More good news this week. Alex Song was quoted as telling a French newspaper that he would like to extend his stay at West Ham, while Diafra Sakho has been round to David Sullivan's gaff and signed an improved contract taking his wages from 15 grand a week to 25 grand a week. Seems like Sullivan has acted quickly to ensure there are no financial grievances that might encourage clubs to sniff around Sakho. While Carlton Cole tells tonight's Standard that he's happy to be a squad player because he supports West Ham and just wants us to win. And if he did knock on Big Sam's floor complaining, "he'd probably knock me out!"
We’re in Lewes on a mini-break to celebrate our wedding
anniversary for this one. Strangely Her Indoors has eschewed an afternoon at
the Stadium of Light in favour of staying the White Hart, where Thomas Paine
once formed the Headstrong Society for the Julian Dicks types of his day, a
trip round Lewes Castle, tea at Anne of Cleves’ house, an Italian dinner and
Sunday climbing Mount Caburn followed by a pint of Harveys best bitter in the Snowdrop.
Upon returning to London my recording of Match of the Day reveals a decent away
draw. Jenkinson has a volley well saved by Pantilimon early on, though
Sunderland go ahead with a Gomez penalty after Johnson collapses when brushed
by James Tomkins. Never a penalty. West Ham show a bit of character to
equalise, as Downing cuts in from the right and fires a deflected left-foot
shot into the corner.
After that it appears to be a game that could have gone
either way. The hapless Altidore somehow contrives to miss a cross from Larsson
while just a couple of yards from goal and Winston Reid is lucky to get away
with a handball in the box.
Andy Carroll scoops a delicate chip on to the roof
of the net, while Downing finds Cresswell on the overlap, but the keeper
smothers his effort. Adrian makes a decent stop from Fletcher and a brilliant tip
over from Wickham’s fierce shot. At the end Andy Carroll almost wins it for the
Irons, sidefooting the ball just wide of the post.
It’s the sort of game we might have lost season,
so as Big Sam says, we’ll respect the point against the league’s draw
specialists. Got to be happy with 28 points collected from 16 games.
Was feeling optimistic about our FA Cup chances until we drew Everton away, a ground where WHU never seem to get anything. But let's hope it's like 1980, when West Ham were drawn away at West Brom, then a high quality side, and I confidently predicted we'd be knocked out in the third round. But a great performance by Phil Parkes in goal resulted in a 1-1 draw, we won the replay and went on to win the Cup. Though knowing West Ham we could easily win at Everton and then get knocked out by the likes of Blyth Spartans.
Ken’s Café is covered in
seasonal tinsel as myself, daughter Lola and her pal Fernanda dine on isotonic
sausage, egg, chips and beans. We move on to the Newham Bookshop where Vivien tells
us that Russell Brand will be dropping in to sign copies of his book Revolution, presumably a tribute to Big
Sam’s re-invention of West Ham this season.
Matt is in the Galapagos
Islands watching turtle football, while Nigel is away at a family event. So
it’s down to the diehard contingent of Michael the Whovian, fresh from William
Russell’s 90th birthday party, Fraser and the returning prodigal
Iron, The Gav.
West Ham dominate the first
15 minutes but then Swansea score with their first break. Montero makes speedy
progress down the left and pulls the ball back for Bony to calmly slot home.
Bony — whom West Ham could have signed instead of Andy Carroll — runs over to our corner to do a silly dance. Soon the Swansea fans are
breaking into a chorus of Land of my Fathers.
West Ham wobble a little as
Adrian has to punch away another effort from Bony after good work by Sigurdsson.
But slowly we re-impose
ourselves on the game as Nolan fires wide from Jenkinson’s cross and then has
an effort saved by Fabianski. Alex Song is making a difference controlling
the midfield, though Valencia rarely connects with Carroll and doesn’t look
fully fit yet.
The Irons equalise as
Jenkinson fires in an inviting cross. Andy Carroll
gets a run on the ball and smacks home a sensational header. Good moment for
the big man after all those hours of toil in Billi’s yoga studio.
A CHRISTMAS CARROLL
West Ham start the second
half with more pressure. Sakho, on for Valencia at half time, looks hungry and makes a difference rolling in an inviting cross that is cleared for a corner. . A swift Swansea break sees Bony rattle the bar.
But on 66 minutes Carroll meets Downing’s corner with another fine header that Britton can’t clear off the line. 2-1 to the Cockney Boys.
After robbing Williams he hits the post with a great
effort and we wonder if it might prove costly. Then Sakho appears to handball
on the left of the box, but forces his way through to hit the post again as
Fabianski rushes out. There’s some contact with Sakho, though it doesn’t look a
sending off as there’s a covering defender. But the ref red cards Fabianski and
awards a retrospective free kick to West Ham on the edge of the box.
WINNING THE SAKHO RACE
As ever we struggle slightly
against ten men and a substitute goalkeeper. O’Brien and then Collins shore up
the back line. Michael leaves with five
minutes to go, as he has to get to the British Film Institute to watch the
earliest British science fiction film ever made. “Don’t miss a goal!” we warn.
Sure enough, Carroll wins
another aerial challenge allowing Sakho to race through the middle and thump a
half-volley past the keeper. Great goal.
“Diafra Sakho! He scores when
he wants!” salutes the Bobby Moore Stand. Then come chants of “We’re gonna win the league! and “Barcelona we’re
coming for you!”
“Typical,” texts Michael. Matt
and Lisa are presumably dancing in the streets of Galapagos as West Ham win
this Darwinian battle of life. Nell and her friend Fernanda (soon to move to
Stratford and surely a new Hammers convert) chant, “We want more! Make it four!”
A chorus of Bubbles starts in the corner of the Alpari
and carries on round the whole ground. We survive six minutes of added time and
it’s three wins in a week. We go above Southampton and Man United. We’re THIRD!
It’s starting to feel like this is going to be a special season.
TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 6; Jenkinson 7 (O’Brien 5), Reid
7, Tomkins 6, Cresswell 6; Nolan 6, Kouyate 6 (Collins 5), Song 7, Downing 6;
Valencia 5 (Sakho 8), Carroll 8.
With Kevin Nolan and James Tomkins having scored at West Brom, it means West Ham have had 11 separate scorers in the league this season. That's got to be a sign of a good team when the goals are spread around. Encouragingly defenders Cresswell, Tomkins and Reid have all scored a goal. Midfielders Downing, Amalfitano (twice each) Noble and Nolan have all made the onion sack bulge, while strikers Sakho, Valencia, Cole and Zarate have scored 13 between them. Now we just need Carroll, Collins, Song, Kouyate and Jenkinson to hit the net.
A season ago this was the sort of game we'd lose 1-0. It looked like it might happen again after the unmarked Dawson rose to head Albion ahead. Yet the character in this West Ham side showed through again with Nolan getting a poacher's goal after Carroll's overhead kick was saved. Then in first-half added time James Tomkins headed home Downing's corner for his first goal in two years. The second half sounds like one of the grittier performances from last season, with the Hammers having little possession but defending resolutely. But we'll take that while Noble, Sakho, Song and Valencia (though he did come on in the second half) are not in the starting line-up. Last season a few West Ham fans held up that "Fat Sam Out Killing WHU" banner. This season they were chanting, "We're gonna win the league!" and "Barcelona we're coming for you!"
Twenty four points… we're almost safe! Texted the result to Matt, holidaying in the heights of Quito, Equador, where Mr and Mrs Valencia will presumably be dancing in the streets, and looking forward to the highlights on Match of the Day tonight. We're only two points behind Southampton in third spot and three points behind Man City in second place. How times change.
Scurrilous thoughts on all things West Ham related can be found on the Stop! Hammer Time podcast, recorded before the Newcastle game. Includes contributions from myself, Don Peretta and Pete Ward and is ably marshalled by comedian Phil Whelans, who also does a mean Dickensian Big Sam impersonation. Click on the link to listen. There's also a live podcast with George Parris and Kriss Akabusi on Wed Dec 3 at the Horse and Stables pub in Lambeth, click on the link for tickets.