Monday, March 19

Porn again in the Chicken Run

On a lighter note after our recent troubles, the Times had an interview with Julian Dicks in which he reminisced about the Boleyn Ground. Dicksy recalled playing at the Boleyn when he was a youngster with Birmingham City: "They were calling me all sorts. I had a porno mag thrown at me." Ah, the good old days when throwing pornography was a sign of fan authenticity. To make the London Stadium feel like home we'll presumably have to throw mobiles with dodgy uploads. Though perhaps ditching the porn for popcorn is one advance we don't want to go back on…

Thursday, March 15

Give the lads a break

Just as long as no-one steals a taxi the warm weather break for the West Ham players in Miami should do the players good. At least their Wags seem to be with them, which might encourage sensible-ish behaviour. Predictably some people on twitter are outraged, but then they always are. Moyes is right. It's a good idea to get away from all the furore and having to act as amateur stewards. We've already had some nice shots of the lads on the beach, including tattooed Jordan Hugill looking like he's on a break from the building site, Joe Hart not dropping his flip-flops, Nobes in shades and someone in red shorts who appears to be Andy Carroll. Seeing Andy again raised the distant hope that he might even be fit for the last few games and save our season. But no, that way madness lies…

Wednesday, March 14

Relegation or renewal?

Will Saturday's protests cause West Ham to spiral into relegation or could they galvanise the club? 

Firstly fans need to listen to the players and restrict the protests to after the game or after the final game of the season. Both Mark Noble and James Collins have said it affects the team, and clearly the delay on Saturday contributed to the loss of concentration for Burnley's second goal. 

The away fans need to sing their anti-board chants and display banners at the end of the game, not when West Ham go a goal down. The players are human beings. They need to play in a positive atmosphere.

I've read people saying that West Ham have survived relegation before, but it's historically very unlikely for relegated teams to make a quick return. We could be down for five or ten years. Look where Sunderland are now. And is that really a price worth paying for the prospect of new Chinese, Russian or American owners?

The pitch invasions need to stop and paying for extra police is a sound move. If everyone who had a grievance ran on the pitch we'd never see a game completed. Like many fans I paid £800 for my season ticket and I want to see games of football without the threat of ground closure. 

What will it take for Sullivan, Gold and Brady to win back some sort of peace? They are unlikely to sell in the short-term. Appointing a Director of Football for next season, as was announced in yesterday's Evening Standard, is a good start. As Ken Dyer wrote, Sullivan and Gold are elderly men. Sullivan can enjoy his role without having to deal with agents every day.

It would also go a long way if they admitted they have been wrong on some counts and botched the last transfer window. They could explain how stadium revenue might increase. A commitment to spend money next season would help, with Ken Dyer in the Standard suggesting a figure of £100 million if the club stay up. Though as Everton have proved, spending alone does not guarantee success. 

The trio need to stop hiding behind the fact West Ham have little influence with the landlords. They should pledge to do everything in their power to influence the landlords to square off the stands, get some seats closer to the pitch and get a claret carpet around the pitch instead of a green one. They could offer to contribute if the retractable stands were re-developed. They might not succeed, but as anchor tenants West Ham should be in a good bargaining position with the loss-making LLDC. 

Does anyone really want to see the club go down to prove a point? West Ham fans have proved they do not like being misled. But the club is in crisis and the owners, like all owners, are imperfect. The best way to help the team at the moment is to stay united behind them.

Monday, March 12

Why was the Burnley game a low-risk fixture?

It still defies belief that the match against Burnley was categorised as a "low-risk" game by the Safety Advisory Group. Clearly whoever grades games has no input from West Ham fans and doesn't read the papers or go on social media. Yes, a Burnley game would be low-risk normally, but not in the context of recent events. Low-risk meant police did not have to be in the ground. 

There was a large article in the Independent last week about the planned march by the Real West Ham Fans Action Group that was hastily postponed after a meeting with Karren Brady and Sullivan. This also covered the fact that the West Ham Independent Supporters Association still wanted to march and had received threats on Facebook. 

The Evening Standard followed this up with an article on similar lines headlined, "West Ham distance themselves from notorious fan group founded by Inter City Firm members." Saturday's Guardian had a feature headlined, "West Ham fan groups at war after protest march rift", while the Times had a double-page interview with Julian Dicks covering the fans' dissatisfaction with the new stadium and owners. 

The previous week David Gold had been abused by West Ham fans as he left the Swansea stadium. At Liverpool the West Ham away fans displayed that controversial "more damage to the East End than Adolf Hitler" anti-board banner. Then there was the recent release of the club accounts which revealed a £43m profit but less that £2m extra revenue from the new stadium crowds. Every West Ham Facebook and twitter group was talking about the on/off march and there was a lot of anger and frustration that it had been cancelled. 

My daughter couldn't go to the match and I was quite relieved, as it seemed obvious there would be a bad atmosphere and possible trouble. We all knew what it would be like. Even Dr Watson would have probably got the general mood. Why didn't the people who manage the stadium know what was going on? 

Saturday, March 10

Pitch invaders and mayhem as Hammers collapse

West Ham 0 Burnley 3

It's in to the Circus Cafe at Gerry Raffles Square with Matt, Nigel and Michael as both the Best Cafe and Gerry's Kitchen are closed (again). Nigel's got a copy of the Times with a Julian Dicks interview where the former Hammer recalls the good old days when he had porn mags chucked at him from the Chicken Run. We head off to the London Stadium, where the Circus Cafe's name proves strangely prophetic. 

In the first half the crowd is supportive and gets behind the team. West Ham actually play pretty well and create chances. Arnautovic shoots against the keeper's legs, as does Lanzini, who also fires just wide, while Mario fires over when well placed. Antonio is beating players but not getting in effective crosses while Arnie has one of quieter games, but at least the defence holds out. 

At half time we are at least able to admire the new Jonjo Shelveys beneath our block, with Nigel leaving his 'lucky' banana skin on the shelf for Joe Hart to pick up. 

The second half is summed up by Moyes not acting with his subs and Dyche bringing on Wood as a second striker for Burnley, clearly sensing the game is there to be won. When Barnes slams home Wood's cross from the edge of the box on 66 minutes it all turns toxic. A supporter runs on the pitch and Mark Noble gets involved in a scuffle with him. The stewards are nowhere to be seen and look as proactive as our defence. 

It's not wise of Noble to lose his discipline, but you can't fault his passion and an idiot on the pitch isn't going to help anyone. Nobes shouldn't be having to act as a steward himself. Had there been a protest march today rather than a botched cancellation and civil war among the fan groups, perhaps some of the frustration would have been vented and this wouldn't have happened. But you can't go on to the field of play. To the half dozen Herberts who invaded the pitch, you are not 'real' fans in any way. How will a ground closure or points deduction help West Ham?

There's a long delay and in the bad atmosphere the Hammers rapidly lose concentration and concede another goal to Wood four minutes later. Without the initial pitch invasion we might have retrieved a point, at least. There's another pitch incursion after the second goal as an invader is allowed to grab a corner flag and plant it in the centre circle. The stewarding is again inept. There's also a mass of fans gathered around the directors' box for the rest of the match chanting, "you destroyed our fucking club!" It's all getting very ugly, and again there's no police or stewards. 

It gets worse as the restored Hart, who has looked nervous all game, parries a long-range shot straight to Wood, who scores the third. Luckily there's an exodus from the stadium to prevent further trouble. 

In the Refreshment Rooms young Scott says that he has never seen a pitch invasion before. We're able to regale him with tales of fans sticking corner flags on the pitch, 'lying thieving cheats' banners and fans on the pitch for the anti-Bond Scheme protests. Steve comments that at least it was memorable 3-0 home defeat as he contemplates tomorrow's long journey home to Cornwall, having earlier met his cousin the Galway Hammer, who had flown over from Ireland for the debacle. 

Should we give up and admit we're going down? Will we go the way of Sunderland? We're all doomed… Rather like the Brexit vote, there's a lot of people who are very angry about different things from badges to broken promises, and the mood is terrible at the club. We have three weeks without a fixture and the board has to find some way of restoring peace at the club, or indeed offer to sell up. Any new owners would have at least initial goodwill.

This is the lowest point of a low season. We're still three points off the drop zone and if Moyes really is a decent manager, he has to find some way out of this, even if the unrest is beyond his control. It felt like a broken club today. 

The protests about the lack of progress and net spending are understandable, but it's not helping the team. Whatever happens, Upton Park is gone and we have to make the new stadium work and try to stay in the Premier League. Fans can't carry on invading the pitch and besieging the director's box every time West Ham concede a goal. We need to call the rancour off for the rest of the season and concentrate on supporting the players for 90 minutes. It's been a depressing day to be a West Ham fan.

Time for Hugill to get a chance?

If Jordan Hugill wasn't a panic buy, as many suspect, then we need to see what he can do on the pitch. It would be good to see him get some minutes today, particularly if Antonio or Hernandez is tiring. There's a history of unfancied workmanlike strikers causing problems in the Premier League, from Grant Holt to Rickie Lambert and Glenn Murray. Moyes seems positively glacial in his use of substitutions at times and you wonder why with West Ham 4-0 down at Swansea he didn't at least give Hugill a bit of experience for the final 30 minutes. The lad looks keen and the crowd will take to a trier. The Carroll factor is always an option when things aren't going well and presumably Hogan will give us that physicality. But whoever is selected we have to something from this.

Friday, March 9

On the shelf

Looking at the Supporters Advisory Board update one of the issues mentioned is "shelving". Apparently there have been complaints there isn't enough shelving for people to put drinks on, so the club has spent £40,000 installing new shelving. Though for me the word shelving conjures up images of some nice stripped pine bookshelves for literary fans to store their half-time books on. 

I'm not sure what tomes would be appropriate for watching West Ham at the moment, but perhaps we could start with a library of Hard Times, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Trial, Heart of Darkness, Remembrance of Things Past, War and Peace, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Pride and Prejudice, The Sound and the Fury, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Paradise Lost, The Grapes of Wrath and, of course, Les Miserables.