Thursday, December 27

Carlton Cole is innocent, OK?

At least the FA has done something right and quickly too, rescinding the red cards of both Carlton Cole and Everton's Darron Gibson. A big relief and also an embarrassment for the hapless ref Anthony Taylor. Had CC been suspended for the Reading game we'd have been down to Kevin Nolan as an emergency striker. I thought that Cole looked much more like the striker he used to be in the days of Zola against Everton, causing the Blues problems whenever he received the ball. Could it be that his spell out of the side has enabled him to finally get fully fit and return with a renewed appetite? And also full credit to CC for never complaining when replaced by Carroll. Let's hope he gets another goal against Reading's nervous back line on Saturday.

Sunday, December 23

Two-one to the referee…

West Ham 1 Everton 2

Strange happenings in Ken’s Café as a customer knocks the Jubilee mirror off the wall (luckily it doesn’t break bringing West Ham a further seven years’ bad luck) and a fan dressed as a can of lager and a fan with a turkey on his head walk past.

Everton start off well in front of another sell-out crowd. Distin heads down and over from Baines’ free kick. Osman then heads in a corner getting in between Collins and Nolan. It looks a good goal but the linesman has spotted a faint push on Jussi, which is harsh.

To compound David Moyes’ anger Nolan finds Carlton Cole who turns inside Heitinga and fires an excellent low shot into the corner of the net. West Ham defend stoutly with hard man James Collins unaffected by an unpunished boot in the head from Anichebe.

There’s a live performance from the One Pound Fish Man at half time with Hammerhead dancing along and Harry Redknapp rumoured to be putting in an offer for this bloke Fish, whoever he plays for.

Second half, it’s all Everton early on. They look a quality side destined for the top six and Pienaar is outstanding all afternoon. Allardyce makes an unusual early, attacking substitution, taking off O’Neil for Maiga and leaving West Ham short of tacklers in midfield. Maiga loses the ball and then commits a foul. From the free kick Pienaar crosses and Anichebe gets in front of Collins to head home.

Matt is not full of seasonal good will towards Maiga — “He’s one of those players without a brain and now he’s given a goal away!”

Then comes the turning the point of the game after 66 minutes. Carlton Cole pursues a through ball with his leg in the air, as Baines rushes in and gets a boot in the body. It’s not deliberate and a yellow card at best, but referee Anthony Taylor is straight out with his red card to the dismay of both sets of players. A terrible decision.

“He’ll try and even it up now…” suggests Matt, sagely.

We now have no target man and after good work by Osman Pienaar and Jussi’s boot combine for a scruffy second for Everton. “Two one to the referee!” sing the crowd.

“Maybe we could bring the One Pound Fish Man on,” I suggest.

“Ah, but would there be a plaice for him,” suggests a floundering Nigel. Meanwhile Fraser is suffering from a tense nervous haddock and Michael the Whovian thinks we should stop talking pollocks.

There’s still time for Jelavic to miss a great chance. Nolan twice goes close for West Ham, having a volley deflected just wide from Maiga’s knock-down and then clean through on the left he toepokes a chance wide.

In added time Gibson goes in with a high challenge and referee Taylor duly sends him off, when again it’s only a yellow card offence. “You’re not fit to referee!” chant the home fans in the only recorded instance of West Ham fans not being happy to see an opposition player sent off.

We’ve come up against a good side today, but with Cole on the pitch West Ham might have nicked a point. Now we have to get points off Reading and Norwich or we’ll be dragged into the struggle at the bottom.

Friday, December 21

The end of the world as we know it

So the world hasn't ended today. But if it had West Ham would have been 11th in the Premier League table, rather than fighting relegation as we normally do. Result. Though it would have ended with a WHU injury crisis as per usual.

Sunday, December 16

A useful point

West Brom 0 West Ham 0

At least Matt and Lisa managed to attend the game via a tram from the arts centre and a multimedia exhibition with pre-match brandy on sale. Sounds like it wasn't a great game but a decent point with Matt saying that Reid and Collins were our men of the match, with Odemwinjie troubling Demel at times. Looking at the highlights we had our moments with Reid shooting over from a set piece, Cole having a decent long range effort, O'Neil curling one wide and O'Brien almost ghosting in at the end. Though we got lucky when Morrison twice hit the bar. Looked like Carlton Cole had a decent game putting in a great cross for Taylor and going close late on. Maybe the injury-prone CC has benefitted from a rest.

Considering we only had six players named as subs and seven out injured this is a good result. Now we only need 17 points to stay up! With the injury crisis worsening might it be possible to recall a few of our loanees in January, like Ravel Morrison at Birmingham. He's been playing well apparently and has gained from a run in the first team. He'd certainly be cheaper than buying anorther squad player from QPR reserves.

Thursday, December 13

Knock me down with a feather…

Mido has been released by Barnsley after just one 30-minute appearance. Manager Keith Hill cited injury problems and lack of fitness as the reason for releasing him. Hill said: "Every player has to be compatible with a manager's vision and I ignored a lot of people when I signed him but it just hasn't happened. It's amicable and it's unfortunate that the plan to resurrect his career hasn't worked out here."

Wednesday, December 12

Christine Ohuruogo at the Newham Bookshop tonight

Olympic gold and silver medallist and children's book author Christine Ohuruogo will be at the Newham Bookshop's Christmas Shopping Night tonight at 745-747 Barking Road from 6-8pm. It's 20 per cent off all books and I'll also be signing copies of my latest book The Joy of Essex. And thanks and merry Essexmas to the lady from Southend who came in to the Newham Bookshop yesterday and bought no less than eight copies because her husband enjoyed it so much...

Where's Wally?

Today's Times reports that first-team coach Wally Downes has left the club "by mutual consent". All a little odd as he seemed to be forming a close (and vociferous!) bond with Sam Allardyce. He might have left for personal reasons, of course, but so far there is no confirmation of his departure on the club website.

Tuesday, December 11

Eat my (claret and blue) shorts!

West Ham has made The Simpsons. It's all there on the West Ham website, with Bart and Lisa visiting their new bohemian neighbour T-Rex and finding a Hammers banner above his drum kit.

Monday, December 10

Mersey beat

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.

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 break.

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?”

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 the window. 

Saturday, December 8

Tony Cottee at the Newham Bookshop

West Ham legend Tony Cottee will be signing copies of his new book West Ham: The Inside Story at the Newham Bookshop in Barking Road on Sunday before the Liverpool game... Do go along and support TC and the best independent bookshop in London. While if you're coming in from Essex Hammers fan Ian Ayris will be signing his West Ham-themed coming of age book Abide With Me at Romford Waterstones all day.

Wednesday, December 5

Clause for thought

Oh dear. Tonight's Standard claims there's a sell-on clause on Mo Diame's contract meaning he can go for £7 million. And a photographer received an eye injury after a bust-up with security in Dublin at the players Christmas party after taking too many pictures of Andy Carroll.

Smells like team spirit

Interesting article in Monday's Standard where it says that Sam Allardyce identified West Ham as "having no soul" when he joined, which was one of the reasons he recruited Kevin Nolan. If he's referring to team spirit then Nolan's captaincy certainly seems to have turned the club around even if he can be a frustrating player to watch. We kept going right to the end when a goal down to Sunderland earlier this season which was a great sign and the blocks our defence made just before half time against Chelsea indicated our lads were putting everything in. We beat Chelsea for desire in the second half.

Diame was immense and Alan Hansen on MOTD described him as looking like a combination of Yaya Toure and Patrick Vieira, which sadly might have a few of the top four sniffing round. Another good sign was the performance of Carlton Cole, who rather than sulk stuck at his job. We're going to need him for the next eight weeks. The Guardian said it "felt like a watershed moment for West Ham". Was this the moment Sam Allardyce and the fans finally bonded? His substitutions made a real difference and his dance of joy with the coaches was someting you normally only see at weddings when Come on Eileen comes on, but indicated a man starting to enjoy managing West Ham.

Stratford here we come?

So West Ham is the Preferred Bidder for the Olympic Stadium. The figures aren't clear yet, but we can assume that the government is going to pay most of the redevelopment costs of £160 million and we're getting a new roof and retractable seating with the Hammers contributing around £15 million. That represents quite a good deal for the Hammers, though the BBC reports that if David Sullivan and David Gold sell the club they may have to pay a percentage of the profits back to the government. If retractable blocks of seating are installed over the track then that reduces the last major obstacle to moving. In Karren Brady's letter to supporters she says the club is committed to a poll on the move, which means we should all get our say. Personally, I don't particularly want to leave Ken's Cafe and the Newham Bookshop, let alone the Boleyn Ground, but the transport links at Stratford (Overground, Jubilee and Central lines, trains to Hertfordshire, Essex and Kent, versus one District Line station) and the chance of a 60,000 capacity make it something we can't really afford to turn down. And we might be able to get Danny Boyle to do the opening ceremony.

Monday, December 3

Let's all laugh at Chelsea!

Who you gonna call, Roman? Today's headline in the Guardian: "Avram Grant could return to Chelsea in advisory role to help Bemitez." And to add to the good news, Luis Suarez is now suspended for Liverpool's visit to Upton Park and we're playing Man United in the Cup.

Sunday, December 2

Stick your blue flag up your…

West Ham 3 Chelsea 1

What a game. What a result. We enter the game fearing the worst as Andy Carroll is out until the New Year and for some reason Sam is resting Diame and playing Tomkins in midfield. Nigel’s away celebrating a Significant Birthday with his mum while Michael the Whovian is in Japan researching how to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow. Lisa and Matt’s mate Martin supplement our squad.

Chelsea look faster all over the pitch. In a swift Chelsea break Torres gets behind Reid to cross and Mata sweeps home after 13 minutes. There’s still that “Rafa Out” banner among the Chelsea fans. On 16 minutes they serenade the sacked Roberto Di Matteo, but it doesn’t stop Chelsea looking likely to add another. Demel dawdles and Ramires races down the left to set up Moses for a shot he slices wide. Torres chips wastefully over the bar to spark a chorus of “what a waste a money!” and then Jussi makes a great save from Mata and Chelsea’s follow-up is denied by a great block from O’Brien. We’ll be grateful to keep it down to one at half-time. There’s an Irish Hammer behind us who is in a constant state of excitement or panic and shocks Matt with more “fecks” than on Father Ted.

Cole looks isolated up front and we’re being overrun in midfield where Tomkins isn’t mobile enough to cope with the likes of Mata and Hazard. West Ham have a rare attack when Collins is harshly punished for a push as Nolan scores with an overhead kick long after the whistle has gone. Chelsea keep making the wrong decision with their final pass but West Ham sense some hope at the end of the half. Cech handles outside the box and Collins’ free kick deflects up in the air off the wall and Nolan’s header produces a great tip-over from the keeper.

Big Sam makes the right substitutions. Diame replaces Tomkins and Taylor comes on for O’Neil. After the break West Ham look a different side, coming at Chelsea from the kick-off. Diame is brilliant, tackling everywhere in midfield and showing immense power to break down the flanks, while Taylor adds width and some fizzing crosses. Matt Jarvis comes into the game and becomes a real threat. Carlton Cole does well to get in a header that goes wide. The Upton Park crowd gets seriously noisy as the Irons harry Chelsea and win a series of corners.
On 63 minutes neat footwork from Nolan sends Jarvis down the left touchline. His cross deflects off Cahill and Carlton Cole climbs above Ivanovic to head the ball into the corner of the net. The stadium erupts and it’s a lovely moment for Cole who has never complained about being a relegated to the bench. “Always believe in CARLTON COLE!” choruses the Bobby Moore Stand, as I suggest to Matt that "he’s indestructible-ish”.

Chelsea look angry and it’s end to end now. They counter attack and Jussi makes a great save from Hazard and Torres fluffs the follow-up. A great ball from Noble sets Jarvis clear only for Cech to parry his shot. Reid then has a header cleared off the line with claims the ball has crossed the line, though it’s difficult to be sure. Mata then takes a great free kick that rebounds off the inside of the post. And Carlton Cole, always a confidence player, is terrifying the Chelsea defence. Yes, Carlton Cole is looking unplayable. And you have to say that Collins is superb at the back as well, dominating Chelsea in the air.

It looks like being a draw until the 86th minute. O’Brien crosses from the left, Carlton Cole holds the ball up close to the goalline and plays a cushioned pass back to Diame on the edge of the box who thumps the ball into the bottom corner. Cue mayhem in the East Stand and the Irish geezer is hugging us too and explaining how much money he stands to win.

Surely we can’t be about to beat Chelsea the European Champions with their unlimited money and managers? “SACKED IN THE MORNING! YOU’RE GETTING SACKED IN THE MORNING!” taunt the fans at Rafa. Bubbles echoes round the Boleyn.

The 90 minutes is up. Ashley Cole is trying to play the ball out of defence only to be closed down and tackled by the magnificent Diame. Matt Taylor is free down the right, he shoots, Cech parries and there’s Modibo Maiga to fire home the third.

It’s pandemonium at Upton Park. Big Sam goes into a group hug with his coaches and hasn’t looked this happy since he had a few too many pints of bitter at Peter Kay’s Phoenix Club in Bolton. There’s a rousing chorus of “FROM STAMFORD BRIDGE TO UPTON PARK! STICK YOUR BLUE FLAG UP YOUR ARSE!” The Chelsea fans unfurl another “Rafa Chelsea Reject” banner just to complete the comedy as Jussi makes a brilliant save to deny Torres’ header. And then it’s all over, the ground erupts and Twist and Shout is on the tannoy. It's our first victory over Chelsea since 2003. And that Chelsea flag has been well and truly thrust up the unlikeliest of orifices. 

Fraser lights up his first cigar on the Barking Road and has another two to go by the time we reach the Black Lion. Inside the back bar England are thrashing the All Blacks at rugby and Arsenal are losing at home to Swansea. This is why we go to football. West Ham 3 Chelsea 1. Fact.