Sunday, September 21

Crisis club Liverpool Hammered!

West Ham 3 Liverpool 1

In Ken’s CafĂ© Michael the Whovian is discussing theatrical matters with his pal Nick (who comes to Ken’s but doesn’t go to games, such is the attraction of Carol’s salon), before revealing that Giles Watling the Tory candidate in the Clacton by-election is the brother of Doctor Who actress Deborah Watling (who played Victoria) and the son of Jack Watling who played Professor Travis in the Yeti stories. Not a lot of people know that.

I’m with my daughter Lola, who is enhancing her sixth-form studies with a trip to the Upton Park Academy. Nigel arrives breathless from Edinburgh having saved the Union after being in the front row at Kate Bush. Matt is away at a gig by Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, who is performing his concept album about his Welsh ancestor who went to America in 1792 to find a Welsh-speaking Native American tribe, as you do.

At 5.30pm the atmosphere is buzzing under the lights inside Upton Park, as the Liverpool fans are regaled with, “Sign on with a pen in your hand…” In the first minute West Ham gain a free kick wide on the right. "We always score from free kicks…” I tell Lola. Bizarrely, we do. Downing crosses to the back post, Tomkins heads across goal and Winston Reid can’t miss with his header. Blimey. That wasn’t meant to happen. “Who put the ball in the Scousers net?” asks the Bobby Moore Stand.

West Ham are taking full advantage of any tiredness Liverpool might be experiencing from their midweek Champions League game. After seven minutes Sakho breaks down the right and scores with a brilliant chip over the keeper. What sort of thing is happening here? Can we play Liverpool every week? Sakho is stating to look like a real bargain and he and Valencia are working the channels and bemusing the Scousers’ defence.

“Dad, have West Ham been replaced by aliens?” asks Lola.

This is very strange. Matt texts to remind us that we have previously effed up a two-goal lead against Liverpool. Still, we play really well in the first half. Downing is playing at the tip of a midfield diamond and looks much better when he sees more of the ball. Song is strong and mobile, Kouyate gives solid support and Noble has a fine game with two anchor men behind him.

Downing wins several free kicks, Cresswell has a shot saved by Mignolet and Valencia has a low shot tipped away for a corner. There’s a fracas as Adrian is clattered by Balotelli and confronts the Italian. Both players are booked and Noble sensibly tells Adrian not to risk getting sent off when we’re 2-0 up — though it’s also quite reassuring to think we have a bit of a nutter in goal who won’t let forwards rough him up.  Liverpool pull a goal back after 26 minutes when Balotelli turns and shoots, the ball is blocked, and Sterling fire home the rebound from the edge of the box.

It’s been really entertaining and at half-time we wonder what we can moan about. The second half is a different kind of game with Lallana on for Lucas and Sterling causing problems. Liverpool have much more of the ball. Balotelli twists past Tomkins to get in a hard effort that Adrian tips away and Borini has a couple of tame efforts, but the Reds don’t trouble the keeper too much. The biggest scare is when Adrian risks getting booked again after collecting the hall with his foot up. West Ham have to regroup and Song is replaced by Amalfitano and Enner Valencia goes off to be replaced by an extra defender in James Collins. Maiga pokes one effort over but Lambert comes on and Liverpool normally go on to get a late winner in these situations.

Yet our defence plays excellently and with two minutes to go Liverpool’s Sakho makes a poor clearance that goes straight to Stewart Downing. The rejuvenated midfielder plays a finely weighted through ball to Morgan Amalfitano, who cleverly pokes the ball past Mignolet, before running along the front of the Bobby Moore Stand as the place goes mental. 

This is incredible. Two-nil and we haven’t f***ed it up. I text Matt to suggest that West Ham have just performed a 90 minute concept album where they rediscover their ancestral attacking roots. Fraser goes to the pub to smoke three cigars. Never in doubt. Football on the ground. We go eighth! And the best home performance since we returned to the Premier League.

TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 6, Demel 7 (Jenkinson 6), Tomkins 7, Reid 7, Cresswell 6, Kouyate 7, Song 8, (Amalfitano 7), Downing 8, Noble 7, Valencia 6 (Collins 6), Sakho 7.

Saturday, September 20

West Ham and Scotland: better together?

Are West Ham and Scotland better together? Here's my West Ham Scottish XI. I'd vote Yes to Ray Stewart, Frank McAvennie and Christian Dailly (the love of my life) but No to Tommy McQueen, Nigel Quashie and Ralph Milne…






Wednesday, September 17

West Ham in wonder goal shocker

Enner Valencia's wonder goal seems to getting faster and faster. Yesterdays Evening Standard timed it at 70mph and at this rate it will be soon brewing the speed of sound and reaching warp factor ten. Still, it's not often the words West Ham and wonder goal are connected in the same sentence. Still can't figure out how he managed to hit it like that with so little backlift. We have to hope Valencia gets a couple of tap-ins now to prove that he can score scrappy goals too, but his strength in the air at Hull was encouraging and he's scored possibly the best goal by a West Ham player since Di Canio produced that volley against Wimbledon.

Tuesday, September 16

Valencia's wonder strike illuminates the KC as Hammers force point

Hull City 2 West Ham 2

It’s off to the Grafton Arms in Victoria, with Matt, Lisa and Fraser. The Goons used to write their scripts in the room upstairs and we wonder how much comedy there might be at the KC. Particularly as Big Sam seems to have had a funny turn and has selected two strikers in Sakho and Valencia. 

The Grafton has five real ales in stock and a pint of Fanny’s Bramble cider for Fraser. Matt and Lisa have been to see Kate Bush and report a fight in the disabled enclosure. Always knew those Kate Bush fans were troublemakers. Nigel checks in from Edinburgh, where he’s holed up in a sports bar with 11 screens drinking 'Irons-Bru', fending off nationalists and trying to decide whether to vote yes or no to West Ham.

Not too much happens in the first 30 minutes. Sakho and Demel make inroads down the right but are let down by some average crossing. The best chance is created by West Ham when Downing crosses from the let, Valencia gets a good header back across the box and McGregor makes a fine one-handed save to stop Sakho’s header.

It all goes wrong when I go to the bar. Hull cross and Tomkins, although close to Hernandez, doesn’t stop him connecting with a great header that flies into the corner. We wobble after that, as Hernandez hits the bar with a great effort, and Jelavic nods home only to be correctly ruled offside.

Half-time arrives with Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville drawing more arrows and circles than in a noughts and crosses game on their new video toy. James Tomkins is then covered in a circular tube that looks like some sort of time vortex device from Doctor Who.

West Ham really come at Hull City in the second half and dominate the first five minutes. Just as we’re moaning that West Ham never score from crosses after Demel makes the wrong choice, we prove we don’t need too. Enner Valencia drifts across the pitch and with Michael Dawson in front of him it looks as if there’s no danger. But somehow the Ecuadorian striker fires in an unstoppable 25-yard wonder shot that travels at 61.2 mph into the top corner before McGregor can move. That’s a £12 million moment of class.

West Ham look likely to get a second after that as Reid just fails to connect with a header in front of goal and Song replaces Zarate. But we contrive to conceive from our own throw-in after 64 minutes. Creswell throws it inside rather than down the line and Kouyate is muscled off the ball by the man he replaced, Mo Diame. Tomkins backs off as Diame advances and our former midfielder produces a fantastic finish into the corner. “I bet he doesn’t score again for two months, “ rues Matt. To give Diame a little credit, he doesn’t appear to celebrate.

It looks like another defeat but the lads produce some character and come straight back three minutes later. Downing clips a fine ball inside to Sakho on the right who sends in a hard low cross. McGregor doesn’t collect and the ball spins off Curtis Davies and over the line.

From then on the game resembles an end-to-end Sunday league match as both sides keep giving the ball away. In the 94th minute West Ham almost win it. Downing gets in a cross from the right and Valencia heads downwards, with the ball bouncing on to Dawson’s chest and then on to the bar. Doh!

Still, it’s been an entertaining game, even if both of Hull’s goals have come from defensive errors. We need to tighten up but I’d rather have this than playing for a 0-0. Valencia and Sakho look promising up front and even if if Enner does take on too many dribbles after his goal, if he can produce more moments like his wonder goal we might finally have the striker we need.

Monday, September 15

To Hull and back

Well, we've had two weeks and two days to get over the terrible Southampton game. The good thing is West Ham have some decent players to come into the side. Big Sam is suggesting that Enner Valencia will finally start having scored against Bolivia for Equador, while Alex Song is ready to strengthen the midfield and Morgan Amalfitano should provide plenty of crosses,

Hull City have their own expensive striker in Abel Hernandez (still awaiting a work permit) and have made some good signings in the injured Robert Snodgrass, Michael Dawson, Gaston Ramirez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Tom Ince and one Mo Diame. Ince has already scored against WHU for Blackpool in the play-off final and would no doubt like to get another for the sake of his old man, while the immutable law of the ex suggests that Diame is likely to bag a 30-yarder. Which means we'll need to get at least three to win.

Friday, September 12

Is that all you drink at home?

The £305 fine for Jordan Dunn, the West Ham fan who ran on to the pitch against Spurs and bent a free kick like Beckham has made plenty of headlines. I'd agree with David Gold that WHU fans shouldn't be paying his fine thought crowdfunding as we don't want to encourage pitch invasions, even if Jordan can take a better free kick wearing red Converse trainers than Spurs' Eriksen. But what we can do is give him some advice on pre-match drinking. The court case revealed that Dunn, from Dover, had drunk six pints before the game. I suspect he'd been at the gassy lager which can lead to hyperactivity. What this fan would recommend to Jordan is drinking some real ale in the Black Lion before games, a smoother drink which would lead to a much more mellow feeling and cause him to fall asleep in the East Stand with the rest of us.

Thursday, September 11

Mooro and Brooking signings at the Newham Bookshop

There's a couple of great signings coming up at the Newham Bookshop, the best independent book store in London. Matt Dickinson, the chief sports correspondent of The Times, will be signing copies of  Bobby Moore: The Man In Full, his biography of West Ham and England's World Cup winning captain, before the Liverpool match at 3pm on September 20. While the legendary Sir Trevor Brooking will be signing copies of his autobiography Trevor Brooking: My Life in Football before the QPR match at 2pm on Sunday October 5. Let's hope Sir Trev will pop into Ken's Cafe too. Click on the link for details.