At 1.30pm on Saturday afternoon I was handed my “Get out of jail free” card. This was supposed to be a treat for Lolly, but my little battle hardened football daughter finally admitted defeat on her heavy cold and declared herself unfit to go to West Ham versus Blackpool. I had a five minute window to decide. Go to Upton Park and undoubtably come home as depressed as Avram Grant on a good day, head down the M23 to watch Lewes amongst the Lewes Lunatic Fringe as they played St Albans City or even pop down the road to Thamesmead Town for a new adventure.
And what did I chose? Yes you have guessed it – I simply never learn – I headed off to Upton Park. My afternoon in the end cost me almost £200. However, if it turns out to be the last time we have to experience the clueless management of Avram Grant it will be worth it.
I had decided to buy tickets in the West Stand for a change, hence why the tickets were so expensive. But mistake number one was sitting in row three and next to the vomitorium (I love that word and despite popular belief it has nothing to do with being sick) which meant my view was constantly blocked by people coming in and out. I purchased by pie and cup of tea (just £4.80) and had a moment of dilemma as I stood for the minute’s silence for Remembrance Day in the aisle with boiling hot pastry in one hand and scalding liquid in a paper-thin cup in the other.
West Ham United 0 Blackpool 0 – Upton Park – Saturday 13th November 2010
The silence was immaculately observed by the 31,000 fans (two thousand more empty seats than Wednesday) and I have to say that the crowd got right behind the team from the first whistle. Unfortunately the team simply could not respond. Both teams moved the ball quickly and Blackpool looked the team with the most energy – which was hardly surprising since none of the starting 11 had lined up against Aston Villa on Wednesday (of course we believed you Mr Holloway on Wednesday when you said that was your strongest team).
I thoroughly enjoyed the first half. Mainly because I was listening to events at Twickenham where England were stuffing the Australians. Quite a strange sensation listening to such dynamism and attacking play whilst watching Luis Boa Morte run around looking for a fight. First predictable event – Kieron Dyer limped off injured after just 18 minutes, being replaced by another poor quality foreign journeyman Barrera. West Ham did have the better of a edgy first half. Gabiddon headed over from an early corner, Piquionne went close and then towards the end of the half they should have had a penalty when Obinna’s volley was blocked by a Blackpool player’s arm.
In their letter to West Ham fans at the end of last season, David Sullivan and David Gold assured us: “We want to bring the fun back. We want you to be excited on a matchday, and not just about the style of football. We are looking at ways to improve our pre-match and half-time entertainment.” So what did we have to lift the gloom today? An advert on the big screens for the highlights DVD from last season (i.e Scott Parker’s goal v Wigan repeated from every conceivable angle) and an interview with “Mad Dog” Martin Allen. Hmm hardly groundbreaking or inspiring.
Both teams came out fired up. The play ebbed and flowed in the second half as much as the people wandering in front of my overpriced seat. West Ham came close when Boa Morte put the ball wide of the post when it was easier to score. Blackpool threw on ex-Hammer Marlon Harewood and he got a great reception, just to prove all those commentators wrong who think we boo every ex-player. And Harewood really should have won the game for the visitors when he mis-hit his shot from six yards out, reminding Hammers fans of his miss in the last minutes of the Cup Final versus Liverpool in 2005 which would have won us the cup.
Bit Harewood’s miss was nothing compared to Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s. Now double-barrelled named footballers always give off this air of superiority. You imagine that they went to a private school, breaking the rugby playing tradition to make a career as a footballer with the headmaster’s words “You’ll never make a career doing that boy” in their ears. But until June 2004 he was known simply as Gary Fletcher. Then he met Viv Taylor and as she was the last Taylor in her family they agreed a deal where he would take her name in return for a lifetime immunity from doing the washing up. Obviously pre-occupied with her next demands, GTF as I am referring to him for brevity skied the ball over the bar from an unmarked position on the six yard box with just fifteen minutes to go.
Full time saw the crowd express their displeasure at Grant and his team. One player to come out with some credit has to be Bennie McCarthy who managed in his 8 minute substitute appearance not to touch the ball once. He is proving to be excellent value for money, as his kit never needs to be washed!
Sullivan said in August after our poor start that Grant was here for the duration and would see out his contract. I do not know who is more the fool in that instance – Sullivan for thinking that ANY manager will see out their contract or the papers for printing such crap. Three weeks ago Sullivan announced Grant had to get a minimum of seven points from the next four games. So three games into the “test” and we have three points, still bottom of the league and have Liverpool away next week. F minus I think Avram, but is he worried? Of course not – he was watching a different game – one where he was “delighted with West Ham’s performance“.
With news filtering through that Lewes has stormed to victory I returned to the car to find a nice fat parking ticket attached to the windscreen. Apparently changes to the Road Traffic act now mean it is illegal to park within a metre of a dropped curb. News to me, and also it seemed only applicable to cars who did not have a Newham Borough parking permit. A £100 fine – well we have to pay for the Olympic Stadium somehow.
So match tickets £82, programme £3.50, pie and cup of tea £4.80 and a parking ticket of £100 – total outlay on the afternoon = £190.30. Value money – not at all but if it does lead to the dismissal of Giggles Grant then it will be in the words of Mastercard, Priceless.
Oh, and Alex Leith it is not big or clever to remind me that for the same amount I could have gone to every Lewes game for the remainder of the season AND had a couple of pints of Harveys whilst watching the game. Thanks for that Alex, you have really cheered me up!