Friday, January 20

Andy's Whiplash and other bizarre WHU injuries

So Andy Carroll might be "slightly doubtful" for the trip to Middlesbrough having sustained whiplash scoring his epic goal against Palace. In terms of bizarre West Ham injuries it's up there with Enner Valencia injuring himself stepping on a broken tea cup a couple of seasons ago and getting crocked by crockery. Other strange WHU injuries have included: Steve Lomas injuring himself walking round Disneyland; Billy Bonds tripping over his slippers, and falling downstairs injuring his toe; Hayden Foxe injuring his finger by catching it in a bib and Christian Dailly going down with pleurisy. Not to mention Devonshire Flu and Trevor Morley's knife wound…

Thursday, January 19

Away daze

It's proving very difficult to get away tickets these days. Just missed out on Watford tickets because you needed 13 priority points. And there are a huge amount of times to factor in now. Depending on your points and status there were 17 different times to apply listed in the programme and if a group of you want to apply you are limited by the person with the lowest points. Stephen Hawking might struggle with some of the combinations. There are a lot more fans now and Watford is a low capacity, but you do wonder if first come first served for season ticket holders (or those over say five or six points) might be easier, followed by a general sale. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 18

Striker light

Good piece in the Guardian today by Jacob Steinberg on West Ham's astonishingly poor record of buying strikers under Sullivan and Gold. It mainly repeats what's been said on various fan sites before, but the stats are pretty damming. We've had "32 mishits in seven years" and no West Ham striker has ever scored more than 20 goals in a Premier League season. There's a clear pattern of buying cheap gambles that often don't work out. Only Sakho, Carroll (when fit) and Demba Ba have proved successes. Among the flops are Mido, Benni McCarthy, Modibo Maiga, Wellington Paulista, Maroune Chamakh, Robbie Keane, Mladen Petric, Marco Borriello, Nikica Jelavic, Emmanuel Emenike, Jonathan Callleri, Simone Zaza and a host of other names we'd rather forget. Click on the link to read the whole piece.

Monday, January 16

Is Sam Byram the right back West Ham have been looking for?

One of the most encouraging aspects of Saturday's win was the form of Sam Byram when he came on for the second half. We've not seen him since he injured his hamstring against FC Astra back in August, when he was taken off on a bizarre motorised stretcher car that looked like something from Wacky Races. 

Against Palace Byram looked comfortable on the ball and was immediately looking to get forward and also offered defensive cover for Feghouli on the right. It was a remarkably composed performance from a player returning from a long-term injury. He nearly scored with a dipping volley and also got in a couple of fine tackles at the back. Sam played with a bit of fire too and had to be separated from a Palace player at the end. Leeds fans really rated him, and although he needs to do some work on the defensive side of his game, he looked like the natural right back we've been missing. The Hammers still need to buy another right back to provide competition, but Byram returning is a major boost.

Sunday, January 15

Who needs Payet when we've got Andy Carroll?

West Ham 3 Crystal Palace 0

Plenty of colour before the kick-off. Nigel reports choruses of “F**k off Payet!” in the shouty tunnel near the Carpenters Arms, while he’s discovered a plaque marking the meridian line near the Builders Arms. Michael’s been to Upton Park to see the rubble of the East Stand and had lunch in Ken’s CafĂ© after picking up his signed Clyde Best book from the Newham Bookshop. Steve the Cornish postman is here to deliver a missive to Mr Payet, along with Scott and Joe, while Alison is rumoured to be in Maldon on strike wondering if the East Stand can match her ambition of a game without any glare from the sun (it can’t).

It's not a great first half. Feghouli releases Noble who gets in a cross that Andy Carroll volleys over the bar when he might have hit the target. At the other end Tomkins prods a dead ball across our goal-line, prompting a chant of “James Tomkins he’s one of our own!” But the positive signs are that Lanzini looks up to make the playmaker role his own and the side is working hard. Big Sam will be satisfied with a goalless first half.

At the interval I suggest that if Carroll scores Big Sam will be hoist by his own petard. “It would take a very strong petard to hoist Allardyce,” quips Nigel.

Bilic takes off Ogbonna and brings on Byram, reverting to a back four and pushing Antonio further forward. Young Byram has a fine game, getting forward well and also making some solid tackles.

PALACE KICKED IN THE FEGHOULIS 
Suddenly West Ham look fired up. Carroll fires wide almost from the kick-off. Feghouli starts to play really well, getting in a great cross that Tomkins heads away under pressure from Carroll. Feghouli then beats two players and wins a free kick. From the dead ball Big Andy fires into the side netting. A great ball from Obiang finds the overlapping Byram who sends a half volley just past the post. “Come on you Irons!” chant the fans as we start to find some belief.

After 68 minutes Noble finds Antonio who gets behind the Palace defence to send in an inviting cross and Feghouli has the desire to prod the ball over the line. The Algerian winger then kisses the turf — unlike his goal against Domzale where he kissed the plastic by mistake. Great moment for Feghouli, who is looking a different player when he’s confident.

“I never doubted you for a moment, Sofiane…” declares Mystic Matt. 


DER DER DER DER DER DER, ANDY CARROLL! 
Will Big Sam’s men come back and sneak a point? Andy Carroll makes some great defensive headers and Collins and Reid are solid. Then on 79 minutes Lanzini finds Antonio who crosses into the box. Andy Carroll winds himself up like a medieval siege engine, connects perfectly with the ball and propels an unstoppable projectile into the top corner.

The ground erupts as Andy slides towards the corner flag, nearly taking the East Stand with him. Now that gives the stadium a bit of history. “Dad, how did he score with a backward kick?” asks a disbelieving Nell. Who needs Payet?

Suddenly our ‘soulless corporate dome’ is rocking to “SUPER SUPER SLAV, SUPER SLAVEN BILIC!” All the rubbish we’ve suffered this season seems to disappear, as finally, thanks to a certain Gallic prima donna, the club appears united once more. For the first time the London Stadium is starting to feel like a home. And Slaven must be moved by the support. He's a decent man who has supported Payet all the way and has not deserved the events of the past week.

WE'VE GOT OUR WEST HAM BACK 
West Ham stop another Palace foray and suddenly Antonio is running from his own half. He finds Lanzini who races towards the goal pursued by two defenders. With supreme nonchalance he produces a Payet-esque dink over the keeper and runs into the arms of the fans to celebrate, earning a booking, but who cares?

The team’s performance suggests that Dimitri had become a big pain in the dressing room. Antonio has set the tone by playing through flu and making all three goals.

For once there’s a happy hubbub on the way to Hackney Wick. After putting my daughter Nell on the train, I take the Overground back to Stratford, escaping the Stop/Go signs and making it to the King Edward, where Nigel, Michael, Matt and Fraser and joined by Gavin, who’s been to the club shop, getting a track suit for Stanley and quite possibly buying up all the Feghouli shirts he can find. All the Payet shirts have been removed. Strange days indeed. We might have lost a player and found a team.


PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Antonio 8 (Fletcher n/a), Ogbonna 6 (Byram 7), Collins 6, Reid 7, Cresswell 6; Feghouli 8, Lanzini 8 (Fernandes n/a), Noble 6, Obiang 7; Carroll 8.  

Friday, January 13

Dimitri Payet: You've lost that loving feeling

Back in February 2016 Dimitri Payet was interviewed on BT Sport. He said of his relationship with the West Ham fans: "It was very quick, after just a few months. They took the time to know me as I did them. It gave me a lot of confidence… I felt they they trusted me and were showing it by supporting me all the time. Today I often say, it is a love story. It's the first time in my career I have a song with my name. For me it's a love story." He described being close to tears at the reception upon his return against Liverpool and said, "I think it amplified even more my love story with the fans." 

Today it's a case of, to quote the Stranglers, "Oui, c'est la folie." 

Slaven Bilic certainly looked hurt, having protected Payet this season and celebrated on the table when he scored for France last summer. Now Payet is on a love strike and playing away on football's equivalent of Tinder.

I think we'll see a big reaction from the players against Palace as they try to prove they don't need Payet. Perversely, it could be what WHU need to play as a team rather than a group of disparate signings.

Thursday, January 12

We've lost Payet

Slaven Bilic has announced that Dimitri Payet doesn't want to play for West Ham anymore. The manager says Payet is "refusing to play for us" and this explains why he was only on the bench against Manchester City, with Slaven increasingly worried about his attitude. It's surely time to let him go because we don't want a discontented player at the club and it will affect the morale of the rest of the team. 

Payet hasn't been the same player this season, so let's get £30 million for a soon to be 30-year-old, save £120k a week and strengthen the rest of the side. Not having Payet as a get out of trouble option might make the whole team play better and inspire Manuel Lanzini to become he main playmaker. 

Payet arrived with a reputation as a temperamental player, but Bilic handled him well last season, though now we're seeing the other side of his character. To some extent his frustration is understandable. He was promised a tilt at the top six again and a world-class striker, but once we only got Zaza and Calleri it was always likely he'd end up wanting to go. West Ham had a world-class player in Payet but blew it through a summer of poor transfer dealing. 

Although Dimitri's gone about leaving in entirely the wrong way by apparently refusing to play, which is a sackable offence, though it never happens in football as no club will write-off a valuable asset. Payet should put in a transfer request if he's unhappy and remain professional on the pitch and in training. He's leaving with no class and will now be booed if he ever returns. You can understand Bilic saying, "I feel let down, I feel angry." But a hard line doesn't usually work, as West Brom have shown with Saido Behahino, who has lost value while frozen out by Tony Pulis.

We'll never forget Payet's goals or those moments of skill in 2005-06, but now the time has come to say au revoir.