Sunday, February 26

A point in the rain at Watford

Watford 1 West Ham 1

It’s a twenty-minute walk from Watford Junction to Vicarage Road, which in places looks more like a set of new-build flats than a stadium. I’m with my mate Mark and his Watford-supporting sons among the home fans. We’re sitting in the Sir Elton John Stand, which has the words to Your Song painted across its rear wall. Though to be pedantic, they were actually written by Bernie Taupin not Elton. Sir Elton might also like to think of giving the Hornets a bit of extra dosh for a bigger roof as we’re rained on throughout the game.

We’re down by the corner flag and in the second minute have a great view of Zarate apparently being hit by phaser fire in the box as Kouyate catches his heel. Troy Deeney dispatches the penalty.

Niang goes close for Watford with a rising drive and Zarate gets his name chanted by the Hammers fans as he takes a corner. West Ham have a lot of possession for the rest of the half but fail to penetrate, though Feghouli almost sets up Snodgrass. Snodgrass then misses a tap-in after a fine cross by Cresswell is parried and in the melee Zarate goes down and is stretchered off with a nasty injury. Texts from the Old Red Lion suggest that Matt is failing to take the positives.

West Ham appear to have had a rocket, man, as they come out with renewed intensity after the break. Antonio is getting repeatedly fouled and then Kouyate goes down in the box after a hand-off from Niang. Watford’s Family Stand is bizarrely next to the away fans and the kids hear some interesting chants such as, “you’re just a c••t with a whistle!”

From our seats four rows from the front you certainly get to appreciate the pace of the game, even if it is a mid-table clash. Cresswell gets in the best cross of the match and Antonio heads wide while at he other end a fine tackle from Fonte earns a chorus of “José Fonte Baby” to the tune of the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me Baby?

Ayew replaces the disappointing Snodgrass and Fonte’s header produces a great save from Gomes. West Ham are knocking on the door and Lanzini is having a fine game, weaving into the box with a great dribble.

Finally the Hammers equalise as Lanzini releases Antonio who shows great pace to get in a shot that hits both posts. But at last a West Ham striker has got in the box and thankfully the ball falls to Ayew, who taps home before being buried under his teammates by the away end.

It’s worth a soaking to finally see a goal. West Ham press for a late winner until the 86th minute when Antonio goes down and makes a silly handball, resulting in a second yellow. Slaven looks for a microphone to trash.

So it’s a nervous finish with both sides still going forward and a massive melee in our box right at the death as Success flicks wide under good pressure from Randolph. Maybe it’s two points lost, but after a poor start we’ve dominated most of the game and finishing with ten men it’s not that bad a point in the wind and rain of Watford.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Kouyate 6, Fonte 6, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Feghouli 6, Noble 6, Lanzini 7 (Fernandes n/a), Obiang 6, Snodgrass 4 (Ayew 7); Antonio 7.

Friday, February 24

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Off to Watford tomorrow where my old schoolmate Mark has acquired a ticket. Seems like we'll be next to the Sir Elton John Stand, so we just have to hope that WHU's Rocket Man Andy Carroll recovers from a groin niggle. Or at least tells Slaven, I'm Still Standing. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word for Dimitri Payet, but after his departure I just hope we don't Sacrifice the points. We'll have Captain Fantastic in Mark Noble and our own Tiny Dancer in Manuel Lanzini and with a 5.30pm kick-off hopefully Saturday' Night's Alright For Fighting for points. Though if Carroll or Antonio are left alone up front like a Candle in the Wind just hope Hammers Don't Go Breaking My Heart.

Thursday, February 23

The game's gone mad: Claudio Ranieri sacked and Simone Zaza scores

Nothing surprises you in football. Claudio Ranieri has been sacked nine months after winning the Premier League for Leicester and, even more incredibly, Simone Zaza has scored. He might have been useless at West Ham but he scored a brilliant goal for Valencia in their win against Real Madrid last night. It was a stunning turn and shot into the top corner and quite impossible to believe it came from the striker we saw who couldn't hit a London Stadium mural with a banjo. He'd also scored against Atletico Bilbao at the weekend. What is it West Ham do to strikers? Ranieri sacked and Zaza scores. The game really has gone mad…

Nathan Holland: let's not talk him up too much

Young Nathan Holland gets a big write-up in last night's Evening Standard. The 18-year-old winger starred in the Under-23 side's 2-0 win over Fulham at the London Stadium, and Academy manager Terry Westley described Holland (no relation to old WHU star Patsy Holland) as reminding him of  a young Ryan Giggs. The club signed Holland from Everton a month ago and he's clearly quite a prospect, but we shouldn't be talking up his prospects too much. 

It's reminiscent of John Lyall saying that Stuart Slater would be the first million pound player after an FA Cup win against Everton and the West Ham PA announcing "you can tell your grandchildren you were here when Joe Cole signed his contract" (he had a fine career but never became the next Messi). Alan Dickens was going to be the next Trevor Brooking. You never know what's going to happen with young players and a warning comes in the form of Ravel Morrison, who was described by Sir Alex Ferguson as the best Man United prospect since Paul Scholes. Hopefully Holland is a level-headed lad, but let's not put too much pressure on him too soon.

Wednesday, February 22

Should Hammers sign the roly-poly goalkeeper?

Now that pie-gate goalkeeper Wayne Shaw has been sacked by Sutton United you wonder if West Ham should make a move for the roly-poly goalkeeper. After all, we do have a history of giving a home to other famous pie-eaters, such as Razor Ruddock. Shaw could be cover for Randolph and Adrian and would certainly fill the posts, if not most of the London Stadium. The only issue would be could Wayne actually afford to buy a pie outside the stadium? And talking of illicit betting, some very strange gambling patterns have emerged of wagers on a West Ham fan finally saving enough cash to buy a pie at the next home match, and even a 5000-1 bet of someone splashing out on a Cornish pasty with potato wedges and a £2 bottle of mineral water.

Tuesday, February 21

Scott Hogan carried off and yet to score for Villa

Scott Hogan was carried off for Aston Villa during their 2-0 defeat at Newcastle last night and could face a lengthy lay-off. The former Hammers target is clearly a good prospect, but so far he hasn't pulled up any trees for Villa. Since signing from Brentford at the end of the window he's played in four defeats against Nottingham Forest, Ipswich, Barnsley and Newcastle and has yet to score. That's not to say he's a bad player, but it's unlikely he would have started scoring instantly in the Premiership if he's having problems at Villa in the Championship. His two previous cruciate ligament injuries also suggested his signing might have been a gamble and we can perhaps understand why Bilic thought £15 million was too much to pay.

Monday, February 20

London Stadium stewarding progress

With a lull in games it might be a good time to reflect that there have been some improvements at the London Stadium. Allowing flags bigger than 2 x 2 metres has given the upper tiers more of a Cup Final look and makes the game appear more of an occasion. 

Things aren't perfect, but the recent meeting of Karren Brady and the new Supporters Advisory Board seems to have yielded some positive results. The club has agreed to invite all ex-Boleyn Ground stewards to work at the London Stadium, deploy the same stewards in the same areas each game and to use ex-Boleyn Ground stewards in sensitive areas where "empathy with supporters is key". Although all this emphasis on empathy does have me imagining Mariella Frostrup counselling us about our sex lives at half-time… 

The newer stewards will also be briefed in the culture and history of the club so they don't confuse us with Coldplay fans. Karren Brady has received a lot of flak, sometimes rather bizarrely for not being a West Ham fan and also for being a woman and a Conservative. She's never claimed to be a football fan and if we were taken over by Abu Dhabi we wouldn't have a fan in charge of finance either. But she does know about unhappy consumers being bad for business and appears willing to listen to some of our concerns from this season so that's progress. It would have made sense to employ all the old Boleyn Ground stewards from the start, but at least it seems that mistake is being rectified.