West Ham are the best team in England….for 85 minutes

Do you know what happened at 3.15pm on Sunday 7th August 2011? Last time anyone on X-Factor was any good? Good shout but no. It was actually the last time West Ham lost in the nPower Championship. I can see you are more impressed with the X-Factor trivia aren’t you.

Since the defeat to Cardiff City West Ham had looked impressive in places, scoring four against Watford, Forest and Portsmouth, not conceding against Doncaster Rovers, Millwall and Peterborough United but then disappointing in the home draw against Leeds United, and of course THAT game versus Aldershot Town. The football, as predicted under Big Sam hasn’t been good on the eye but there is an argument to say “who cares” as long as in May we are celebrating a return to the land of milk and honey.

I hadn’t been for a few weeks, preferring my fix of entertainment at equally unbeaten Lewes where an afternoon out of football, some of the best beer in the world and a home-made pie weighed in at less than £15. A recent BBC Survey had revealed that a similar afternoon at Upton Park would cost £38.50. But tonight wasn’t one of those times – instead admission alone was a staggering £43. We were playing Ipswich Town for Christ Sake not Inter Milan! Continue reading

Bloody 4-5-1

To say that Leeds United are West Ham’s bogey team is a bit of an understatement.  Two wins in our last twenty seven meetings underline that fact.  I’ve seen eight of these games, and all eight have ended in defeat, including a 5-1 defeat back in 1999 when West Ham finished with 8 men on the pitch.  But today was all about hope.  That was until we had sat through 8 MINUTES of adverts being read out over the PA system.

“Season tickets now 8% cheaper”…well so they should be – this was the 2nd out of 23 home games – i.e we had had 8% of our games. Great marketing ploy there.  Or could you be tempted by a £99 (plus VAT) ticket for the Portsmouth game where you also got ONE glass of Champagne (West Ham’s one vintage by the way – we still have a bottle from 2004), and a seafood buffet (all the Skips you can eat) as well as a ticket of course.

Anyway we were here to watch the game, not be sold to. A bit of Sunday lunchtime enjoyment.  Kids 150 miles away, it was just CMF and myself, just like the old days.  And then the team was read out. 4-5-1…bloody 4-5-1.  We were at home for Brooking’s sake.  Over a month ago I pointed out that playing a midfield trio of Nolan/Noble and Parker simply doesn’t work unless you have mobile wide men.  And West Ham don’t.

Two weeks is a long time in football and those fans who saw the significant possession turn into a last minute defeat to Cardiff City will have mostly put that to the back of their mind after wins on the road to Doncaster Rovers and Watford.  But they have not papered over the cracks.  Tactically, the performance two weeks ago was naive.  Today it was simply incomprehensible.

West Ham United 2 Leeds United 2 – Upton Park – Sunday 21st August 2011
For the second home game in a row West Ham gave away precious points in the last minute of the game. In hindsight it was actually the Hammers who could say this was a point gained, rather than two lost based on the performance.

Allardyce decided on his usual 4-5-1 formation, which did nothing to inspire the home fans, especially when three long hoofs up front from Winston Reid in the first two minutes simply sailed over the head of Carlton Cole and into touch.  The midfield three of Nolan, Noble and Parker still haven’t worked out who should sit, who should mop up and who should go forward, and as the game progressed it simply led to Leeds being given all the time in the world to bring the ball forward.

But on six minutes all of our spirits were lifted.  West Ham had already gone close, forcing Lonergan into a great save from Cole.  However,  from the resulting Matty Taylor corner Cole lost his marker and sort of looped his back header into the net.

Leeds came straight back at West Ham, bringing the Hammers-target Max Gradel into the game.  He set up Snodgrass in the 25th minute hit the bar and then a minute later after a blistering run he won a corner from which the ball hit Taylor on the arm and the Ref said “penalty”.  Gradel stepped up and put the penalty wide of Robert Green’s post. Shame.

As the half wore on, the long, over hit from Reid increased, and after Cole was denied a spot kick in front of the Leeds fans, they started singing “Your just a shit Emile Heskey” to our Number 9, ironic considering he had scored the only goal of the game.  Football fans eh.

Half time at Upton Park is crying out for some entertainment.  A long time ago, Sullivan and Gold promised us top class entertainment.  Today we had a re-run of the ad break.  Oh how I wish for a return of the Hammerettes.

Allardyce obviously said something to the team at half time because the midfield five just looked confused in the opening period of the second half.  Leeds back four simply had all of the time in the world as no Hammers player was prepared to push forward.  Off came Collison and on came Faubert.  And within a minute Leeds had equalised.  Andy Keogh played in Snodgrass and his low cross wasn’t dealt with by the West Ham defence, and McCormack turned the ball in.

But Faubert soon gave the lead back to West Ham.  Showing signs of that attacking prowess which was a reason why the club bought him, he powered down the right, hit in an unstoppable cross and Kisnorbo smashed the ball into his own net.

West Ham a few more chances, two falling to Reid within a few minutes but he showed as much skill in front of goal as he did in playing the ball out of defence.  The one positive from the final period for the home side was the appearance of John Carew who showed the kind of hold up play that Carlton Cole has long since missed.  As Fabio Capello left with undoubtably more opinions on where Man of the Match Scott Parker should be playing next, Leeds launched one last attack.

The fourth official held up the board showing three minutes to go. And just as it was two weeks ago, West Ham’s attentions were distracted by the thought of the dressing room.  One final corner, Howson’s shot hits the underside of the bar and there is Adam Clayton right on The Edge (do you see what I did there?) to score the equaliser.

There was still time for a few handbags in the West Ham penalty area at the end, but when the final whistle blew it was the 3,000 Leeds fans who were in the party mood.  4-5-1…bloody 4-5-1.

More pictures from the game can be found here.

Don’t believe the hype

Every Monday I look at my email account with trepidation.  Since the first week of the season around 3pm I get that “ping” sound signifying the arrival of the latest excuse from the pen of Avram Grant.  Although it is obviously not from Avram, but rather from someone employed in the club to make such trivial facts such as we are bottom of the Premier League with just three games to go seem inconsequential.

Got the hint yet Avram?

We have had such classics in recent weeks as :- “We don’t have any intention to give up. We will fight. I think we need nine points more or less to stay in the league. It will be difficult but it is not impossible” or “We are not far from safety and we all need to go forward together for the next game. We have always shown we have come back well from every bad situation we have had this season and we will do it again.”

I am not sure what the purpose of these emails is.  I have seen enough games this season to make my own judgements.

1. Grant has no idea what his “best” team is and even when he has been able to field the same team, he hasn’t;

2. The spirit of the team suggests they are not behind the manager.  The story of Scott Parker giving the half time team talk to inspire the team to pull back a 3-0 deficit against West Brom is a classic example. Continue reading

Rock bottom

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. Continue reading

Scan Dale

Two things we love in life are blogging and West Ham (yes I know that in the past I have been a bit critical but like your family, you cannot chose your football team – they chose you).  Now you may struggle to believe this but there are other similar characters out in the big wide world.  We heard last month from Jeremy Nicholas, the man behind the mic at Upton Park and recently caught up with another West Ham blogger – Iain Dale.

Iain Dale is one of Britain’s leading political commentators, appearing regularly on TV and radio. Iain is best known for his political blog, Iain Dale’s Diary and football blog, West Ham Till I Die. He is a contributing editor and columnist for GQ Magazine, writes for the Daily Telegraph and a fortnightly diary for the Eastern Daily Press. He was the chief anchor of Britain’s first political internet TV channel, 18 Doughty Street.com and is a presenter on LBC Radio. He appears regularly as a political pundit on Sky News, the BBC News Channel, Newsnight, Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live. He is the publisher of the monthly magazine, Total Politics and the author or editor of more than twenty books. He is managing director of the new book publisher, Biteback Publishing.  Basically he is here, he’s there he’s every bloomin’ where! Continue reading