Wednesday, November 28

Manchester, so much to answer for…

Man United 1 West Ham 0

At least  we gave it a go. After 30 seconds you wondered just how many United could get. Looking at MOTD Van Persie's goal was a cruel deflection off Collins. Nolan just failed to connect with Jarvis's cross and Andy Carroll volleyed over the bar in the first half. After the break Carlton Cole had an effort saved (that would have been ruled offside) and near the end Maiga cut in from the right to shoot just over. Jussi made a couple of good saves, particularly in tipping over Cleverly's shot, but generally West Ham restricted United to half-chances. And at least we had a vague chance of a point right up to the last with the Old Traford crowd silent. Sam was pleased with the defensive solidity. Now we've got to pick up some points from Chelsea, Liverpool and West Brom.

30 seconds

Oh well, at least we kept them out for 30 seconds…

Man United line-up

Never that happy to see Tomkins in midfield but a good idea to rotate the side. Demel and Collins should be fresh at the back while Taylor and Jarvis didn't play for the whole 90 minutes at Spurs. The suspended Noble will be missed though and a newly-promoted side hasn't won at Old Trafford since 2001, when it was Big Sam's Bolton. Not sure if Sam should be saying we'd prefer to play Man United after a European game though, as that gives the players a ready-made excuse. Cole, O'Neil and Maiga are our best options on a thin bench. Can we pull off the seemingly impossible against Van Persie, Rooney and Hernandez? Probably not, I fear, but we live in hope.

Policing ourselves

Interesting comments today from Big Sam after the Spurs chants suggesting that West Ham fans have a role to play policing themselves to root out the racists: "I think the people standing next to them should deal with them first and foremost if possible." Easier said than done though, as you're always aware that the sort of person who chants about "f•••ing Jews" and Hitler might be quite happy to start a fight too. Jacob Steinberg illustrated the problem in a good piece in the Guardian on Tuesday. But guess we all have to be a little braver. I'm all for football not losing its edge, for keeping the swearing and the bad taste and the taunting of opposition fans; but it's when chants mention race or death (be it Munich, Hillsborough, gas chambers or telling Ronaldo that he should have died in a car crash) that it becomes completely and utterly unacceptable.

Sunday, November 25

White Hart pain…

Tottenham 3 West Ham 1

It’s bad viewing on the BBC sport text feed. Matt texts that events justify his non-attendance. We haven’t won at White Hart Lane since 1999 and haven’t even scored there since 2005. My decision to save £60 looks justified too.

The Match of the Day 2 evidence suggests we’re overawed from the start. Bale turns away from Noble too easily and crashes a shot against the bar. It’s so bad that Big Sam makes a tactical substitution after half an hour removing Maiga and bringing on Jarvis. Just as it looks like WHU might go in level at the break Jermain Defoe, almost on the halfway line, cuts inside two defenders on the right touchline, hares towards the edge of the box, twists inside Noble and sends an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner. Sadly, it’s a great goal from Judas.

We almost score after the interval when Nolan’s low cross is nearly tapped in by Jarvis only for Lloris to gather well. Then it’s all Spurs. Dempsey hits the bar with a fine lob and then sends Bale through with a nice chipped pass. The Spurs winger controls it well to prod home off the post but has lost his marker. Spurs’ third arrives after Diame is dispossessed in midfield and Lennon races down the right after beating Tomkins and cutting the ball inside to Defoe for a tap-in.

At least West Ham stage a late rally just as it looks as if all we can take from the game is that Matt Taylor’s moustache would not be out of place in The Darkness. Taylor’s cross is headed out by Caulker when it should be the keeper’s ball. Joey O’Brien crosses and Andy Carroll rises above the defence to loop his header into the top corner. Let’s hope the pony-tailed talisman goes on a run now. O’Brien misses a great chance from Taylor’s low cross and Reid heads at the keeper from the resulting corner, but it’s all too late.

To compound the day’s misery the West Ham fans are reported to the FA for alleged anti-Semitic chanting. Chanting “Paolo Di Canio” is fair enough as we always do that, but chanting “Lazio!” isn’t when Spurs had fans stabbed there in midweek. And as for hisses if they happened, only a moron would do that. And although the Spurs fans refer to themselves as "Yids”, I’ve always found the “We’ll be running round Tottenham” song goes too far. It’s not just banter and the whole embarrassing scenario, though it only came from a minority, sours an already depressing day. And has anyone chanting noticed our co-chairman David Gold is Jewish and suffered racism as he was growing up in Green Street? He deserves better than that.

Right then, so now all we have to do is win at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

Saturday, November 24

Are you experienced?

Could it be our good start is through signing experienced Premier League players? Southampton spent £12m on Gaston Ramirez, a Uruguayan striker who had never played in England, £6m on Jay Rodriguez from Burnley and £2.6m on Nathaniel Clyne from Crystal Palace, both of whom had only played at Championship level. They also signed Japanese centre back Yoshida for £2.3m and Zambian forward Mayuka for £3.25m.  A strange combination of nationalities  — South American players like WHU's Jiminez and Barrera often have problems adapting to British football — and inexperience.

Reading singed Championship players like Robson-Kanu and although QPR opted for PL experience in Zamora, Cisse, Rob Green and Park they also signed several players who had never performed in England such as Brazil's Julio Cesar, Granero from Real Madrid, Mbia from Marseille and Diakite from Nancy.

In contrast Big Sam has opted for proven Premier League performers with more experience than Jimi Hendrix. We already had Taylor and Nolan last season. This summer West Have signed Jussi Jaaskelainen who has played for more than a decade in the PL, Mo Diame who’d had a couple of good seasons at Wigan, old lag James Collins who’d done his PL time at West Ham and Aston Villa, Matt Jarvis who’d performed well for Wolves’ three seasons in the top flight , Andy Carroll who has two season of PL experience with Newcastle and Liverpool and Yossi Benayoun who’s performed at West Ham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. It could all go wrong of course, but so far experience has certainly proved more effective than taking a punt on players who have never done it in the Premier League.

Friday, November 23

Sign him up Sam!

Sympathy to Chelmsford City midfielder Sam Corcoran. The worst free kick ever taken in the history of football has gone viral on YouTube and to make it worse Hayes and Yeading go straight down the pitch and score. Doh!

Tuesday, November 20

Joey makes his point

West Ham 1 Stoke City 1

West Ham can go fifth if they beat a Stoke side that has yet to win away. What can possibly go wrong? Everything as it’s West Ham, we agree in Ken’s CafĂ©.

Matt has taken Lisa for a romantic mini-break to Antwerp versus St Truiden while Nigel’s been watching 67-year-old Lemmy and Motorhead. I manage to meet my old schoolmate Mark who’s a helicopter-pilot trainer and as a man who has flown air-sea rescue missions has plenty of experience saving sinking ships – all good preparation for watching West Ham.

Bad news is Jarvis and Benayoun are both out, with Maiga and O’Neil replacing them. Early doors Crouch heads down for Adam to volley over, but it’s a warning. On 13 minutes the West Ham defence is expecting a high ball, but instead Stoke’s short corner is cut back for Walters to sweep home first-time. The referee has missed the fact that Adam is obstructing McCartney, a tactic that Tony Pulis admits Stoke have been working on in training. “How shit must you be we’re winning away?” sing the small group of Potters fans.

Stoke have the better of the first half with Etherington and Adam prominent and are unlucky not to go two up when the impressive N’Zonzi hits the underside of the bar. Our best effort is a Nolan volley that Begovic does well to tip past the post.

Whatever Allardyce says at the break works. West Ham play a much higher tempo and Maiga is looking skillful and creative in the half-winger half-striker role. The equalizer arrives on 48 minutes

The underrated Gary O’Neil plays in a low cross from the right and Joey O’Brien of all people is in the box to sweep home. A nice moment for Joey, who’s on the front of the programme and in the Standard revealing how no-one wanted him apart from Big Sam following his career threatening knee injury. And it's his first ever Premier League goal, though he did score at Watford last season.

"We've never lost when Joey O'Brien has scored," I point out.

We batter the Stoke goal for much of the second half as the crowd is roused. And do they not like orange. The tangerine-clad Begovic holds the ball for ten minutes at a time and winds up the Bobby Moore Stand no end.

“Oh no, not a short corner,” sighs Mystic Morris as West Ham produce the best move of the game with Noble and Nolan teeing up Gary O’Neil for a curler that drifts just beyond the post. Carroll’s header is nearly turned in by Maiga but his effort is cleared off the line. McCartney is prominent on the left and he cuts inside from the byline only to fire straight at Begovic.

“Come on Hamas… now you don’t want to be saying that in Tel Aviv,” quips Nigel.

Reid and Tomkins make some splendid last-ditch interventions to foil Stoke on the counter-attack and a draw is possibly a fair result. The important thing is we don’t lose this and the points total keeps ticking over. It’s also refreshing to see a lot of fair but crunching tackles in midfield, something of a lost art these days. Stoke’s defence is less pretty though, with arms around necks, holding and pushing going on most of the time. Nolan has a fine game up front but is frequently clattered.

Andy Carroll is substituted by Cole after a tough evening against Huth and Shawcross and is caught swearing at Sam by the cameras. He’s given a good performance for the team and the goals will surely come.

Four minutes of injury-time fail to produce a winner. Outside the East Stand perfectionist Matt has a Chelsea style bust-up with Nigel, Fraser, Michael and myself as he berates the lads for indecisive decision-making, tardiness getting to the pub and settling for one pint when we could have had three. Still, it just shows the professionalism we have in this squad of fans and it’s a passionate game.

We make the Black Lion by 10.20pm for some Captain Bob ale and on Sky we glimpse Big Sam’s bristling Movember moustache, which is frankly a little sub-Windsor Davies. It’s been disappointing not to win, but five points from Man City, Newcastle and Stoke is more than we expected: 19 points from 12 games — we’ll be having that. 

Friday, November 16

The joy of sixth

Lots of messages from old friends this week saying how well West Ham are doing. What can I write about now there's not too much to complain about? A little worrying that Suarez might be enticed to leave Liverpool and the Reds forced to recall Carroll, but that's about it. Nobes wants to play for England. It's all going too well. We must guard against complacency and a 1-0 away win for Stoke on Monday…

Sunday, November 11

Clucking Kevin Nolan!

Newcastle United 0 West Ham United 1

What a result at St James' Park... another goal from Nolan and not even injuries to McCartney, Benayoun and Jarvis can take the shine off the fact that we are sixth in the Premier League. When did that last happen? And Nolan even declined to do his chicken dance after scoring against his old team.

Didn't look like a great game on MOTD2 with Newcastle starting as hesitantly as George Entwistle facing a grilling from John Humpreys. Our goal comes through Joey O'Brien's shot which is heading towards Gateshead until Nolan shows fine reactions to redirect it into the net. The Geordie nation is spared his chicken dance as the Irons fans rejoice in the stratosphere of the Newcastle stands. The non-clucking Nolan then goes close with an effort just wide.

In the second half Newcastle exert more pressure and the crucial moment is when Demba Ba's header is clawed off the line by Jaaskelainen. The Geordies say the ball crossed the line but the film evidence is inconclusive. Jussi makes another low save from Ben Arfa but West Ham almost double their lead when Nolan plays through Andy Carroll. His shot is on target but slightly too high and Krul pulls off a fine reaction save. Subs O'Neil, Demel and Maiga all contribute and it's another great example of the togetherness this year.

Big Sam says it's not a special result to defeat his former employers before presumably flicking the Vs at Mike Ashley from the team coach. Blimey. We're in a Europa League spot. Another 22 points and we're safe! Irons!

Saturday, November 10

Taking goals to Newcastle?

Lots of old boys returning to Newcastle on Sunday. Sam Allardyce was sacked after half a season at the club when Mike Ashley arrived while Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll were instrumental in the club winning the Championship and then stabalising in the Premier League. While Newcastle have old Irons Alan Pardew and Demba Ba.

Much has been written about Carroll's supposed goal drought in the press this week, but it has to be remembered that he had a disrupted pre-season, was then loaned out and missed five weeks with injury. Since returning as a sub against QPR he's only played in four full games, which hardly constitutes a John Radford-like run of non-scoring. There were promising signs against Man City in the left foot shot he pulled just wide and the overhead kick that was blocked. It might help if he had Maiga alongside him though, as he's playing as a lone striker if Nolan has to defend.

Meanwhile Pards has rather mischievously said that he'd like to buy Carroll back next summer. Would be lovely to see Andy score against the Geordies and Nolan too, though knowing West Ham we'll then lose 3-2. Though if Kevin does score will he decline to do his clucking celebration out of respect for his former club? A nation awaits with unruffled feathers.

Wednesday, November 7

Obama: the Irons' President

Significantly the winner of the US Presidential has turned out to be the only candidate with a West Ham link. Barack Obama's sister is married to a West Ham fanatic from Kent, and Barack is said to follow the Hammers. Mitt Romney has no such links with Upton Park and therefore missed out on the crucial votes of the West Ham diaspora in the US (or at least North Bank Norman who now lives in San Francisco).

Sunday, November 4

300,000 hits

And by the way thanks to everyone who has ever viewed this blog - it's just clocked up 300,000 hits. It's been emotional… Come on you Irons!

We hold the Champions...

West Ham 0 Man City 0

It's a quick dash from signing of The Joy of Essex at the Newham Bookshop — bit of a rush on the book at 5.20, literary Irons like to leave it late though Matt has been in early to brush up on Icelandic fiction and it's nice to meet John who reads this blog and buys a book. Then it's into the East Stand to see Carlos Tevez do his crossed hammers gesture. "He wants to come home!" suggests the Bobby Moore Stand. Fraser, Nigel, CQ, Michael and Matt are all present, reporting that Carol in Ken's Cafe is more irascible than usual over the 5.30 kick-off time, though Michael the Whovian has boosted her profits with a big breakfast as an early dinner.

There's a proper atmosphere under the lights too. We have the ball in the net early on as clucking Kevin Nolan swivels brilliantly to volley in Noble's free kick, only for the goal to be wrongly disallowed for offside. It's great technique to volley a ball coming from behind him too. City have a forward line of Dzeko, Tevez and Balotelli, which is ominous, but Collins blocks and the underrated Reid intervenes at vital times and WHU hold them well.

Diame shots just over and Carroll turns to put a left foot shot just wide. Balotelli volleys Nasri's free kick over when he should have headed it, and puts an overhead kick wide. He gets all petulant when he puts in a bad cross and plays with the sulky demeanour of a Gallagher brother at a family knees-up.

"We love Carlos more than you!" taunt the West Ham fans, along with "Where were you you when you were shit?" which is a little unfair as City attracted 30,000 in League One. West Ham's best move comes when Noble plays a great ball wide to Jarvis on the left. His perfect cross is met on the full volley by Yossi Benayoun and Hart tips it over, only for the ref to not even give a corner.

CQ produces a bag of aniseed balls at half time - not the first time we've  discussed a load of balls at Upton Park, but they prove lucky for the second half. City really come at the Irons in the second half. Apart from an overhead kick from Carroll and a tame header wide from Nolan, it's all City bombardment. Diame looks half-fit and is subbed and Nolan has a quiet game, but everyone else plays really well.

Benayoun launches into tackles, passes sensibly and works ferociously hard, while McCartney and O'Brien show determination at the back, Noble has a fine match and Ginger Collins is great too, subduing a strike force worth £150 million, before going off injured late on. Jussi makes a good low save from substitute Aguero. Even with Spence, O'Neil and Cole on we still survive, although Nigel counting counting down the seconds of added time surely tempts fate.

We hold on for a fine point, followed by dodgy karoake from a Mancunian in the Central (is it Liam or Noel?), where they're playing the game over again on some Middle Eastern channel. A point against the Champions from a newly promoted side is progress.

Saturday, November 3

Is this an injury crisis?

Are we getting our injury crisis in early? We're now without Ricardo Vaz Te, Guy Demel, Matt Taylor, Diarra and Jack Collison. The right-back position is the most worrying. Guy Demel was showing good form after an extended run even though we don't as yet have a song for Guy - though Elton John might oblige. James Tomkins has done a good job filling in, though is much more of a natural centre back. Joey O'Brien might be a better deputy against a speedy attack like Manchester City as he knows the position. Apart from Cole and Maiga our bench is mow looking pretty thin. We'll just have to hope the starting X1 put in a shift - and how about a first goal for Andy Carroll please?

Friday, November 2

Book signing before Man City

If anyone has a spare moment between the pub and Ken's Cafe. I'm doing a book signing at the brilliant Newham Bookshop at 745-747 Barking Road from 3.30pm before the game against Manchester City on Saturday. I'll be signing The Joy of Essex, which features lashings of Tiptree jam, sunshine on Leigh with Phill Jupitus, a visit to Minnies boutique, Paul Simon wishing he was Homeward Bound for, erm, Brentwood, the largest mirror in Essex, Dr Feelgood, Grayson Perry's Chelmsford Sissies, Ian Dury, Tilbury Fort, the not-so-secret nuclear bunker, bluebells and Dickies in Billericay, scaling the Basildon sign on the A127, paranormal happenings and dodgy alleyways in Romford, Bas Vegas, Boudica going mental in Colchester, the only pub in Frinton, pier pressure in Southend, northern lights in Maldon, Stanford-no-Hope, sculpture in Harlow, Dickens channelled by Alan Sugar and Towie in Chigwell, the Essex Lion and lots of chip shops. Look back in Ongar and wonder if the only way is Upminster…