Wednesday, August 24

Sinkhole in Green Street


My pal Michael found this hole in Green Street rather poignant when he visited last Sunday…

Tuesday, August 23

Should we play Andy Carroll in midweek games?

So another injury for Andy Carroll. We feel for him, but it seems Bilic is losing patience.  He said after Sunday's game: "Andy is Andy. He's dedicated now to training, to everything, it's a big blow for us, a big question mark also and big frustration with these things that are happening to him. The worst situation is when you plan, then you can't count on him. All the time." 

With hindsight, the medical team and Bilic should have been much more cautious with him. He played against Chelsea on Monday and then came on as a sub at FC Astra on Thursday, which appears to be more than his body can cope with. I'd always opt for a seven-day gap between his games in the manner of managers who nurse older players through the season. We have the squad to rotate now. It's also possible Carroll has a high pain threshold and because he's brave plays on through injury when he should go off. 

Let's hope he's only out for four weeks. Andy looked in great form against Juventus, and I really hope he can make a success of his time at West Ham. But after this latest blow, he really does have to prove he can stay fit for the rest of the season.

Monday, August 22

Antonio makes history for the Hammers

West Ham United 1 Bournemouth 0

First-off it’s a cultural tour of Stratford where I discover that the Best Café on the Broadway does a Ken’s Café-style egg chips and beans (though sadly there’s no shouting of numbers at the customers). Then it’s a journey down The Grove to view Iron Maiden’s old local the Cart and Horses and then the Railway on Leyton Road, which has a pie and mash and Mrs Flipper stall in the beer garden.

Inside the stadium Michael announces that he‘s been to Ken’s Café. He found it was closed as Ken and Carol were doing the catering for a music festival, but did have an audience with the E13 legends. He also reports that there’s an RAF helicopter parked outside the Boleyn in preparation for the filming of Final Score.

Nigel’s returned from cycling in Burgundy and behind us there’s Alison, her nephew Joe with a pre-hipster beard and Steve from Cornwall who decided at 1.30am that sleep was for wimps and drove up to London. We’re also joined by Nigel’s old mate who used to sit with us at Upton Park, the bloke from the Treasury whom he bumped into at a Stranglers concert.

OH CARROLL 
At first I think Matt is joking when he says Andy Carroll is out for six weeks. But no, a long-term Andy Carroll injury is as sure a sign of football returning as half and half scarves, Mourinho mind games and Wenger parsimony. It seems Andy’s done his knee in during a substitute appearance in Romania. We didn’t even need to bring him on. His last big injury came after playing in midweek at Southampton so surely it would have been safer to rest him at Astra?

Payet is missing too, with a slight knock. Matt worries that this means he’s going to be sold. You wonder if Harry Redknapp will be returning as we’re already down to the bare bones; our squad is minus seven players in Cresswell, Lanzini, Payet, Ayew, Carroll, Feghouli and Sakho.

Bournemouth’s Adam Smith has a tame effort saved and Matt wonders if he was a free market transfer. The first half is memorable only for a decent Valencia effort saved by Boruc. And for Nigel asking us to name the number one 1979 hit from the Charlie Daniels Band. The answer is of course The Devil Went Down to Georgia. For the Cherries Jordan Ibe inexplicably opts not to shoot when through and a great shot by Joshua King is acrobatically tipped over the bar by Adrian.

NOT A CLASSSIC
The side work hard with Masuaku and Byram solid at the back, but Noble and Kouyate struggle to create much, Tore doesn’t get quality crosses in and lone striker Valencia is outnumbered. The atmosphere is more raucous for a league match though, and it helps to have away fans, even if they are chanting, “Is this the Emirates?”

In the second half it takes some heavy-handed stewarding down in the corner by the Bobby Moore Stand to rouse the crowd with hearty cries of “We’ll stand when we want!” as the stewards eject a persistent stander and it all threatens to kick-off.

Michael suggests that Tore might be the next Vaz Te. The game increases in intensity as Antonio crosses and Tore fires a difficult chance into the side netting. Antonio switches  wings with Tore and our formation looks more effective. 

ARTER OFF
Harry Arter (Scott Parker’s brother-in-law) brings down Kouyate after 77 minutes and is sent off for a second yellow card. Finally West Ham have two strikers as Calleri and Fletcher come on.

It looks like it might still end 0-0 until five minutes from time, when Antonio beats his full back but overhits the cross. Tore retrieves on the left, skilfully beats his man and stands up a superb cross for Antonio to rise above Charlie Daniels and head home. The isle really is full of noises as the fans celebrate the first league goal at the London Stadium. Good end to a difficult week for Michail, who’s finally playing in his correct position.

“One-nil up against ten men what could possibly go wrong?” asks Nigel.

As added time arrives Bournemouth send in a long throw, King gets in a shot and Adrian makes a brilliant save. From the follow-up Winston Reid makes a fantastic block with his head. Phew. Bournemouth’s next long throw sees them lose the ball and Mark Noble set Calleri clear. He cuts inside the defender well but then shoots wide when it should have been 2-0.

HIPSTER CENTRAL 
Respecting the non-pint
But it’s a gritty win in the end and credit to Adrian for making two outstanding saves. Four years after London 2012 more history has been made at the Olympic Stadium. Fraser, Michael and myself make some more history after that by persuading Nigel to try a hipster bar at Hackney Wick. Crate is too crowded to get served so we try Tank. Indeed, huge tanks of craft beer stand behind the bar. Nigel asks if they do pints. “That’s so last century,” quips Camra-member Michael as we sip our two thirds of a pint glasses of Howling Hops ale. Yes, Tank is so hip it is no longer respecting the pint.

Then it’s on to Number 90, where the lads drink pints of 'Shithouse' and Grolsch and we sit by the canal and watch the Hoegaarden garden barge moor, which is all very different to the Central. In the gents we discover there’s a man handing out towels. We concur that the person handing out towels in the gents at the Central would have had the worst job in the world.

We retreat on to the Overground happy with three points and slightly bemused by Hackney Wick’s Sweeney-esque aura of gentrification. We’re up and running at our new home.


PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 8, Byram 6, Reid 7, Collins 6, Masuaku 6; Nordveit 5 (Fletcher 5), Antonio 7, Noble 6, Kouyate 6, Tore 6 (Obiang n/a), Valencia 5 (Calleri 5).

Friday, August 19

Drawing drawing West Ham

FC Astra Giurgiu 1 West Ham United 1 (Europa League)

Had to miss the live coverage of this as Her Indoors had booked us into an improving lecture at Somerset House (the perils of being a middle-class football fan). Looking at the highlights it all hinged on the 80th minute when sub Marcus Browne did really well to beat the last defender and race clear down the left, before squaring to Antonio. It looked like Antonio, restored to his rightful position in midfield, had a tap-in. But somehow he managed to stroke the ball into the side-netting. These things happen, but to compound that error a minute later Astra equalised from a corner after Alibec (who according to Matt's incendiary text is "a 20-stone pub player") managed to turn Collins and fire into the roof of the net. So what should have been a 2-0 lead became 1-1. Nobes had scored our first from the spot after Tore's corner saw a defender handball. Antonio had a header off the line and Calleri also had a decent headed chance. From the Facebook posts it wasn't a great performance but it was good to see Burke and Oxford get game time at the back and Byram in at right-back. The tie is now nicely set up for the second leg and as Bilic says, "if we can't win at home then we don't deserve to be in the Europa League."

Thursday, August 18

Ayew…ouch!

There goes our £20.5 million signing. David Gold estimates Andre Ayew will be out for four months having injured his quadriceps and the club describe it as a "significant injury". It all seemed a fairly innocuous thigh strain back on Monday night. Presumably Andre had a normal pre-season at Swansea, so it just seems a case of very bad luck. I'm reminded of the time Kieron Dyer joined us for £6 million in 2007 and immediately got crocked at Bristol Rovers — though hopefully Andre will make a much better long-term recovery than Kieron. West Ham have also now lost Feghouli and Nordtveit to injury, with Lanzini out until September and Cresswell out for several months. Even want away Diafra Sakho is injured. Still, this is where the squad has to kick in and Calleri, Valencia and Fletcher all have points to prove to Bilic up front. While we're more reliant than ever on Andy Carroll having a season where he stays fit. Just hope he escapes a Romanian clogging at FC Astra tonight…

Wednesday, August 17

Sit down if you love West Ham?

So the Bournemouth game will be played before 57,000 fans as the jobsworths at the London Stadium Safety Advisory Group and Newham Council have refused to up the capacity to 60,000, claiming there was "dangerous standing" by some fans at the previous two games. Presumably this is in the Bobby Moore Stand area. You'd have thought the authorities might be a bit more lenient when we're trying to avoid a sanitised atmosphere and get some songs going. Long term there's surely a case for safe standing areas as in the Bundesliga. Check out the Football Supporters Federation's campaign here. I can see it might be annoying if you want to sit down and find yourself lumped with people standing up all the time, but you would have imagined things would have sorted themselves out and standing up doesn't feel that dangerous with all the new legroom. But for the time being I guess we have to sit down and get the capacity up to 60,000 before we can really go wild and stand up if we hate Tottenham.

Tuesday, August 16

Costa twists Chelsea dagger as Hammers lose it late

Chelsea 2 West Ham 1

It’s off to the Grafton Arms at Victoria for this one, where Nigel arrives in his white Martin Bell suit to meet Fraser, a tardy Matt and Nigel’s mate Patrick. Nigel’s been cycling in France for two weeks and needs updates on WHU’s many signings and stadium migration. He then asks which West Ham legend sent a twitter message to Matt and himself. Ian Bishop? Steve Potts? No, turns out it was Sir Geoff Hurst who said that he wasn’t ignored at the Boleyn closing ceremony but had a longstanding prior engagement so he couldn’t make it.

We’re not sure why Feghouli and Ogbonna are missing, but Collins and Ayew come in. West Ham are on the defensive from the off. It all looks ominous for the Irons when star signing André Ayew plus up with a thigh strain and has to go off after 35 minutes. Lisa texts Matt to say that Ayew’s a true West Ham player. Chelsea dominate though West Ham defend reasonably well with Masuako looking solid at left-back. Adrian tips over a Willian free kick and Oscar has a dodgy penalty appeal turned down and that’s about it.

West Ham’s performance is worrying; Nordtveit looks off the pace in midfield, Noble and Kouyate don’t really effect the game against Kante, Valencia goes missing, Tore doesn’t make any impact from the bench and a frustrated Andy Carroll is completely isolated.

WHEREFORE ART THOU ANTONIO?
Michael the non-Whovian texts from the corporate section at Chelsea to say that Noble is having a ’mare. I make the mistake of going to the gents during the ad break and come back to discover it’s a penalty to Chelsea in the 46th minute. Antonio has tried to dribble out of defence when he twice could have cleared. He’s lost possession and then panicked to bring down Azpilicueta.

The plastic Chelsea fans at the other end of the pub celebrate as Eden Hazard fires home. The penalty is further evidence that Antonio is not a natural defender. Bilic replaces him with Byram —who does well and plays sensibly — soon after that error, though I’d rather see Antonio pushed up to midfield. Mikhail’s a fine player on the wing. Shouldn’t we just do the simple thing and play him there?

THERE'S ONLY ONE GINGER PELE
It looks like a case of keeping the score down against a motivated Chelsea as Adrian makes a fine save from Willian. Our only hope is Payet, who replaces Nordtveit after 67 minutes. Ten minutes later Payet’s free kick is deflected wide for a corner. From Dimitri’s corner Collins' initial header ricochets off Valencia into the path of James Collins who lashes the ball home, much to the glee of the away fans. There’s dancing in the seats of the Grafton. It’s our first shot on target from the Ginger Pele.

Can we hold on? Diego Costa is lucky to be on the pitch, having already been booked and then going in very late on Adrian. So it seems inevitable Costa will then score. With a minute to go Batshuayi wins a header and Chelsea's Captain Haddock lookalike is given too much time just outside the box and fires a low shot into the net.The ball goes through Collins' legs, but as it wasn’t right in the corner you do feel the otherwise excellent Adrian might have got a hand to it. Chelsea gaffer Conte showboats by leaping into the crowd. Payet has a late effort straight at the keeper then it's over. Chelsea deserve the points having dominated the game, but having got in a position to grab a bonus point we shouldn’t have let it go.


It’s only the first game but this looked like we were going backwards and two shots on target isn’t good enough, as Bilic admitted. It’s now vitally important we put in a shift at Astra and get three points against Bournemouth.