Friday, January 23

Ass twitching with WHU

Luis Van Gaal says the Man United bench was left "twitching our ass" after switching to 4-4-2 against West Ham. There can't be many times West Ham have left anyone twitching their ass in recent years, so it's presumably a sign of progress. Though we did normally make Tony Adams look like an ass or possibly even a donkey.

Thursday, January 22

Fletcher coming?

Today's Evening Standard suggests Man United's Darren Fletcher is coming on loan for the rest of the season. He was certainly a player that Sir Alex Ferguson trusted, but I'm always reticent about signing players from Man United as they invariably disappoint on the way down from Old Trafford. Look at Rio Ferdinand at QPR and Tom Cleverley at Aston Villa, though Teddy Sheringham is the exception to this rule. To be more positive, Fletcher is 30 and having overcome serious illness should have a few years left and might be useful as cover for Song and Kouyate.

Meanwhile the Mirror claims that Winston Reid wants to leave if Arsenal bid for him in the window and that Arsenal have quoted a whopping £12 million for Carl Jenkinson. Might there yet be a straight exchange of the pair? Though Arsenal are also said to be interested in signing defender Gabriel Paulista from Villareal, which might scupper any Winston deal.

Tuesday, January 20

Farewell Vaz

Ricardo Vaz Te has had his contract terminated by mutual consent, but like all Hammers fans I'd like to thank him for providing the best moment of recent years with his winning goal against Blackpool in the 2012 play-off final. Returning to Marylebone station that night the platform was echoing to choruses of "Ricardo Vaz Te, he scores when he wants!" He scored 12 goals for us in the second half of that season and was a big factor in our promotion. Vaz never quite looked like a Premier League player though and wasn't helped by two bad shoulder injuries, but moments I'll remember include his first PL goal at QPR and scoring the second in the 3-0 win at Tottenham last season. Good luck in the rest of your career, Ricardo.

Monday, January 19

London 3 Hull 0

Big Andy salutes the East Stand…
West Ham 3 Hull City 0

Inside Ken’s CafĂ© Michael the Whovian is clad in black to mark the departure of his hero Ricardo Vaz Te. He's so traumatised he almost doesn't finish his big breakfast. The 1.30pm kick-off means there’s a big rush to eat before kick-off and I find myself comprehensively out-tactic-ed by Matt, who though ordering chips and beans only, rather than my egg, chips and beans, finds himself bumped 20 places up Carol’s ticket system.

Outside the East Stand we're asked by stewards if we have any deodorants in our bags; whereas once it would have been Stanley knives. Fraser joins us in the stadium and Nigel arrives five minutes late, still in shock at missing a mere 21 goals on Tuesday night. West Ham look sluggish in the first half, with Song and Noble looking way off the pace, though Valencia impresses with his work rate. Is it fatigue from the 120 minutes on Tuesday night? Our passing is way off beam.

THIS COULD BE HEAVEN OR THIS COULD BE HULL 
Hull could score three times. The dangerous Aluko crosses for Elmohamady to shoot wide from a very presentable chance. Aluko spins away from Collins and Tomkins only to hesitate and be prevented from scoring by a great Collins tackle. Then Aluko gets though again, but bizarrely elects to pass rather than shoot. West Ham can only offer a dangerous cross from Andy Carroll, a Tomkins header over the bar from a corner and a looping Valencia header that is tipped on to the bar.

At half-time Matt asks what’s Enner Valencia done this season that no other West Ham player has done? The answer is score in all three of West Ham’s kits. The boy’s on fire in the trivia stakes. Nigel asks how do you identify the sex of an ant? Answer: “If it floats in water it’s a bouy-ant.” When I announce that I’m going to suck a Fishermen’s Friend, he suggests trying a cough lozenge instead. A comedy contract from Big Joe surely awaits.

DER DER DER DER DER! ANDY CARROLL! 
West Ham return to the pitch, presumably having had a rollicking from Big Sam. Winston Reid is on for Collins and we look much better with Downing at the tip of the diamond rather than out wide, though we’re helped by Hull losing Chester and Bruce to injury. Nolan shows good technique to fire a volley narrowly over the bar from Downing’s cross.

We take the lead on 49 minutes as Valencia unleashes a dipping shot from the edge of the box. McGregor can only parry it into the danger area, Curtis Davies is slow to react and Andy Carroll is alert enough to prod home his fifth goal of the season before running into the arms of the faithful in the Bobby Moore Stand.

Then the West Ham scoreboard stops working so we have no idea how long is actually left. Or is it some sort of tribute to mark the success of the film The Theory of Everything, suggesting that all time is relative when Hull are in danger of being swallowed by a black hole? We go close again as Valencia wastefully shoots into the side netting after a terrible Dawson pass. 

GOOD MORGAN 
Hull's defence is finding Enner's speed difficult to contain. On 69 minutes it’s settled as Song finds Valencia who controls quickly and has the vision to find substitute Amalfitano. Morgan dinks a lovely finish over the keeper. Two minutes later we score again as Song plays a through ball from the half way line and Downing pierces a statuesque defence to finish confidently.

Adrian has to make one good save but the rest of the game is Fancy Dan stuff as West Ham pass it around at last with even the odd “ole!” After another good ball from Downing, Nolan hits the bar from an acute angle and Andy Carroll almost prods home another chance home. Even Joey O’Brien gets a run-out. Another boost for the Irons is that Matt has stayed positive throughout the game, even encouraging Kevin Nolan.

Three-nil will do us and a much better second half. Thirty six points. We’re almost safe! And a big contrast to the game against Hull last season. Our run of six games without a victory (if you discount penalties) has ended and now comes the chance to cement a place in the top eight.


PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Jenkinson 6, Tomkins 5 (O’Brien 5), Collins 6 (Reid 6), Cresswell 6; Song 6, Noble 5 (Amalfitano 7), Nolan 6, Downing 7; Valencia 8, Carroll 7.

Saturday, January 17

Where's our sponsor gone?

Not often you see a picture of Adrian doing a knee-slide on the financial pages of the Guardian. West Ham's shirt sponsor Alpari has gone bust as a result of the currency markets turmoil after the Swiss central bank abandoned pegging the franc against the euro. So we need a new shirt and stand sponsor. Not the first time this has happened. Back in 2008 after the credit crunch our shirt-sponsor XL went bust, resulting in West Ham playing at West Brom with bizarre white patches over our sponsors' logos, possibly made from Gianfranco Zola's mum's old curtains. Shame we couldn't have kept XL as it might have looked good on Benni McCarthy. Any suggestions for a new sponsor? 

Wednesday, January 14

We're on the march with Adrian's Army!

West Ham 2 Everton 2 (FA CUP) (West Ham win 9-8 on penalties)

The East Stand faithful enjoy a 21-goal thriller
Strange goings on at Upton Park. There’s a retro 1991 programme cover, based on the fact this was the year when we last played Everton at home in the FA Cup. It’s nice to see the return of pen-pictures beneath each player, where Mark Noble “can tackle, create and pass with aplomb” and Carl Jenkinson has “searing pace”. Needs a few more references to custodians and stoppers though.

The other shock is that we’re playing in our iffy third choice purple and gold kit, which is a bit Towie. Are we really going to wear this in all our FA Cup ties? Lucky we didn’t leave the kit choice to Andy Carroll though, otherwise we might have been playing in pink.

It’s down to Matt, Lisa, Fraser and myself as the Everton fans sing “Shall we fill a stand for you?” Nigel’s preparing to fly to the US and Michael the Whovian is away adjusting his chameleon circuit, hoping to materialise in Braintree. The 25,000 fans present make a lot of noise, though we could do without the retro fan in front of us constantly questioning Leighton Baines’ sexuality. 

Everton look a more confident side than at Goodison and the first half ends goalless. The best chance comes when Valencia does well to nick the ball off Stones but waits a second too long allowing Robles to block his shot. Andy Carroll heads the rebound against the post but is flagged offside from the second phase.

THIS IS THE ENNER… 
It all kicks off in the second half. West Ham take the lead on 51 minutes with a classy goal. Andy Carroll plays a decent through ball to Valencia. Enner outpaces Stones and expertly clips the ball past Robles and into the corner. That goal will give him the confidence boost he needs and it’s the first time Carroll and Valencia have really looked like a partnership.

It gets better as Everton’s McGeady is sent off after 56 minutes for a second yellow after clattering Noble. Though this is West Ham. “It’s always difficult playing against ten men…” we mutter. Mirallas comes on for Besic and makes a huge difference with his direct runs at the WHU defence. Lukaku crosses and Tomkins has to make a fantastic block to deny Mirallas. Are we going to lose the lead for the fourth game in a row?

The Hammers almost make it two as Collins gets a thumping header in from a corner, only for Robles to tip it over. “There’s only one Ginger Pele!” chants the Bobby Moore Stand.

Song, still weak after a virus, is replaced by Nolan. Matt vows to be positive, shouting “unlucky Kevin!” when his pass doesn’t come off. But can his positivity last?

PURPLE PAIN
We have a bad feeling as Collins gives away a free kick on the edge of the box after 82 minutes. Baines normally scores these, but this time it’s Mirallas who curls a brilliant swerving free kick into the corner. “We shall not be moved!” sing the Sixties revivalists in the away end. You could perhaps question Adrian’s positioning, but it looks an unstoppable effort to me.

West Ham respond and are a little unlucky not to win it at the end. Valencia wins a foul on the edge of the box and Mark Noble’s free kick is saved at his near post by Robles. Then Kevin Nolan gets in a superb overhead kick that Robles tips over with a brilliant save.

So it’s extra time. Jenkinson is flagging on the right and it’s from there that Everton score a second. Mirallas weaves past Nolan, Jenkinson and Collins and provides Lukaku — who always scores against us— with a tap in.

ALWAYS BELIEVE IN CARLTON COLE
Carroll’s header is blocked and Collins slices over the bar, but Matt never loses faith, apart from a five-minute Malcolm Tucker-esque rant at Jenkinson and Big Sam’s stupid substitutions. With nine minutes left Big Sam makes another dodgy substitution, taking off Collins for Carlton Cole and playing three at the back and three up front. Mystic Massey and Mystic May agree that Carlton probably won’t get a touch as Everton always win at Upton Park.

Two minutes later West Ham win a corner. Downing’s corner finds the head of Tomkins who heads back across goal for Carlton to prod home. What a substitution! Always believe in CC…

There’s still more drama late on. Tomkins miskicks a clearance and Lukaku is allowed to run at the defence and poke just wide when he looked certain to score. There’s then a bizarre fracas between Noble and Tomkins as the pair argue over the chance and Nolan and the ref step in. Still, maybe a good sign if we want to win that much.

Back come the Hammers as Cole finds Amalfitano in the box but he shoots too close to Robles who parries. Amalfitano then plays a great ball through to Valencia who advances on goal but rather than shooting tries to find Carlton Cole with the ball being poked wide after another almighty scramble. And then it’s over and penalties. Phew.

ADRIAN'S BALL 
It’s not in doubt that Mirallas will score the first penalty but Noble equalises. Adrian uses some gamesmanship on Naismith, whispering something in his ear and then superbly tips his penalty over the bar. Nolan, Carroll and Creswell all convert and at 4-4 it’s left to Stewart Downing to win it for the Irons. Except his effort is saved by Robles. It’s low and in the corner but not powerful enough. Sod it. So now it’s sudden death. Everyone scores with Cole, Valencia and Amalfitano scoring for the Hammers.

As Everton have had a player sent off we’ve only been allowed ten penalty takers and Tomkins has dropped out, so it’s Robles versus Adrian. The Everton keeper takes a strange wobbly run-up and thumps the ball against the bar, to massive cheers from the home fans.

JEEPERS KEEPERS
Adrian walks up to the spot and in a masterstroke of psychology, throws his gloves to the ground, implying he won’t be needing them after this. He coolly dispatches the ball into the corner with, as the retro programme might say, some aplomb. The Boleyn Stadium goes mental. Being the self-effacing sort of character he is, Adrian runs to the photographers and performs an epic knee-slide before being mobbed by the other players. Never in doubt!

We’ve never lost when Adrian has scored. 9-8 on penalties. We text Nigel to tell him that he’s only missed 21 goals…

We retreat to the Central, where Bubbles is on the PA, for a late pint of IPA. On the District line home there’s a spontaneous chorus of Bubbles. What a cup-tie. Could our name be on a Post-It note sticking precariously to the FA Cup?

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 8; Jenkinson 5, Collins 7 (Cole 7), Tomkins 7, Cresswell 6; Song 5 (Nolan 6), Noble 7, Downing 6, Jarvis 5 (Amalfitano 6); Carroll 6, Valencia 7.

Sunday, January 11

Carroll's super-strike earns point

Swansea City 1 West Ham 1

Watching this on Match of the Day it seems Swansea have the better of the early exchanges with West Ham opting to contain by starting with three centre-backs. Gomis just fails to connect with a dangerous cross and Sigurdsson shoots tamely at Adrian when well-placed.

West Ham take the lead with a moment of brilliance from Andy Carroll. Downing crosses and Carroll controls with his head and chest, drifting across the box before bamboozling two defenders with a quick shift of his feet and a shot into the top corner. Proof that he's much more than just a big striker who's good in the air. If that goal had been scored by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic it would be replayed endlessly. AC celebrates by cocking his ear to the Swansea fans who've been giving him grief about his pony-tail and being a donkey. West Ham remain one-up at the break thanks to a fantastic tackle by Carl Jenkinson which denies Routledge a goal.

In the second half Gomis shoots over before the big striker equalises from a corner. It's unfortunate that Colllins is off injured, as Gomis gets a run on Nolan and heads on to the post and in off Noble's leg. A good response from the Hammers though. Fabianski tips over a curler from Downing and then has to parry a fierce Jenkinson long range effort. We almost win it at the end when Cresswell's free kick is spilled by Fabianski, who recovers just in time to tip away Carroll's effort from the rebound.

It's a difficult ground to get anything at so a point is a decent result, though it's our fourth league game without a win. WHU now really have to bag the three points against striker-less Hull on Sunday.