Thursday, December 31

There's only one Ginger Pele!

It's great news that James Collins has signed a new contract, as I'm sure Big Sam would have loved to lure him to Sunderland and lots of other clubs would have been interested in him too. Ginge has been magnificent in recent games, holding the defence together at Swansea and Villa and having a storming game against Southampton. For all the technical ability of today's young stars a lot of them seem to be lacking in character; Ginge has that in abundance and through sheer effort and leadership he's inspired the men around him. On this form he has to stay in the team, even if it means dropping £10 million Ogbonna. And that ginger beard must intimidate most strikers before a ball is kicked...

Tuesday, December 29

Christmas Carroll boosts Hammers

West Ham  2 Southampton 1

Strange happenings on the way to the East Stand. Matt, Michael and Nigel report spotting a fan taking a dump under a Southampton fans'  coach — in the very same spot where Michael the Whovian dropped my Christmas card against Stoke. You’re shit, aaaaargh… Matt is so put off by the sight that he forgets to recycle his papers in the nearby container. So Upton Park will be seeing some new faeces in the transfer window.

Southampton should be out of sight by half-time. The Saints take the lead after a lovely backheel from Mane starts the move that sees Long cross low and Tadic bundle the ball in off Jenkinson. Collins then has to make a magnificent block to deny Davis and then shows some proper leadership by rollicking Zarate, Jenkinson and most of his team-mates. Jenks is out of position replacing the injured Cresswell at left back, Song is off the pace, Noble is misplacing passes and Zarate is having a frustrating game.

MR MOON HAS LEFT THE STADIUM 
When the PA announces that Mr Moon has left the stadium the Saints fans respond, rather wittily, with “Mr Moon, he left ‘cos you’re shit!” Davis shoots just wide for Southampton and Adrian makes a couple of fine saves including a tip-over from Fonte’s header. Boos can be heard as West Ham keep playing balls into touch.

It’s so bad, Fraser quips at half-time, “Can we have Allardyce back?” Bilic makes some sensible changes, switching Jenkinson to right back and putting Tomkins at left back, then bringing on the returning Carroll and Lanzini for Zarate and Song. We immediately look a lot better and the crowd respond. Collins has a header cleared off the post and then Andy Carroll takes the ball off Tomkins’ foot to blaze over when he should score. 

It’s hard to know how much longer is left as the scoreboards are still not working and presumably Karren Brady didn’t get enough Xmas Amazon vouchers to cover the cost of a replacement. But Hammers keep pressing while Collins and Tomkins are solid at the back. Ginge plays on after injury and gets a rousing "One Ginger Pele!" chorus. Great news he's signed a new contract. Meanwhile Matt remains strangely positive after his sojourn in California, even after Valencia is scythed down and the ref completely ignores it.

OH WHEN THE SAINTS GO 2-1 DOWN… 
We equalise on 69 minutes with a bizarre goal. Antonio runs into the box, takes a tumble and then a defender’s clearance bounces off his head into the net. And it’s not even Twelfth Night. A lucky goal but deserved on our second half performance. Ten minutes later it gets even better. Valencia crosses, the ball loops of a defender and Antonio heads on to the underside of the bar. Andy Carroll, sporting a new braided ponytail, does well to take a step back and head into the unguarded net before running into out corner of the East Stand. Never in doubt.

“Oh when the Saints go 2-1 down…” chant the gleeful Bobby Moore Stand.

Antonio then makes a thrilling run from the edge of his own area, outpacing the Saints’ defence but firing way wide. Shows his potential though and on a different night he might have had a hat-trick.

We hold on through four minutes of added time and at the whistle Bilic hugs every player. Our first win in nine, though we’re now unbeaten in six. And a much better return of four points from the two post-Christmas games, whereas last season we lost both of them. And a proper floodlit atmosphere to prove what makes the Boleyn so special. Irons!


PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 7; Jenkinson 6, Collins 8, Ogbonna 6, Tomkins 7; Zarate 5 (Carroll 7), Song 5 (Lanzini 6), Noble 6, Kouyate 6, Antonio 8, Valencia 6 (Obiang 5).

Monday, December 28

WHU half-time verdict in the Observer

Check out yesterday's Observer for my half-time fans verdict on West Ham's season so far. Click on the link to read.

Drawing drawing West Ham

Aston Villa 1 West Ham 1

So Boxing Day ends with WHU's fifth successive draw. The latest injury victim is Jelavic who was replaced in the starting line-up by Valencia. A fine goal from Cresswell gave West Ham the lead in first-half added time. Found by Kouyate, Aaron drilled a great shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. Yet we allowed Villa back into it with a fairly soft penalty. Ogbonna should have been stronger,  but allowed Gestede to get in front of him and then tumble. Kouyate had headed Valencia's deflected shot on to the bar in the first half and Valencia went close with a late free kick that was tipped round the post by Guzan. Adrian also had to make a couple of fine saves. But we should really be beating a bottom-og-the-table team that hasn't won in 17 games, though there again it's the sort of game we used to lose. Now it's on to Southampton…

Tuesday, December 22

So here it is Merry Christmas everyone

A Happy Christmas to all blog readers, wishing you lots of Christmas Carrolls and Alan Dickens. Though before you enjoy the festive season too much, think of my pal Nigel's words about the Boxing Day trip to Villa Park: "We next play a team that haven't won in living memory and are bottom of the league. What could possibly go wrong?"

Monday, December 21

Another 0-0 at Swansea…

Swansea City 0 West Ham 0

Managed to see the second half of this in the Auld Triangle while preparing for our neighbours' party. Looked a pretty rubbish game, with Swansea having 73 per cent of possession. But there was still some encouragement in a determined defensive performance, with James Collins outstanding. With no Christmas Carroll (Andy's strained his groin) and also lacking Sakho, Payet, Lanzini, Moses and Reid this was a game for the squad to make up with teamwork what we lacked in class. 


Jelavic didn't get much of the ball and looked like he had no pace on the rare occasions he was played through, though Antonio tried hard and sub Enner Valencia produced a powerful shot that was tipped over the bar. A couple of first-half Zarate efforts were our only other efforts. It was so dull that Matt, Michael and Fraser in the pub were reduced to trying to name 1970s bands that had reformed with all their members still alive.

Adrian produced a superb save to deny Ki in the second half and Swansea ha a penalty shout, but otherwise Tomkins, Ogbonna, Collins and Cresswell looked comfortable. That's our third 0-0 in a row, which is some sort of West Ham record, but Bilic will be encouraged by the defensive solidity. West Ham haven't won in seven, but on the other hand we've drawn five of them. 


With Carroll and Lanzini hopefully returning on Boxing Day and Payet due back in the New Year we'll surely get that win soon. An away match at a relegation-threatened side was never going to be easy, it might not have been pretty, but it's sell encouraging to be picking up points.

Friday, December 18

Brought to book in Newham

It's not too late to do your Christmas shopping in the Newham Bookshop, London's best independent bookshop in Barking Road. And nice to see my Guardian piece on West Ham leaving the Boleyn Ground is now on display in their front window, next to Harper Lee and Mary Beard. Now that's literary credibility…

Thursday, December 17

Stamford Bridge is falling down…

So that's the third manager West Ham have got sacked this season; Brendan Rodgers went soon after Liverpool lost 3-0 at home to the Irons and Dick Advocaat resigned as Sunderland boss after blowing a two-goal lead against the Hammers. And now Jose Mourinho has gone. He always looked in trouble after West Ham beat struggling Chelsea 2-1 back in October. Haranguing the ref in his dressing room at half-time was particularly unnecessary and he deserved to be sent off — and when Danny Dyer was then seen taking both the moral high ground and the proverbial out of Jose in the stand you know he had problems. Of course it would be wrong to gloat about Chelsea and Mr Abramovich's problems, so therefore I'd like to offer a helpful suggestion. How about re-employing Avram Grant to finish off the job Jose started? He does after all have plenty of experience of taking London clubs into the Championship…

Wednesday, December 16

Flying So High: West Ham Cup Finals

If anyone's looking for Hammers-related Christmas books then there's now a print version of my e-book Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals. It has extra chapters on the 1976 Cup Winners' Cup Final and 1981 League Cup Final as well as accounts of West Ham's FA Cup wins of 1964, 1975 and 1980, the White Horse Cup Final of 1923, the 2006 FA Cup Final, the 1965 Cup Winners' Cup Final and the 2005 and 2011 Play-Off Finals. From Vic Watson to Geoff Hurst, Ticker Boyce, Alan Sealey, Trevor Brooking, Paul Konchesky and Ricardo Vaz Te all in one book.

Tuesday, December 15

Cherry picking with Junior Stanislas

Interesting interview with Junior Stanislas in the Independent. The former West Ham winger has really come good for Bournemouth in recent weeks after hardly playing last season, scoring twice to earn a point in a 3-3 draw with Everton, taking the corner that led to in the Cherries' winner at Chelsea and then scoring direct from a corner against Man United. I remember seeing him score his first league goal for West Ham against Sunderland in 2009 when he arrived in the team at the same time as James Tomkins. He also scored twice against Millwall in the League Cup and made 45 appearances for the Irons. He was perhaps sold too quickly by Big Sam, but has clearly benefitted from sampling the lower leagues with Burnley and Bournemouth. Click on the link to read.

Sunday, December 13

Keepers on top in entertaining draw with Potters

West Ham United 0 Stoke City 0

In Ken’s Café the Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads’ Christmas Special is on the TV as another likely lad, Michael the Non-Whovian, regales Nigel and his mate Michael the Plymouth Fan with the tale of how the Lord High President of the Time Lords (aka actor Donald Sumpter) was spotted in the East Stand. If he really is a Time Lord perhaps Donald could extract Lionel Scaloni from his timestream a second before he boots the ball towards Steven Gerrard in the 2006 FA Cup Final…

Meanwhile messages are coming through from Matt in California, who appears to have spent a little too long in Haight-Ashbury and now thinks that referees are beautiful people and that every West Ham injury happens for a karmic reason.

On the way to the ground, Michael manages to drop my Christmas card under a Stoke coach— the Stokies will probably assume it is a cryptic message from the ICF. Inside the East Stand we meet Fraser, who is wearing his best Dexys Mac and planning to write the final 4000 words of the first section of his novel after a cockney knees-up in the Central.

FIVE MEN WENT TO TRAIN AT CHADWELL
We’re without Payet, Lanzini, Sakho, Moses and Reid, while James Collins comes into the defence in preference to Jenkinson and Antonio and Song start. Kouyate has a long-distance shot parried by Butland early on, but after that Stoke have a good half-hour with Afellay prospering against the unprotected Cresswell. Van Ginkel pokes a great chance wide and then Arnautovic meets Affalay’s cross and prods it just wide under  pressure from Ginger Pele Collins. This gets a few Delilahs going in the away end.

Antonio has one surging run on the right only to dither in the box, but slowly West Ham come back into it at the end of the half. Noble has a penalty claim after picking up a poor Shawcross pass and surging into the box. Before the break Zarate dribbles in from the right, the ball breaks to Song, who finds Cresswell on the left. Aaron's cross nearly reaches Antonio, who is thwarted by a desperate Stoke clearance.

Half-time sees Nigel get out his lucky banana and Matt text to say his whale watching trip has been cancelled due to stormy weather, therefore, he quips, "no chance of seeing Benni or Mido." West Ham really give it a go at the state of the second half. Ogbonna’s long ball sees Antonio acrobatically volley only for Butland to make another good stop. Butland shoves Carroll's header wide. Stoke’s Arnautovic has a free kick deflected against the bar and then Creswell’s cross-shot has to be palmed away by the excellent Butland.

HIGH ZARATE 
It’s turning into a really entertaining goalless draw as the festive crowd holler Bubbles and “Come on you Irons!” Zarate makes some fantastic dribbles into the box and steps into Payet and Lanzini’s boots, while Antonio is causing problems when switched to the left. Song appears close to returning to the form of last season, while Andy Carroll is looking fitter and more mobile, laying the ball off well and enjoying a good battle with Shawcross.

Both sides make attacking substitutions, with Valencia coming on for Song and strikers Diouf and Walters on for Stoke. Old boy Glen Johnson crosses for Diouf to shoot, only for Adrian to make a great stop with his feet. With ten minutes to go in a finely-poised game, some strange people are leaving early, causing a row in front of us, as Zarate plays a one-two with Antonio and dribbles across the face of the area and fires a great effort against the foot of the post. That would have been a great goal. From the second phase of that attack Tomkins crosses, Carroll wins the header and Valencia’s poke towards goal is smothered by the City keeper again.

ADRIAN'S WALL
Antonio gets a big round of applause when subbed and he’s the sort of trier the crowd will take to. His best performance since Twelfth Night. Stoke almost win it at the end as Arnautovic finds Diouf but Adrian pulls off another great save. The excitement lasts to the end as in the fourth minute of added time Butland spills a cross; Tomkins heads back into the box and Kouyate’s header is cleared off the line. West Ham might not have won in six, but it’s been a game where both sides have given everything and West Ham are deservedly applauded off.

So it’s the long walk to Plaistow with Nigel and Michael the Plymouth Fan, and then on to dinner at WHU legend DC. Fraser and Michael the Non-Whovian head to the Central, with Michael set to see Chas and Dave live, though the real attraction is the support, Darts. An entertaining game and at least the points are still ticking over in the midst of an injury crisis. Swansea away next and if we play with this spirit we might finally get that win.


PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 8; Tomkins 7, Ogbonna 6, Collins 7, Cresswell 6; Antonio 7 (Jelavic 5), Song 6 (Valencia 6), Noble 6, Kouyate 7, Zarate 8; Carroll 7.

Thursday, December 10

Winston out; Chadwell Heath kicked into touch

Nurse, the screens. And now Winston Reid is out for six weeks, having suffered yet another WHU muscle strain in training. All we need is a few teacup injuries and a bout of Devonshire Flu to round off the week. At least Bilic has identified the problem. He's brought forward West Ham's move to a new training ground at Rush Green to get away from Chadwell Heath. He tells the Evening Standard about the Chadwell Heath pitches: "With Reid’s injury, for example, they are slippery on the top but rock hard underneath, and it is a bad combination. We can live without the great dressing room, the kitchens and the free area for now." Though it does make you wonder why, in a multi-million pound industry, we've been risking our prize performers on iffy training pitches. And think I've just felt a tweak myself. Could be doubtful for Stoke now…

Wednesday, December 9

Lanzini and Moses crocked

Will the last fit player left at Chadwell Heath please turn out the lights? More bad news from the treatment room: Manuel Lanzini is out for six weeks with a thigh injury sustained in training and Victor Moses, who pulled up in the first half at at Old Trafford, could be out for a similar spell. So West Ham now have Payet, Sakho, Lanzini and Moses out, though slightly better news is that Enner Valencia might be in contention for Saturday's match with Stoke.

Still, it's a big opportunity for the likes of Carroll, Song, Zarate, Antonio, Jelavic and Obiang to come in and perform. What is clear is that without Payet and Lanzini we'll lack our main sources of creativity and might have to grind out more results with set-pieces and hopefully some headers from Andy Carroll.

But at least the defence is fit and another possible formation to counter our lack of attackers might be five at the back with Reid, Ogbonna and Tomkins in the middle and Jenkinson and Cresswell as wing-backs. It's a big test of the squad against Stoke now and the important thing is Bilic doesn't allow the team to use the injuries as an excuse for easing up.

Sunday, December 6

Is this the Emirates?

Manchester United 0 West Ham United 0

Away in Rye in Sussex celebrating our wedding anniversary for this one, but did manage to get the score after climbing St Mary's church tower and Ypres Tower and visiting the Mermaid Inn. Watching Match of the Day on a romantic Sunday morning it's clear West Ham had the best chances and were unlucky not to win. Moses hit the keeper in a one-on-one chance early on following Noble's fine through ball, Zarate headed against the post after De Gea fumbled a cross and Winston Reid hit the post with a great header from a corner.

The best chance of all came in the second half when from Antonio's first-time cross, Andy Carroll found Zarate with a great flick only for the Hammers striker to skew a great chance wide. Adrian did have to produce one great save from Fellaini and Martial hit an effort just wide late on for United. But generally it was a fine performance with Reid having a great game at the back, Tomkins lending solidity at right back and Song returning to add bite in midfield. Nice to see Antonio get 53 minutes on the pitch too after Moses went off injured. All this was achieved without the injured Payet, Sakho, Valencia and Lanzini, so it's a good sign of the strength in the squad.

Matt's been watching the game in California and texts: "Local Man United fans are dancing in streets of Monteray at the result." Match of the Day also showed a couple of incidents that could have resoled in red cards for Fellaini's over-the-top tackle on Tomkins and Schweinsteiger elbowing Reid in the face. Credit to the West Ham fans for chants of "Is this the Emirates?" and "Is there a fire drill?" at the end. And misfiring United were booed off by some of their own fans. Two points dropped, but undefeated at Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool and Man United is an exceptional achievement. Irons!

Wednesday, December 2

We're not getting Sakho in the morning

Diafra Sakho will be out for four to eight weeks, having torn a thigh muscle in the draw with West Brom. This is another big blow after the Payet and Valencia injuries, as his running across the line has been integral to Bilic's five-man midfield. Though he looked tired against WBA and with hindsight you wonder if he should have been rested. 

WHU have Andy Carroll to come in, but he's a less mobile player and we need to play to his strengths by getting the likes of Moses, Cresswell and possibly Antonio into crossing positions and perhaps playing a slightly more direct game. I'd also like to see Nikica Jelavic given a chance. He has a decent scoring record of 30 goals in 45 games for Rangers, 16 in 59 for Everton, and 13 in 46 for Hull City and is still only 30. The other option might be to move Victor Moses into a striking role. 

But it's still looking pretty thin up front and a loan move for a striker will surely happen. Sadly even the indestructible Carlton Cole is too old to do a job for us now, though he did help make a great comedy goal for Celtic against Inverness Caledonian Thistle last weekend, falling over and bamboozling Danny Devine into an own goal. Click on the link to view.

Tuesday, December 1

Wrecking balls at Upton Park

Very good piece in the Observer by Daniel Taylor, centring on West Ham leaving the Boleyn Ground. He points out that a third of all clubs have now left their traditional stadiums and that a lot of memories will be lost and businesses closed down. Looking at West Ham's move he covers all the right people around Upton Park, including Ken's Cafe, the Boleyn, the Black Lion, the Newham Bookshop, Nathan's Pies and Eels and Gary Firmager of OLAS. Plus a mention of Hammers in the Heart too. Well worth a read, even if it does make you a little misty-eyed. Click on the link to read.

Sunday, November 29

Drawing drawing West Ham

West Ham 1 West Brom 1

There’s a big queue outside the Newham Bookshop for Danny Dyer’s book signing before the match. Vivien at the shop says he's been a real charmer. Then it’s on to Ken’s Café, which has been mentioned in an Observer feature, including my comment that Carol is the best manager West Ham never had. Diego Costa wouldn’t dare throw a bib at her.

Matt’s arrived at 1am in his not-very-lucky Dukla Prague away shirt. He’s been working nights and is about to fly to San Francisco for a fortnight. Meanwhile, Michael the Renaissance Man, Playwright and Whovian is arriving back from New York, but is currently marooned at Heathrow. Nigel arrives later, telling us the tragic news that CQ has dropped and broken his favourite Enfield FC mug. I remind Matt about my bet that that Rickie Lambert will score more goals than Modibo Maiga — a wager that will come back to haunt me. Thanks to the 2.05 kick-off time Matt’s food arrives late and he is forced to miss the kick off.

ZARATE STUNNER
Inside the stadium none of the clocks are working. Added to the demolition of the “Don’t kill your wife, let us do it” sexist clockface outside the dry cleaners in Green Street, it’s growing evidence of a time rift in E13 caused by West Ham’s impending move. Carroll and Tomkins have been dropped for Ogbonna and Zarate.

We start off fairly well against a team with four giant centre backs in defence, with Obiang looking solid in front of the defence, having replaced the suspended Noble. Rondon shoots just wide for WBA but that's their only threat. Lanzini sets up Zarate who fires into the side netting when he should hit the target. On 17 minutes the ref does well to spot McAuley holding Sakho and Zarate curls a lovely free kick into the top corner. When he plays he usually scores and it’s the best goal of Zarate’s Hammers’ career, Fraser says we’ve now won it, as in every game under Pulis, only one team has scored.

PERFIDIOUS ALBION 
Kouyate heads a good chance wide and Myhill saves with his legs as Lanzini shoots from distance after picking up a misplaced Albion pass. The rebound could easily have fallen to a WHU striker. Zarate skilfully sets up Lanzini, who produces another good save from Myhill. Can’t Get Enough by Bad Company comes on the PA half-time, which impresses Nigel, and it all seems to be going well.

Albion bring on Rickie Lambert after the break and the big striker’s arrival immediately brings results. The burly striker fires a hopeful shot that deflects off Winston Reid’s arm and veers into the net. It’s a fluke goal, but boosts Albion as West Ham’s confidence falters.

Michael the Transatlantic Whovian arrives like an impending harbinger of dropped points just after WBA equalise. Lambert has a free kick palmed wide by Adrian and the keeper then saves Rondon’s free header with his chest.

NO SAKHO IN THE MORNING
Plan B is resumed with Carroll coming on for Obiang. At least West Ham come back into it as Moses makes a great run from his own half and finds Sakho who looks sure to score. But McAuley makes a great challenge and Sakho goes down with what looks like a hamstring problem, and is replaced by Jelavic.

A week of night shifts, a late lunch, missing seeing Greenland’s top indie band Nanook (unlike CQ) and watching West Ham trying to break down an eight-man defence proves too much for Matt, who memorably tirades at the ref, Jenkinson, Jelavic and me for predicting that Lambert would turn his season round against West Ham. Will a fortnight in the Hotel California with Lisa see him return with a more chillaxed attitude to West Ham’s frailties and the negative karma of no Payet? Probably not if he has to still visit E13.

Near the end Moses flashes a volley wide and it ends at 1-1. We walk to the Black Lion, where Gary O’Neil is on the box playing for Norwich and the Ridley's Old Bob is like nectar compared to the Central’s offerings. We retreat to a windswept back bar covered in tarpaulins as the remains of Hurricane Barney batters the East End.

Fraser wonders if we will we win any games without Payet. A draw against a difficult Tony Pulis side isn’t a disaster, but West Ham should surely have scored more in the first half. Now we just have to win at Old Trafford.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 7; Jenkinson 6 Ogbonna 6, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Obiang 6 (Carroll 5), Lanzini 7, Kouyate 6, Zarate 7 (Antonio 5), Moses 6; Sakho 5 (Jelavic 5).

Tuesday, November 24

Are West Ham a one-man team?

We had an interesting discussion in the pub during the Spurs debacle on whether any other club relied on any one player as much as we have relied on Dimitri Payet this season. Everything has been going through Dimitri and with numerous assists and five goals he's obviously going to be a massive loss for the next three months. Man City rely on Aguero a lot, Spurs would miss Harry Kane and Everton Romelu Lukaku, but few teams have had such an obvious star. 

Still, you suspect the effect is psychological more than anything else, and our main problems were at the back against Spurs. We have some very good players to replace Payet. Manuel Lanzini is already having a fine season, Alex Song or Mauro Zarate can come into the midfield, Valencia will return in January, and there's the option of playing Carroll and Sakho together. Plus there's £7 million Antonio and Jelavic desperate to get games (and Jelavic did well to set up Lanzini's goal on Sunday). 


But what we do need is a bit more creativity from Noble, Kouyate and Moses to make up for his absence. And as Match of the Day pointed out, when teams press like Spurs did, we need to sometimes play the long ball out from the back to bypass them. Even without Payet we still have one of the strongest West Ham teams in many seasons, so for the moment let's remain positive.

Sunday, November 22

It hasn't happened again…

Foolish pre-match optimism before we meet our Waterloo
Tottenham 4 West Ham 1

It's off to the not-quite-so-lucky pub, The Hole In The Wall at Waterloo, for this one. Fraser and Gavin in flat caps, Matt, Lisa, and Nigel are all present. There's a fine selection of real ales at the bar and the Gold Rush and TEA are both splendid compared to the Central's beers. Matt, Nigel and The Gav reminisce about Hatfield band Babe Ruth, as featured on BBC4's Rock of the Seventies. Nigel's been to see Everton versus Aston Villa yesterday and Matt and Lisa have watched the WHU kids at Little Heath. The only problem is that we now have to watch a football match with West Ham Seniors.

Eriksen forces a good save from Adrian but it's fairly even early on, with West Ham forcing a few corners, until Spurs get their first after 23 minutes. There's a goalmouth melee and Harry Kane spins past Jenkinson too easily and fires into the roof of the net. It gets worse ten minutes later when Alderweireld loses Reid at a corner. Winston bumps into Sakho, Andy Carroll can't halt him either and the Spurs centre back heads number two. West Ham do hit the bar, with an acrobatic overhead kick from Kouyate, even though the ref should have flagged for offside. Matt insists he would have scored that one — at least in his dreams.

Alli heads against the bar and Kane slices wide when he should score while an Andy Carroll header is easily fielded by Lloris. Half-time arrives with much depression as The Gav and Fraser head outside for a cigar break. Scott Parker is on the TV and I suggest he'll be our man of the match again. The game's over after 50 minutes. Adrian plays a dangerous short ball out to Tomkins and James then passes straight to Eriksen. He finds Harry Kane who shoots home through Adrian. "I'll settle for a point now," suggests Nigel. And so much for Kane's goal drought. We just can't cope with Spurs' high pressing.

I JUST DON'T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND…
We're really missing Payet and as Bilic has said he's been making the other players around him raise their game too. It's hard to find anyone who's played well. The only plus is a late appearance from Alex Song. It's four when Walker pokes home after 83 minutes as Reid is again slow to sense the danger and Cresswell has left too much space on the left. Spurs then hit the post and we're just keeping the score down.

"Jelavic will never score for us… What is Jelavic going to do with that?" opines Mystic Matt as the late sub finds Lanzini with a fine through ball and Manuel shoots into the top of the net. A consolation at least, as Matt is ribbed by all the TEA drinkers.

We're left to rue a very poor performance against a Spurs side that is going really well and hasn't lost since the first day of the season. Our party wonder why Payet was allowed to play on against Everton (did it make the injury worse?) and reminisce about great West Ham injuries (Ashton, Dyer, etc). We quiz Fraser on his least favourite bosses, who turn out to be Pulis, Allardyce and Warnock. No-one can answer Matt's trivia question about who was the Spurs and England forward who signed for West Ham in the Championship. Turns out it was David Bentley.

West Brom now becomes a must-win game again and we have to get over the loss of Payet quickly. It's hard to believe the whole side will play as badly again next week, we hope.

Friday, November 20

Goodbye to Boleyn

Very good programme called Goodbye to Boleyn on Radio 4 this morning, dealing with the impact West Ham's move to Stratford will have on the environs of Green Street.. It includes interviews with Nathan's pie and mash, burger sellers, programme sellers, Gary Firmager of Over Land and Sea fanzine, Cynthia the hairdresser who works in David Gold's old house at number 442 Green Street, local residents, market traders and singing nuns Sister Immaculate and Sister Patricia who live near the stadium.  It was broadcast as part of Radio 4's Lives in a Landscape series and credit to producer Mark Burman for a great half hour of radio. Click on the link to listen.

Tuesday, November 17

Randolph makes the Euros

We've got a 'keeper at Euro 2016. Congratulations to Darren Randolph on playing in Ireland's 2-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina last night, the game that saw the Irish qualify. Certainly looked an emotional night. I thought Randolph did really well in the three games he played when Adrian was suspended, against Bournemouth, Liverpool and Newcastle. He'll benefit from international football too and it's encouraging West Ham now have two top class goalkeepers. And there's now a good chance Randolph might replace Shay Given and David Forde (a former Hammer) as Ireland's number one goalkeeper.

Monday, November 16

Who bought Ken's Cafe?

Anyone know who bought Ken's Cafe? A ceramic model of Ken's Cafe has sold for £150. It was part of the Tower of Babel exhibition by Barnaby Barford, on display in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum. If anyone does know who purchased the pottery Ken's then Carol at the real Ken's Cafe in Green Street would be interested in talking to them and acquiring it for posterity. Any leads very much appreciated…

Friday, November 13

Vaz Te signs for Charlton

Ricardo Vaz Te, who will always have a place in Hammers' folklore (and my pal Michael the Whovian's heart) for his Play-Off Final winner, has signed for Charlton until the end of the season, having been released by Turkish club Akhisar Belediyespor. His record of 19 goals in 61 games for the Hammers is pretty respectable and he scored a great goal off his knee at White Hart Lane just to wind up Spurs. Vaz Te never fully convinced as a Premier League striker, but he scored 12 in half a season during our promotion season of 2011-12. If he could repeat that for Charlton, currently 22nd in the Championship, he could prove to be an inspired signing.

Thursday, November 12

Andy Carroll needs time to get back to his best

Quite a lot of criticism of Andy Carroll on social media after the Everton game. Think we need to remember that he was up against the best young centre back in the country in John Stones and he is recovering from a long-term injury. Andy's still the same player who scored against Chelsea and he's only had two full games so far. He's not had a pre-season and I'd expect us to see the best of him after half a dozen or so matches. It will take time to recover his sharpness. Sakho doees look a more mobile option up front, but there's no reason Carroll can't get a lot of game time this season and as Bilic recently said, when he gets in certain situations, as he did against Chelsea, he can be unstoppable.

Tuesday, November 10

Life Lessons with Danny Dyer at the Newham Bookshop

Here's something to cheer us up after Dimitri Payet's injury. It's Christmas shopping day at the Newham Bookshop on Saturday Nov 28, with 20 per cent off all books. While uber geezer Danny Dyer, EastEnders star and scourge of Jose Mourinho, will be signing copies of his book Danny Dyer: Life Lessons from the East End on Sunday Nov 29 at 11.30am before the West Brom game. Can't be many actors who have got their own chant — remember Man United fans singing "Where's your famous Danny Dyer?" at Upton Park a few seasons ago. The answer is in the Newham Bookshop in Barking Road. Click on the link for details.

Monday, November 9

We've lost Payet, Dimitri Payet…

Disastrous news. Dimitri Payet is out for three months with an ankle injury after being scissor-tackled by Everton's James McCarthy. That tackle could surely have been prevented if referee Paul Tierney had clamped down on some rough Everton tackling early in the game and issued a yellow card. Payet was running the midfield before being targeted by a reducer, for which McCarthy was only booked.

The only vaguely positive news is that at least we have two number ten-type players capable of playing Payet's role in Manuel Lanzini and Mauro Zarate, while Alex Song and Pedro Obiang will soon be available to boost the defensive midfield.

The key to West Ham's season will be how the side and manager react to this. We can't feel sorry for ourselves —it's time for the big squad to move into action and minimise the loss of a player who has been sensational so far. Not easy, but that's what the squad's for. Last season injuries gave the players an excuse to coast after Christmas — we can't let it happen this time.

Sunday, November 8

Payet crocked as Lukaku haunts Hammers

West Ham 1 Everton 1

Heavy rain saturates Green Street on an unseasonably humid day as I arrive at Ken’s Café clad in Gore-Tex. Matt and Nigel are discussing old horror films as Matt becomes possibly the first person ever to utter the word ‘portmanteau’ in Ken’s. Meanwhile Michael the Renaissance Man (and Whovian) maintains a Zen-like calm insisting that his big breakfast will arrive before kick off, despite the fact he’s arrived at 2.15pm.

Meanwhile Carol’s granddaughter is the latest family member to have been recruited on cup-collecting duties, while Carol herself is still trying to trace the person who bought the pottery model of Ken’s Café from the V& A exhibition by Barnaby Barford — my money’s on Charles Saatchi. There’s time for late appearances from my Facebook pal Nicola, Big Phill and Big Joe and then a dash to the East Stand, with Matt and Nigel making their obligatory trek to the recycling bins behind the away coaches with their Saturday papers.

We arrive to find squaddies in West Ham scarves on the pitch, a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day and The Last Post. Winston’s in for the suspended Collins and Sakho is still injured so Andy Carroll starts two successive games for the first time since January.

The sides appear pretty evenly matched, but West Ham make a decent start. Payet finds Moses who shoots into the side netting. Everton are unexpectedly physical and Kone clatters Moses without being booked. Another fine ball from Payet finds Jenkinson who shoots at the keeper rather than crossing. From the rebound off the keeper Cresswell curls a good effort just over. Michael wonders if Moses will deliver his commandments on tablets of Stones. The Everton centre back is impressive throughout, dominating Andy Carroll, and earns a tuneful chorus of “Money can’t buy me Stones” from the away fans.

MANUEL'S MASTERSTROKE
The Irons take the lead after half a hour. Payet finds the impressive Moses who scuffs his shot from the edge of the box. The ball rebounds off Stones to Lanzini on the edge of the box and curls a lovely effort into the top corner before running into the corner to celebrate.

Payet has already delighted the crowd with one pirouette away from Everton’s midfield on the halfway line, provoking a chorus of “We’ve got Payet!”,  but is then injured after being crocked by McCarthy with a scissors tackle. The Everton enforcer plays a bit of the ball, but also clatters the man and it could easily be a red card, but ref Paul Tierney only books him. We are tempted to state a McCarthyite witch hunt.

Two minutes before the break Everton equalise, just after Mr Moon has left the stadium. Payet loses possession and Deulofeu plays a great first-time ball though to Lukaku. The Everton striker has got behind Tomkins and Reid too easily, but uses his pace and strength to round Adrian and tap home. That’s his seventh goal in seven games against West Ham.

At half-time we doubt if even Nigel’s lucky banana can save us from the usual Everton comeback. Meanwhile Fraser’s having to rewrite the start of his Western novel as for some reason his tutors want to tweak his plot of ransoming a portly sheriff called Big Sam to an outpost in the north-east.

WE'VE NOT GOT PAYET
Payet only lasts five minutes of the second half and is replaced by Valencia. Enner looks sharp and combines well with Lanzini, curling in a fine cross that Moses just fails to connect with. But his cameo only lasts ten minutes. Coleman makes a fair tackle, but Valencia falls awkwardly and has to be replaced by Zarate.

The ref continues to perplex. Lanzini shoots narrowly wide and West Ham’s best chance comes after Moses wins a corner. Winston Reid’s header is just over the bar. At the other end Lukaku pokes a Galloway cross past the post.

At least we don’t concede the usual late goal in the four minutes of added time and if Payet hadn’t been crocked we might surely have won. The game ends in a draw and in a nod to Bilic’s heavy metal football, the PA plays Black Sabbath’s Paranoid (a tribute to Jose Mourinho?) and Deep Purple’s Highway Star, which pleases Nigel no end.

I walk with Nigel to Plaistow and we agree that at least point keeps the season ticking over and we are way ahead of relegation-certainties Chelsea. In fact we go up to fifth, which causes a lot of celebration, as when I meet my family for a bit of a do in Warwick Avenue there are fireworks going off all over London. Two weeks’ international break now (third of the season so far and surely too many?) and the chance to get Payet, Sakho (who we’ve missed) and Valencia fit.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Jenkinson 6, Reid 6, Tomkins 6, Cresswell 6; Lanzini 7, Payet 6 (Valencia 5, Zarate 5), Kouyate 5, Noble 5, Moses 7; Carroll 5 (Jelavic 5).

Saturday, November 7

The Boys of '86 in Blowing Bubbles

This month's Blowing Bubbles Magazine celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Boys of '86 with interviews with Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie.

In his column for the monthly magazine George Parris explains why their partnership was so special: "They just had one of those seasons where everything clicked. So much so they could’ve scored with their backsides! Every time we walked out to play, you just felt one of them was going to score. Even if they only got one chance, you just knew they’d take it." He also reveals: "I think it will be very tough for West Ham to match our third place finish. Winning the FA Cup would be just as good a feeling though."

Elsewhere Sky Sports' Bianca Westwood reflects on her recent interview with Andy Carroll and how he has hailed the Bilic factor as we all dare to think big. "The biggest thing I took away from my interview with Andy was that whenever he spoke about Slaven, it was clear that he really has this likeability factor about him," she says. "He said the players respect him and they did  so instantly. He has this aura about him and he is a manager they all look up to because of what he has achieved."

Meanwhile, Blowing Bubbles has a moving piece by the Yellow Advertiser's reporter Brian Jeeves on his father's West Ham passion.They've also got a report from a Bradford City fan on how they've fallen in love with Reece Burke and how great he has been for them this season. "Even at this relatively early stage in the season, it’s probably not hyperbolic to cast him among the front-runners for the Player of the Year award, he’s been that good," says Bradford fan Katie Whyatt.

Blowing Bubbles' writers also give their views on Amalfitano's exit,  this summer's Saido Berahino sage ahead of our game against West Brom, and ponder whether Big Sam can get Sunderland out of relegation trouble.


The latest issue of Blowing Bubbles Monthly is now available to read for FREE on your computer, tablet or mobile phone. Just click on the link to read.

Friday, November 6

You're getting Sakho in the morning…

Diafra Sakho is not going to face any charges, having been arrested in August and now cautioned by the police for criminal damage. Though Slaven Bilic will presumably have spoken to him about getting into the wrong situations and damaging the reputation of the club. Having said that, he's had a very good season so far without getting the plaudits of Payet and co. He's worked tremendously hard as an unselfish lone striker and has been foraging in the channels right up to the final whistle, as we saw when he won a late corner at Arsenal. It's no coincidence we slumped at Watford without him. Andy Carroll might need a few more games as an impact sub and perhaps at some stage a Sakho/Carroll partnership might be worth a try as it worked well against Swansea last season. Hopefully Diafra will now concentrate on football and avoid any off-field shenanigans, because he can be a key player at WHU this season.

Thursday, November 5

Keep the Boleyn Tavern going next season

Interesting flyers handed out in Ken's Cafe last week on how the Boleyn pub plans to keep going. For an annual fee of £120 you can become a member and receive free return coach trips from the pub to the Olympic Stadium and get a discount at the bar for home and away matches. The Boleyn might get a bit packed and noisy before matches, but take a look around and you'll find it's a lovely old London pub with some great fittings and it would be sad to lose it. It's also included in CAMRA'a National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. More details at boleyntavern@outlook.com or from 0208 472 2182.

Wednesday, November 4

Let's go effng dental

West Ham's footballers may have dodgy teeth. The WHU players were among eight clubs surveyed by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. As today's Guardian reports (complete with a picture of four West Ham players with sugar cube heads) the results of the survey showed that the footballers had on average more cavities, erosion and fillings than the rest of the population. It's not clear why, though theories include footballers having lots of sugar-high sports drinks and the fact some might come from developing nations were dental care is poor. Or maybe they're just a bit rubbish at going to the dentist. Soon we may have a literally toothless attack. All this is a good excuse to try to get together a West Ham Dental XI (shame we never signed Andre Wisdom). Though so far I've only been able to come up with Paul Brush, Scott Minto, Jaws Parris and Paul Rinse.

Saturday, October 31

Stirring up a Hornets' nest

Watford 2 West Ham 0

Oh dear. A Halloween horror from the Hammers. Was always worried about this after the Champions League was mentioned this week. At least Bilic has been honest in his appraisal that we were complacent and the performance was unacceptable, with WHU second best from the start. An error from Carroll for the first goal and James Collins getting sent off rounded off a bad day, while sub Valencia did hit a post for the Hammers. Watching it on Match of the Day, Carroll dawdled horribly for the first goal and Tomkins should have cut out the cross for Ighalo's second, while Collins' red card was a stupid tackle probably coming out of frustration at WHU's poor performance. But we've failed to beat all the newly promoted teams now, taking just one point from Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford. Watford are clearly a wel-organised team with an in-form striker but it's still worrying we should have fallen into the old trap of playing well against the big boys and slumping against the lesser teams. Bilic still has work to do, let's hope this result concentrates minds on the fact that no PL games are easy.

The Zarate Kid

Good to see Mauro Zarate score a cracking goal against Chelsea, and having also scored against another top team in Arsenal this will give his confidence a big boost. When he's started he's tended to score, having also netted a fine individual goal against FC Astra and a deflected shot against Leicester in the League Cup.

The way Bilic has handled him has been impressive, as Zarate is clearly high maintenance. Mauro fell out with Big Sam after being dropped last season and was loaned out to QPR only for Harry Redknapp to try and swap him for Matt Jarvis. After Redknapp went he so offended Rangers' new boss Chris Ramsey that he was sent back two weeks' early from his loan. Back then it looked like Zarate had no future at West Ham.

When Bilic fell out with Morgan Amalfitano and had him training with the kids before being released, it set an example that he wouldn't tolerate any outbursts from players. Yet he's handled Zarate sensitively, we've had no strops even when he's been out of the side and Slaven seems to be finally getting the best out of Zarate. And with Payet, Lanzini and Zarate we now have three number ten-type players who can turn a game.

Friday, October 30

Don't mention the league!

West Ham fans are traditionally wary of jinxes. As my pal Nick said after the Chelsea game: "So long as Andy Carroll doesn't start saying we'll finish in the top four, we have grounds for optimism." As you might recall, as soon as Andy said we wanted to win the league last season, West Ham started to slump. Andy's kept quiet this season but it's a little worrying that co-chairman David Sullivan has been on West Ham TV daring to dream and saying, "Us or maybe Leicester could break into the top four this year… I know it's unlikely but it is possible." As we all know in the East Stand, never check the league table until the final whistle and always wear your lucky shirt. The official line of Hammers in the Heart, lest it jinxes us, is that while feeling privately optimistic, we still need another 20 points to stay up. 

Tuesday, October 27

Stamford Bridge is falling down…

Good news that Chelsea are being charged by the FA after their disgraceful behaviour on Saturday. Though I'm not sure why West Ham are also being charged with failing to control their players, unless it's to prevent another Mourinho tirade. Chelsea appears to be a club that has lost all sense of discipline. They had six players booked, a coach sent off and their manager sent to the stands after entering the referee's room at half-time. Then Mourinho refused to give a TV interview after the game, despite being obliged to do so, and left poor Gary Cahill to speak to the press. Despite looking a little embarrassed, Cahill made a decent job of it and didn't whinge like his manager.

You'd like to think West Ham learnt a little about how to lose with good grace in the days of Ron Greenwood and John Lyall, and what was striking about Chelsea's attitude was a complete lack of sporting behaviour. Matic deserved his two yellow cards, Zouma's header was nearly over the line but not quite and the goaline technology proved it, while Fabregas's goal was a close call but he was offside by an elbow. Some refs would have allowed it, others wouldn't. And Adrian had already stopped moving having heard the whistle. No huge conspiracy there, yet Jose Mourinho continues to talk himself out of a job. He deserved to be sent to the stands and taunted by Danny Dyer, who quipped, "all right sunshine?" before being ushered away by a steward.