Wednesday, February 29

Ooh, don't Twitter!

The BBC website has a report on the use of Twitter in football filmed at West Ham versus Palace. Ken's Cafe appears and there's the East End wisdom of the Queens Market stall holder on footballers who get into trouble with Twitter: "When you're driving your Aston Martin home, your children go to private school, and you're having a dip in the pool with your beautiful wife, you're on holiday in Mauritius, think to yourself I can handle that bit of ag!" However, even the revelation that the Pope is a user can't persuade Big Sam to start tweeting. He declares there's "150 per cent no chance" of him opening an account.

Monday, February 27

Hair today gone tomorrow: West Ham's dodgy Barnets

Is Ricardo Vaz Te's mohican the dodgiest Barnet ever seen at West Ham? It's all a bit Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver gone wrong. A half-time discussion evoked all of David James' hairstyles (anyone remember his Simba the Lion King?), Javier Margas' claret and blue rinse, Adam Nowland's mohican, Bishop's mullet, Morley's mullet and 'tache, Julian Dicks' Forrest Gump cut and Billy Jennings' blow-dry. Any other candidates, anyone?

Win or lose on the boos?

The papers made much of the boos at half-time and the final whistle against Palace. While there was some booing and disapproval, it didn't sound that loud to me. Part of the problem was the first half performance, where Palace could have been three-nil up. The crowd did get behind West Ham when the side improved after the interval and I don't think the lads can complain too much about the level of support. Part of the frustration was also due to hoofing balls from the half-way line towards Cole and the fact that lots of passes don't come off. Fans tend to look at a particular game and react to that rather than considering the league position.

Don't think Big Sam can cite the sendings off against Millwall and Southampton as mitigation as in both matches the players had a week to recover. But a great performance against Blackpool with ten men and no proper goalkeeper for 35 minutes would have induced some tiredness. Though as Terry Venables once said, the art of management is to "take away players' excuses". Don't think Allardyce should be handing them tiredness as a ready made excuse for a poor performance - the players have to take responsibility too.  Though hopefully a week's rest and the return of Nolan will ensure we play with more fluidity at Cardiff.

Saturday, February 25

Drawing drawing West Ham

West Ham 0 Crystal Palace 0

“It all seems too promising, the sun’s shining, we’re all expecting a thrashing,” opines Matt with the eye of a seasoned West Ham watcher.

In Ken’s Café there’s time for a quick cup of tea and KitKat with Big Phill, Big Joe, Matt, Michael and Iain Dale, fresh from his Sullivan exclusive making the red-tops and the Guardian, before rushing for the 12.45 kick off. Though Michael does have time to lean across the counter and give Carol a kiss.

In the stadium Palace fire a shot wide in the first minute when they should have scored and it’s clear we’re out of sorts. Palace could be 3-0 up at half-time.

Super Robert Green makes two good saves from long range strikes by Martin and then from Jedinak and surpasses himself with a great tip over of Zaha’s deflected shot. We try to get down to the usual ten men. Tomkins gets a knock on the head goes off briefly and returns looking groggy.

Matt normally doesn’t swear until the 70th minute but he’s seen too much after half an hour here. “How can we not take a f***ing throw-in? Jesus! Vaz Te can’t control it! Take him off! Collison!! What’s Reid doing? He’s worse than Faubert!”

We know the real cause. Nigel has deserted his chums to take up a position in an executive box with one of his non-brawling MP mates. We remember him when he was just a poor kid in the East End of Brentwood. And he’s probably predicted a cricket score over white wine and canapés.

On the left Vaz Te looks like one of those flair players who are either brilliant or terrible, but nothing in between. Reid has a nightmare and gets everything wrong for the first 45 minutes, McCartney is being outpaced by Zaha, Tomkins isn’t mobile enough for midfield at home, Faubert is isolated out wide while Maynard has no service. Only Faye saves us with some great last-ditch challenges.

We improve a little in the second half as Cole replaces Faubert. Later O’Neil replaces the foundering Vaz Te and Baldock, on for Maynard, almost scores with his first shot, a low shot saved by Speroni’s legs. Cole scuffs another good chance wide. Our best chance comes from a great Cole layoff that Baldock strikes low again only to bring out another fine save from the Palace keeper.

McCartney plays Zaha quite well in the second half but Palace still look dangerous on the break and we agree that we should take the point as we’ve played so poorly. We might even be missing the captain’s influence of Nolan, dare it be said.

Despite some late corners and muffed crosses we never really look like scoring though it’s good the crowd stay with the Hammers even as we pump hopeful balls towards Cole. Collison can't pass it straight after a good first ten minutes. The Palace fans are more concerned with chanting about Millwall than us. Maybe these early kick-offs are just bad for our bio-rhythms. Might Ravel Morrison provide the creativity Noble and Tomkins lack in midfield? 

The whole side looks terribly jaded after Blackpool and afterwards Allardyce tries to put it down to tiredness, though as someone points out Birmingham have already played 43 games and aren’t tired at all. Yet we're so tired it's unbelievable. 

“The unbeaten run continues,” says Fraser as the whistle blows.

Best part of the day is a trip to the Newham Bookshop to buy Jeremy Nicholas’s Mr Moon Has Left the Stadium and then a trip to the Black Lion, where there’s Captain Bob from the cask in the back bar. And there's Phil Whelans the man quoted on the back of Jeremy's book.

Nigel and CQ arrive at the Black Lion, possibly by helicopter, and say the massage and grape-feeding are top notch in the corporate sections.

“At least we got in the box…” sighs Nigel. 

“Which is more than West Ham did,” comes my retort, as we prepare for the inevitable Southampton win at Watford and second place.

Thursday, February 23

It is Green's Day!

Disregard the last post. Robert Green has had his sending off rescinded on the grounds that there was a covering defender and it therefore wasn't a clear goalscoring opportunity. Well done to Big Sam for some loud complaining too. And Robert has also been called up to the England squad by Stuart Pearce. Not a bad day for the Hammers' custodian and good news for everyone bar the Shouty Professor. Feeling a lot more confident about the Palace game now.

Not Green's day

Having seen the highlights, not sure what Robert Green was doing so far from his goal for the sending off at Blackpool. Still, it seems he's only getting a one-game suspension and will miss just the Palace game. David Sullivan explained in his interview with Iain Dale on West Ham Till I Die that if Marek Stech (good name for a Bond villain that) plays two more games we have to pay £700,000, so clearly we have to decide if he's up to being reserve keeper, though I've always thought he looks very promising.

The Swearing Professor Ruud Boffin has played at Blackburn last season and against Aldershot and Sheffield Wednesday this season so has some experience. And there's also Peter Kurucz, on loan at Rochdale, who could presumably be recalled. Will be interesting who Sam goes with, though clearly he has to review his no keeper on the bench policy. Keepers are very likely to get sent off for one mistake these days, as Green proved, and it's just not worth the risk. Surely four outfield players on the bench is enough to make tactical substitutions?

Meanwhile it's encouraging that Vaz Te and Maynard seem to have really livened up the forward line and Jack Collison, one of our more creative midfielders, had a good game at Blackpool too. Irons!

Wednesday, February 22

Failed in Wales

Completely bizarre ticket arrangements for the Cardiff away game. The club website states: "Cardiff City will be issuing vouchers for Standard/Family Section/Family Package/Ambulant purchases which are to be exchanged for match tickets at Cardiff West Services (approx 7 miles from Cardiff City Stadium) from 11am on the morning of the game." 
This rule was imposed by Cardiff, and all for a 1pm kick-off on a Sunday. It means you have to stop at the services if you're running late and then negotiate a queue. While you can't get to the game at all without a motor and it's not very good for our carbon bootprint either. Steve McQueen would have struggled to get to this one.

21-goal salute

One interesting fact from last night's triumph is that if you include Stanislas's goal in the Carling Cup and own goals, 21 different players have scored for West Ham this season: Cole, Nolan, Noble, Baldock, Collison, Carew, Piquionne, Reid, Tomkins, O'Brien, Parker, Taylor, Lansbury, Faubert, Diop, Nouble, Maynard, O'Neil, Vaz Te, Stanislas and two own goals. Is this some kind of record?

Meanwhile we should salute the magnificent seven who've been red carded this season and inspired us to play better with ten men: Callum McNaughton, Freddie Piquionne, Joey O'Brien, Jack Collison, Kevin Nolan, Matt Taylor and Robert Green. Four more and we've got a team!

Tuesday, February 21

4-1 to the Cockney Boys!

Blackpool 1 West Ham 4

Bloody hell - how did we do that? Found the Radio 5 commentary after watching on the club website and we only go and score twice with ten men and no goalkeeper. Always thought concepts such as 11 players and goalkeepers a bit passé. Has to be our best performance of the season and first WHU goals of the season for O'Neil and Vaz Te too. Well played Henri Lansbury, even if they never really tested you. We are top of the league! Come on you Irons!

Jeepers keepers!

Oh no! Robert Green has been sent off after 54 minutes and we have no substitute goalkeeper. Always thought Sam's policy of not naming a keeper on the bench was incredibly risky and now it's happened. That's three sending offs in three games. How can this be happening after we were coasting at 2-0?

Half-time wobble

Good news is that we're winning 2-1 at Blackpool at half-time the bad news is that we have conceded a goal to Kevin Phillips in first half added time. That's very West Ham. Great time for the Tangerines to score, though sounds like the Hammers had all the first half, with Tomkins and Maynard scoring. Let's hope Big Sam has rid the lads of any complacency during his half-time team talk.

David Sullivan interview

Well worth reading Iain Dale's interview with David Sullivan on West Ham Till I Die. The Guardian has reproduced a couple of points today, including Sullivan's assertion that Parker was pulling out of tackles in the first five games of this season, letting Ba go was a big regret and that Avram was a mistake. Also interesting to read that Sunderland offered £6 million for Upson last season and that the player turned them down. There's a lot to take in, but generally Sullivan answers with some candour. Click on the link above to read it.

Monday, February 20

West Ham: Irons in the Soul out on Kindle

My book West Ham: Irons in the Soul is re-released on Kindle on March 23. It's the story of the 2001-02 season under Glenn Roeder when West Ham finished seventh and we had Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Paolo Di Canio, Freddie Kanoute, David James and football genius Christian Dailly. There's also Hayden Foxe weeing in a plant pot at the Christmas party, Paolo's piranhas, a 7-1 defeat at Blackburn and an appearance from the Queen to round it off. Happy days. Pre-order it from the above link

Games in hand

We're West Ham United, we're second in the league! Shame Southampton had to beat Derby and go top but we do have two games in hand. Only I'm trying to think when games in hand were any use to West Ham. They were the perpetual fallback of the hopelessly optimistic during the relegation-flirting years. We clung to those games in hand like an alcoholic claiming there was still hope because he never drank before 10am. Maybe it will be different in the Championship - a win at Blackpool and we're back top. And the Tangerines' defence looked one of the worst in the division at Upton Park - though that probably means they'll be impregnable on Tuesday night.

Friday, February 17

There goes Freddie...

So 13-year-old Freddie Sears has joined Colchester on loan. Always viewed Freddie with some affection, in fact I've seen all his three goals, at home to Blackburn, Wolves and Burnley. Strange to think that just under a year ago he was giving Ashley Cole a hard time an an away game at Chelsea. Seems like a good move for young Freddie, who wasn't going to get many chances after our influx of strikers. He still looks lightweight at times, and League One may be more his level. And we still have to decide if he's a wide midfielder or striker. Yet on his rare cameos this season, such as at Brighton, he's invariably done well for the team. Good luck in Essex, Freddie.

Thursday, February 16

Ravel with a cause

Ravel Morrisson is being charged by the FA (before he's even made his Hammers debut) over a homophobic word he used on Twitter. Reading the Daily Mail's piece on the subject it seems he was himself called a "crackhead" and a "black f******" by other users, so he responded with similar abuse. In the circumstances an FA warning might have sufficed, since the comment has been deleted. He needs to learn that everything he writes will be picked up on and hopefully our young players will from now on receive social media training. More promising is one of his recent entries: "en route training (: best sleep I've had in ages..."

Wednesday, February 15

We've only got ten men! (Again)

West Ham 1 Southampton 1

In Ken’s Café we’re musing whether West Ham could stay forever top of the Championship rather than return to the foothills of the Premiership. Could we be in a kind of “we’re West Ham United we’re top of the league” purgatory? “It’s almost Miltonian,” muses Big Joe, mentioning West Ham’s Paradise Lost. This is possibly the first time the word Miltonian has ever been uttered in Ken’s Café.

Anyone who’s anyone appears to be in Ken’s tonight. Alison, Scott and Joey O’Brien (no relation) are up from Essex, there’s John formerly of Shelter and Matt’s brought Lisa out for a romantic Valentine’s night dinner, having earlier been on a mini-break to Margate. “You can keep the Costa Brava and all that palaver, going no farther, me I'd rather have me a day down Margate with all me family,” suggests Matt, before recommending that Tate gallery there.

Big Joe is also with his Missus, and is offering Candy a tour of the Central and other Barking Road boozers after the match, along with Big Phill trying to decide which one Bobby Moore used to own.

There’s a good turnout in the stadium and a great atmosphere, helped by the noisy Saints contingent. For the first twenty minutes West Ham play some of the best football of the season. In the first minute slack marking from the Saints defence allows Vaz Te to burst through and strike a low half-volley that Davis does well to save. Reid later puts a chance over the bar from a few yards out and generally we look fluid with Vaz Te adding some pace to the forward line.

Then comes a very West Ham moment as we manage to both win a penalty and get a player sent off. Noble is brought down by Billy Sharp for the penalty, which looks clear enough to us. Sharp then accuses Nobes of cheating. Matt Taylor appears to punch him and Lee Probert is straight out with his red card. Later replays suggest Taylor has only pushed Sharp in the chest, though he goes down in the fashion of Sonny Liston being floored by Muhammad Ali’s phantom punch. Stupid of Taylor to raise his arms though and indiscipline is threatening to wreck our season.

Skipper Mark Noble ends all the fuss by calmly scoring his seventh penalty of the season on his 200th appearance.

The Bobby Moore Stand serenades us with the new theme song of “We’ve only got ten men!” Big Sam removes Collison and brings on McCartney at left back. Carlton Cole takes tremendous punishment up front with no protection from the ref and is even clattered by keeper Kelvin Davis. Noble gets some great tackles in while Faubert shows great workrate but always gets his third touch slightly wrong.

We’re playing with spirit but the extra man shows as Robert Green makes a great double save from Sharp and then dives low to tip another Sharp shot wide after good skill by Lallana.

Going in still winning at the break feels like a victory. West Ham celebrate Valentine’s Day with a post-feminist half-time pitch appearance from Hayley Mac, a beauty queen from Grays and Miss Essex, Sydney Jennings. So there is hope for Russell Brand.

In the second half the ref still seems to get everything wrong. At one point Lee Probert gives Noble a free kick for stepping on the ball, though at least he doesn’t red card the ball. Faubert trips when he appears likely to score. Saints put a free header over but West Ham do a pretty sound defensive against seemingly endless corners until 15 minutes from the end.

The skillful Lallana swings in a free kick after Abdy Faye goes down like Basil Fawlty suffering from his war would in a bid to waste a bit of time. Lambert knocks the ball back and Dutch defender Hooiveld prods home a softish equalizer.

But a draw will still keep us top of the league. The Upton park faithful make a lot of noise and immediately break into Bubbles after the Saints equaliser. Best performance from the fans this season.

Maynard comes on for Cole and after some slight hesitancy from the Saints defence fires an acrobatic volley towards the top corner that forces a great save from Davis. Promising from the new boy.

“You’ve only got twelve men!” chorus the Irons fans. We survive four minutes of added time and remain top of the league.

Nigel’s alternative route to the Black Lion takes us around most of East London, but eventually we make it into the back bar for restorative pints of Maldon Gold and Captain Bob in front of Sky Sports News. Not a disaster, but we’ve had six players sent off this season and it has to stop. We could have gone four points clear if we’d kept everyone on the pitch, though in the circumstances it’s another gritty performance from the Irons. If we ever get to play with 11 men we might be quite good. 

Tuesday, February 14

The Saints come marching in...

Offered Her Indoors a romantic Valentine's Day date at Upton Park tonight but strangely she declined Kenneth's Bistro and the Academy of Football under the glow of the floodlights. Would be nice to see either Maynard and Vaz Te get a game up front alongside Cole and Morrison given some minutes to see what all the fuss is about. With Matt Taylor fit we might at least get some decent crosses in... and the midfield may have more pace without the suspended Nolan. Hopefully it will be a better result than the St Valentine's Day Massacre when we lost 6-0 at Oldham in the Littlewoods Cup Semi-Final.

Sunday, February 12

What might have been

Nasty feeling looking at Spurs v Newcastle on MOTD last night. Scott Parker starring in midfield, 16-goal Demba Ba up front for Newcastle and two successful managers that West Ham sacked in Harry Redknapp and Alan Pardew.

Saturday, February 11

Posh romance

Breaking news… My pal Matt has taken his WAG Lisa to Peterborough anyway, despite the postponement of the WHU game. After all he's going to be at West Ham v Southampton on Valentine's night, so what could be more romantic than an early Valentine's Day trip to, erm, Peterborough. The Cathedral is stunning, apparently, though everything else is closed. This is a man who has previously taken Lisa for mini-breaks in Wigan, Bolton and Stoke, all strangely coinciding with West Ham away games. A true football romantic.

Game over, man

Nothing worse than waking up to a postponed game at Peterborough. And all because it's been -13 up there overnight, which is warm to most Geordies. As I'd already booked my rail tickets it's now a case of seeing if there's a way of getting them refunded and then walking the dog. What did humans do on Saturdays before football was invented?

Friday, February 10

Harry writes better than a two-year-old...

Just checked the inside cover of Harry Redknapp: My Autobiography, from when I interviewed Harry for Loaded back in 1998. 'Arry  signed his book  with the words "GREAT INTERVIEW", admittedly in caps, but all spelt correctly. 
He was a diamond geezer throughout. We did a photo shoot in Leicester Square and he claimed not to know where he was, saying he only ever went out in the East End. He also said that his late mum had egg and chips waiting for him on the way home and that he met his missus Sandra in the Two Puddings at Stratford… At least our Harry's unlikely to get into problems with thoughts on reincarnation, as Glenn Hoddle did.

Who is the mystery man?

David James had a good piece on captaincy in last weekend's Observer and mentioned a troublesome individual at West Ham in 2002-03. He wrote:
"At West Ham we had a player who managed to alienate everyone in the first team. It was the year that we were fighting relegation and endless stories were being leaked to the press causing further upset in the dressing room. When we finally discovered the culprit, the entire team united against him. As a result he was left off the team sheet, a sensible decision taken by the manager. By Christmas, however, and ravaged by injuries, we desperately needed reinforcements. Trevor Brooking, our manager by then, called a team meeting to say: "We're struggling for numbers, we're going to have to use our pal in the next game." The consensus was that we did not want him anywhere near the first team but the logic was that, if the guy could help us win a game, then we were not in a position to hold grudges. Avoiding relegation was our priority over everything. We did not manage to dodge the drop but we did go down with a record number of points after a superb final run-in."
James has his dates slightly wrong as Brooking did not step in until Glenn Roeder's collapse in April. But there's only one individual I can think of who was dropped and came back into the side for the final run in...

Wednesday, February 8

Where's the money gone?

Whatever you think about the outcome of the Harry Redknapp court case, isn't it time the FA outlawed managers receiving any percentage of transfer fees?

Like bank bosses, top managers are paid enough. Surely a transfer fee for a player sold belongs to the club and should be used for the benefit of that club as a whole? Had Portsmouth not been paying a five per cent cut of their transfer profits to Harry, as they did with Peter Crouch, they might be in a slightly better financial situation now.

West Ham gave Harry £300k from the Rio Ferdinand transfer as a bonus, it emerged in court, and you suspect that this sort of thing goes on at many clubs. And surely if a manager gets a cut from selling star players this could create a conflict of interest with the long term aim of building a side? Light-touch regulation didn't work with the banks and you suspect that our laissez-faire football values need re-evaluating too.

Don't Twitter, Ravel

He's in trouble already. The FA is investigating Ravel Morrison over a homophobic comment made on Twitter, since deleted. You sense this won't be the first moment of controversy in Ravel's West Ham career...

Monday, February 6

Brady's bunch

Interesting interview with Karren Brady in today's Independent. Seems like she's pretty determined to get the Olympic Stadium, but on better terms, and that there is an alternative plan of redeveloping Upton Park as a 48,000 seater stadium. Also worthy noting that the club made a trading profit of nearly £7 million in the last accounts, which shows Brady and her team have made a difference after the Icelandic bunch of bankers.

Sunday, February 5

We've only got ten men!

West Ham 2 Millwall 1

It’s all quiet on the Green Street Front at 11.45am as anorak warriors Matt, Michael and myself stand our ground and partake of tea and chips in Ken's Cafe, après Millwall. Strangely, Nigel hasn’t wanted to ruin the romantic ambience of a mini-break in Paris by coming straight off the plane to West Ham versus Millwall.

It's another freezing day.“Where’s’ your windbreak?” a punter basks the burger seller outside Ken’s Cafe. “She’s inside,” quips the burger man.

It’s a strange team selection from Big Sam, with Cole alone up front, no new signings on the pitch and Tomkins in the Diop midfield enforcer role. Lansbury is the player dropped after the Ipswich debacle.

Inside Upton Park the atmosphere is lively and everyone’s up for it, but there’s none of the silliness of the League Cup encounter. The whole of the lower tier of the Centenary Stand is empty on police advice, with Millwall fans isolated in the upper tier.

Three sides of the stadium sing “Stand up if you ’ate Millwall!”, while the Bobby Moore Stand has a song about Millwall that may not go down too well at Dale Farm.

Eight minutes in comes the game changer. Nolan lunges in on Smith. Referee Mick Jones takes no time to consider Should He Stay or Should He Go and gives the West Ham skipper a straight red card. Nolan played the ball but also hit the man with a two-footed challenge, which in the current climate is a sending off.  Surely we can’t play the whole game with ten men and still win?

“Other teams always play better with ten men against us,” I say hopefully.

There’s a horrible ten minutes or so of bemused silence from the home fans, but West Ham start to impose themselves on the game despite the numerical disadvantage.

Our lads even look a bit angry. The yellow and orange booted Faubert is a constant threat on the right, and the recalled O’Brien tightens up the defence behind him.

Cole has a header over the bar and Faubert just fails to connect with McCartney’s inviting cross. Cole is doing an unselfish job for the team as the lone striker, taking a buffeting from Ward and co.

The Irons fans get behind the team again and the Bobby Moore Stand amuse themselves with a swift riposte to Millwall’s No One Likes Us song of,  “No one likes you ’cos you’re scum!”

Tomkins starts to get used to his Diop-style position and Noble takes responsibility, making some crucial tackles. Right on half-time Noble’s free kick is glanced up in the air be Reid and Carlton Cole shows great determination to rise above his man and head home. Perfect timing as the half-time whistle blows. "We've only got ten men!" taunt the home fans.

For the second half Taylor comes on for Collison and is a threat on the left. Fraser wonders if Collison is a player who can’t fit into an Allardyce team. The Allardyce tactics work though, with Taylor and Faubert on wither flank and Cole doing the work of two men in the middle.

Early in the second half McCartney crosses for Faubert to flick his header on to the bar. Will that bad lick prove crucial?

It seems so. Faye tries to shepherd the ball into touch on the goalline but it’s hooked back by Henderson to Liam ‘Del Boy’ Trotter on the edge of the box who hits a fine volley past Green.

We’ll do well to gain appoint with ten men. But encouragingly the Hammers go on to dominate the game.

David Forde punches the ball away as Faubert runs into him, and the ball falls to Winston Reid, who belts a fantastic 20-yead volley into the top corner. Yes!

This allows the Bobby Moore Stand to do a pleasing parody of Millwall’s silly ‘E-I-O” dance, arms pumping to a chant of “Let’s go f***ing mental!”

Still the chances come. Faubert slices wide and is then subbed to a standing ovation and chants of “Julien Julien Julien!” Millwall has been quite a Sentimental Education for him.

Millwall gain a number of corners and Dunne blasts just wide.

Sub Ricardo Vaz Te slices a reasonable chance wide with his first touch, but later shows good skill to set up another opportunity. Faye has to make a number of useful hoofs and headers and Tomkins makes a fine intervention. There’s a whacking five minutes of added time but somehow we hold on.

“Will Nolan get MOTM award as usual?” texts Nigel.

It’s been probably the most exciting game of the season and all with a proper atmosphere, but only two arrests.

Faced with a one-mile pub exclusion zone we take the tube to Barking. We down some Old Wallop in the Spotted Dog, in celebration of a right old walloping of Millwall. A potted history of the pub, built in the 1870s, reveals that the first landlord Mr Maynard, was deaf and killed by a train that he couldn’t hear coming at Barking station.

“Isn’t being a deaf landlord a bit of a disadvantage?” asks Fraser. It must have taken even longer to get served than in The Central.

And so we opt for another Old Wallop. Southampton only draw and we’re four points clear. Millwall might be a limited team, but in this division every team can beat each other and winning with ten men smells like team spirit. As Allardyce says afterwards, this might be a “defining moment” in the season.

Saturday, February 4

I predict a football match

Off to the Millwall game soon with a rolled up copy of Guardian Sport and a copy of John Lanchester's brilliant expose of the credit crunch, Whoops! Just hope I can get them past the Old Bill searching the fans outside the ground. And talking of well hard Kew Gardens Irons, my pal Nigel says he sincerely hopes the Millwall fans remember to use the recycling bins round the back of the away section.

Friday, February 3

The young ones

Good piece on the WHU Academy by Jamie Jackson in today's Guardian. He interviews Tony Carr who lists a number of prospects, such as Danny Potts, Robert Hall, prolific striker Elliot Lee (brother of Ollie), midfielder Mattias Fanimo and centre back Kenzer Lee. Carr reveals that Big Sam gets the youth team to play the first team every Friday, with the youngsters playing in the formation of the next opponents. That way Allardyce is constantly aware of any blossoming talent such as Pottsy.

We can now add Ravel Morrison to the list of promising youngsters. Hopefully Carr can give Big Sam some advice on how to keep talented youngsters out of trouble. A strict landlady and regular meals used to work. Perhaps he could be sent to lodge with skipper Kevin Nolan - who took Andy Carroll in at Newcastle and had his car set on fire for his trouble. Or Better still, why not send him to live with Carol from Ken's Cafe. She could sort any youngster out, particularly if Ravel was given regular duties collecting the empty tea mugs and calling out the ticket numbers.

Wednesday, February 1

Maynard and Vaz Te in…

Some compensation for the thrashing at Ipswich is that we've been the busiest club in the Championship during the window, bringing in George John, Ravel Morrison, Nicky Maynard and Ricardo Vaz Te. The Ipswich game certainly proved we needed to add to our strike force. Bizarrely we had more shots than Ipswich (we had 11 and they had nine) and more corners (we had eight and they had five), yet they scored five and we had only Collison's header in the net.