” which we haven’t, but we have at least shown patience and ground out a result against a team playing above itself. Bring in a striker and a new winger and we might even give someone a tonking.

Battered by Rams

Derby County 2 West Ham 1

We're away in rural Yorkshire for this one, preparing for a New Year's Eve party with James Herriot, Siegfried and Tristan and worrying about the drainage in the lower field.

No surprise to hear we've lost, as the side was always going to struggle with Collison, McCartney, Nolan and Faubert suspended and Taylor and Faye still out and Cole unable to play two games in four days. Gary O'Neil returns after a terrible injury and Reid and Lansbury are back from lengthy spells out, while Nouble makes his first start of the season.

That rustiness shows in the first ten minutes. Ball curls in a great shot from the edge of the box and Potts is not physically strong enough to win an aerial duel with Green and the Derby man puts the Rams two up.

At least we come back. The promising Nouble has a snap shot from the edge of the box saved and then pulls one back. sliding home nicely after Piquionne's lay-off. Sam brings on Baldock and Hall for his Hammers debut, but its only a fine double save from Green that denies Derby a third.

An almost inevitable defeat, but at least we'll have half a team back for Coventry.