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Difficult Times and Great Win (10th November)

The arrival of the Argentinean players didn't exactly have the desired effect as the team embarked on a run of 8 straight defeats, including both legs of the UEFA Cup tie against Palermo, and an embarrassing Carling Cup defeat at Chesterfield.

 

Some of the performances were appalling - notably at Man City in the league (my first visit to their new stadium) and at Chesterfield. Yet in some of the other matches we were not far short of getting a result. In the first leg of the UEFA Cup, Tevez and Mascherano both started and showed some real touches of class, especially Masch. We lost the game to a goal that shouldn't have been given as the ball had clearly gone out for a throw in the build-up.

 

Unfortunately, the South Americans have yet to adapt to the pace of English football, and Pards has yet to find a way of slotting them into the side without losing some of the aspects of the style of play that did so well for us last season. It was only when he went back to the proven players and tactics against Blackburn that things turned for the better. We were helped by getting the slice of fortune that had deserted us lately when our second goal came form a corner that shouldn't have been given.

 

Following that match, we had a hard fixture against Arsenal that no-one realistically expected us to get much from. But Pardew pulled off a tactical success by changing to a 4-5-1 formation with the 3 central midfielders deployed to harry their counterparts out of their stride. It worked a dream, as Arsenal became more frustrated. Then as players on both sides tired, Pards changed things by bringing on Teddy and Marlon and going for the win. Zamora was one of those replaced - due to being completely knackered by the tremendous amount of work he'd got through. Again the tactics paid off as Marlon got on the end of a fine move involving Matty (twice) and Teddy to snatch a last minute winner.

 

The goal sparked some unusual scenes when Arsene Whinger began pushing Pardew, reacting angrily to Pards' over-zealous celebrations. It was a fine performance by West Ham, and one that was a real bonus after the trials of recent weeks. The question is now - just how will the Argies fit into this West Ham side?


Stunning Transfer Deals (6th September 2006)

I still can't quite get my head around the news that came out of West Ham on transfer deadline day last week. The signing of 2 young world-class players from Argentina has stunned the football world. The nature of the deals raises some concerns, but let's hope it all works out well. These 2 players could really move the club up a level, and there is a realistic possibility that we could be knocking on the door of Champions League football, or going one better than last season by winning a cup. My big concern is that they may only be here for a season, before moving on to bigger things. The possibility is that this could unsettle the squad and perhaps leave us worse off than before.

 

The reaction from fans of other clubs was hilarious though. On the day it happened, the phone-ins were flooded with calls and texts from fans of the so-called big clubs who were plainly jealous that we had got the Argies and they hadn't.

 

Shortly after the transfer news broke, it emerged that the club were in exploratory talks about a take-over. At the time of writing, it is still unclear as to the nature of the take-over and who is behind it. It looks like the club is in for a very interesting and exciting period.


Same Old, Same Old... (6th September 2006)

We went to Anfield, we lost.


Nearly Stung by Hornets (24th  August 2006)
Bumped into an old friend (Mick) who I hadn’t seen for a couple of years in the ground before the game and it was good to catch up with him again, but the big surprise was the team line-up that Pardew started with. With Yossi not fully fit and Etherington still out, Pards decided to go for a wing-back formation, with Anton, Ginge and Gabbs at the back, and Paintsil and Konch pushing forward from their full back positions.

Watford (and their fans) were well up for it right from the start, and put us under quite a bit of pressure. For the most part, the 3 centre-backs coped well – Ginge looking dominant in the aerial challenge – although Gabbidon doesn’t look fully fit yet. We were not able to get our game together at all really. Marlon should have made more of a chance for himself when he muscled a defender off the ball, which left him with a clear run on goal, but he seemed to lack confidence and found himself being pushed wide. The best chance of the half fell to Watford when an overhead kick scraped the outside of a post.

The second period started in much the same vein as Watford continued to dominate. It was no surprise when they took the lead, courtesy of an excellent strike from around 25 yards by Marlon King that left Carroll with no chance. Yet within a minute, we were level again. Konch was put away down the left and fired in a good cross that the Z-man got on the end of, firing into the net via the ground and then the crossbar.

Pards then introduced Teddy and Yossi into the team in place of Zamora and Gabbs, reverting to a 4-4-2 system. We started to look better going forward and were close to creating some good openings on the break, but never quite managed to get it right. Meanwhile Watford continued to press forward, and had some decent opportunities, especially from set-pieces. The biggest scare was when Anton managed to turn the ball towards his own goal from close range, but luckily Carroll pulled off an outstanding save.

West Ham man of the match for me was Ginge Collins, who looked strong both on the deck and in the air in the face of a constant bombardment. Bowyer had a good game too although not as effective as against Charlton. Paintsil also looked effective going forward, but I’d like to see more of his defensive work.


Off to a Flyer (20th August 2006)

When the West Ham team came out at the start of yesterday's game, they got a fantastic response from the home crowd, in recognition of their efforts last season, especially of the Cup Final performance. They reacted to this by coming flying out of the blocks as soon as the whistle sounded. For the first few minutes, we pounded Charlton, and had 3 good opportunities to open the scoring. Bowyer in particular was creating all sorts of problems for his former team. Then Charlton began to work their way back into the match, and were awarded a penalty kick when Gabbs inexplicably threw an arm at the ball. Darren Bent made no mistake from the spot.

 

I've always felt that Traore is an accident waiting to happen and he demonstrated this today, by getting sent off for 2 yellow cards in the space of 5 minutes. The second one was particularly stupid as he prevented a free kick from being taken. However, we couldn't make anything of the man advantage before half time, despite dominating possession. Marlon picked up an unlucky booking for diving, even though it appeared that he was bumped from behind, and he got up straight away without claiming a penalty. That was one of a number of dubious decisions from the officials during the afternoon.

 

Soon into the second half, we equalised when Bowyer swung in a great cross from the right, which found it's way to Bobby at the far post to net from 2 yards. We continued to run the game, with some slick passing and movement. 15 minutes after Bobby's first goal, we were in front when Bowyer did some excellent work on the left of the box and put in a cross that Bobby somehow managed to miss-hit into despite a comical attempt by a defender to clear off the line.

 

Charlton had to come at us now, and had a couple of opportunities. It was us that came closest to the next goal though, when an excellent passing move ended with a fine shot by Bowyer that smacked against the foot of a post and came out. On 90 minutes, Carlton Cole came on for his debut, and his first involvement proved decisive as he controlled a ball over the top from Bowyer and smacked it into the net. I think it was timed as 24 seconds from the time he came on to the time he scored.

 

So the new season started the same as the last one - with a 3-1 home win after being behind at half-time. It was a fine performance by West Ham, full of the same qualities that we showed last year, but enhanced by the runs and passing of Lee Bowyer, who showed that he can be a class player. Pardew has a (good) selection problem when Matty is fit again, as Yossi also had a fine game on the left. Both our new right-backs had a half each, but neither was required to do any serious defensive work. Of the 2, I thought Paintsil looked the better player.


New Season About to Kick Off (19th August 2006)

I will shortly be setting off for the first game of the new season, and I'm really looking forward to it. Can we build on the success of next season? How will we fare in the UEFA Cup? It promises to be an exciting season. The summer's transfer activity hasn't exactly been thrilling in terms of bringing "big name" players to the club, but Pardew has quietly gone about strengthening the squad. The controversial signing of Lee Bowyer could prove to be either a masterstroke or a disaster. I hope Pards has got this one right. The big disappointment has been the injury to Dean Ashton which will keep him out for at least the first 3 months of the season. By all accounts he was looking very fit and in form during the pre-season matches. Fortunately, we are relatively well-blessed with options in the forward line, so we should be able to cope reasonably well in his absence, but I think there will be times when that little bit of extra class he brings will be missed.


Gutted (21st June 2006)

So 6 weeks have gone by since the Cup Final, and I still can't get over the empty feeling that the defeat has left me with. That's why I have taken so long to update this page - it's been too painful to think about it. We were so close to pulling off perhaps the most fantastic result in the history of the club, only to have it snatched away from us at the death. The fact that the game has been widely recognised as one of the greatest finals ever has been of little consolation.

 

I will write a fuller story of the day for the articles section at a later date, but for now I will just say that the West Ham players, management and fans were an absolute credit to the club on the day.


Countdown To Final (10th May 2006)

It's now less than 3 days until the FA Cup Final kicks-off. My tickets are sorted, so now the excitement and anticipation is really beginning to build. This will be my 3rd visit in 3 years for a final in Cardiff. Unlike the previous 2 however, this one can be looked forward to without the dread of losing that accompanied the 2 play-off finals. Those previous games were so vital to win that it wasn't possible to look forward to them in the same way that I am this coming Saturday. Win or lose, with our place in Europe for next season already sealed, the day will be a celebration of what has been a fantastic season. Obviously I want us to win, but it has been a tremendous achievement just to get there.

 

COME ON YOU IRONS!!!!!!!!


Let's All Laugh At Tottenham (10th May 2006)

After nicking an arguably fortunate 3 points at the Hawthorns, thanks to an NRC goal, our last fixture of the league season was Spurs at home. This was a vital match for Spurs, who needed to ensure they had a better result than Arsenal in order to hold on to the last Champions League game. While driving to the match, I was amazed to hear that the game may be called off. This was due to a bout of food poisoning that had affected several of the Spurs players. However, the Premier League refused to allow a postponement, so the game went on as planned.

 

Despite their supposed illness, Spurs fielded a near-full strength side, leaving a fully-fit player (Danny Murphy) on the bench, which seemed a strange move. West Ham were soon in front thanks to a long range effort by Fletcher, that I thought the keeper should have saved. Meanwhile, news had swept round the ground that Arsenal were also in front in their game. This was the cue for West Ham fans to start celebrating at Spurs' expense. The celebrations only lasted a few minutes, as first Arsenal fell behind, and then the mini-judas Defoe equalised for Spurs.

 

In the second half, the news worsened for Spurs, as Arsenal built up a 2-goal lead, then Yossi weaved some magic to put us in front again. The scores stayed the same in both games until the final whistle. As as result, Spurs missed out on that coveted Champs League spot, which of course added greatly to our delight at beating them. Our win was fully deserved, as we were much the better side on the day. Spurs will claim that they were badly affected by their illnesses, but there seems to be some discrepancies about how many players were actually affected and how badly. Add that to the strange selection policy mentioned above, and Spurs claims seem rather dodgy to me. Apparently, health and safety inspectors took away some samples of the food that Spurs had eaten, but all they could find were sour grapes and hard cheese.

 

As I write this, Spurs are seeking to get the game replayed, and want to sue anyone and everyone. Hopefully the Premier League will tell them to get stuffed.


Rehearsal Goes Badly (27th April 2006)

By one of the quirks of fate that the fixture lists throw up from time to time, a few days after the two teams qualified for the FA Cup Final, they were playing each other in a league match. Before the match, there was a moving tribute to John Lyall, led by Trevor Brooking, and featuring many players from Lyall's time at the club. At the request of Lyall's family, it concluded with a minute's applause.

 

Both teams made several changes from the line-ups that had played in the weekend games, so the match can't really be used as a genuine guide to form for the Final. Liverpool took the lead through Cisse (as I'd earlier predicted to Clive), but West Ham came close to equalising a couple of times before the break. Literally seconds into the second half, we did go level. A slick passing move ended with a simple tap-in for NRC. The lead didn't last long however, as Cisse broke clear to slot the ball through Walker's legs.

 

Then disaster struck, as Mullins and Garcia got involved as Garcia elbowed Mullins, who reacted by shoving Garcia in the face. Both players were red-carded and will miss the Final. This is much worse news for us than the Scousers, due to their playing strength in depth, and Mullins being such a vital part of our side this season. Both clubs will appeal, but I can't see there being a reprieve.


Third Time Lucky at Villa Park (27th April 2006)

Fans and players celebrate winSunday's match at Villa Park was the third time I have been to an FA Cup Semi Final at that ground. On the previous occasions, I had seen us draw and lose, but this time I had the joy of finally seeing us win. Travelling up to the match with my friend Clive, we arrived in the area with plenty of time to spare, allowing us the chance to enjoy the build-up of atmosphere in the streets prior to the match. After a pint and a visit to a chippy for sustenance, we made our way into the ground. Unfortunately we had tickets in different parts of the ground, so had to part company for the duration of the match. My ticket was for the upper tier of the main Trinity Road Stand. It was a long way up to the top tier! Once there, there was a large group of fans gathered together all taking photos. The attraction was Julian "Terminator" Dicks.

 

Before kick-off, there was meant to be a minute's silence to mark the passing of John Lyall. Within seconds though, this had turned into a chant of "Johnny Lyall's Claret & Blue Army". Many saw this as a fitting tribute, but I was a bit disappointed by it. I would have preferred the minute's silence to be observed, then followed by the chant.

 

The first half of the game was largely dominated by Middlesbrough, who surprised us with a change of formation that we failed to get to grips with. Even so, we managed to keep them mainly at arms length and restricted them to half chances. Yossi had the one decent chance of the half for us, but shot over. The second half saw a marked change, with West Ham now imposing themselves on the game. Matty and Yossi were now much more involved and beginning to show signs that things might happen for us. But like Boro in the first half, we struggled to create any genuine opportunities. Deano came closest with a header that hit the bar. Then with 12 minutes remaining, a Deano knockdown feel to Harewood,  who turned while holding off Southgate's challenge and fired a thunderous left foot shot into the net.

 

This was the cue for scenes of utter pandemonium from the West Ham sections of the ground. In the latter stages of the game, Boro piled on the pressure, and should have equalised in the dying seconds, when Riggott was presented with a simple chance just a few yards from goal. Much to our relief, he somehow dragged it well wide of the target. Seconds later, the ref blew the final whistle and the party started. It went on for quite a while before everyone left the ground. However it is only a temporary suspension of festivities, which will be resumed in Cardiff on the weekend of May 13th, when we play Liverpool in the Final.


Semi Final Looms, but League Form is Mixed (20th April 2006)

West Ham's first FA Cup semi-final for 15 years is now only 3 days off. We will be playing Middlesbrough at Villa Park. This is perhaps a fitting occasion for the Hammers to be playing their first match following John Lyall's death, as the FA Cup was where Lyall had many of his finest moments. Let's hope the team rise to the moment and produce a performance that Lyall would be proud of.

 

Since the quarter-final victory, our league form has been mixed, with 3 defeats, 2 wins and a draw. To be fair, 2 of the defeats were away to the 2 best sides in the country at the moment - Chelsea and Man Ure. The other defeat was against this Sunday's opponents, 'Boro. We haven't played well in these games, and were perhaps a touch fortunate to squeeze out wins against Wigan and Man City. Despite the result at Chelsea, we had a good time over there. Their plastic, Johnny-cum-Lately fans couldn't understand how we could continue to out-sing them, even though we were being well beaten on the pitch. Before the game at Stamford Bridge, I was standing on the forecourt to the turnstiles, when someone brushed past me. Looking round to see what was going on, I saw the culprit was Ron Harris, the former Chelsea "hard man" from the 60's and 70's. So I claim now to have been tackled by "Chopper" Harris. :D


John Lyall R.I.P. (20th April 2006)

West Ham have lost another former manager, John Lyall, who died unexpectedly yesterday at the age of 66. Starting his West Ham career as a young full back in the 50's, his playing days ended very early due to injury. The then manager Ron Greenwood, took him onto the coaching staff, where he learned his trade well enough to become assistant manager in 1971. Lyall took over as first-team manager from Greenwood at the start of the 1974/75 season, with Greenwood moving "upstairs" as general manager. In his first season, the club won the FA Cup, with a 2-0 win over Fulham. This was followed by an appearance in the European Cup Winners Cup final, losing 2-4 to Anderlecht. Despite cup success, league form was indifferent, and led to relegation in 1978. Two years later, while still in the second tier of league football, more cup success came our way with a 1-0 FA Cup Final win over a top-class Arsenal side, who were then holders of the trophy. This is considered by many as Lyall's finest hour. His tactics for the game confounded Arsenal, who seemed unable to adapt to what West Ham were doing. The following season saw a further cup final appearance, this time losing 1-2 to Liverpool (probably the best club side in the world at the time) in a replayed League Cup Final. The side also returned to the top flight, totally dominating the division and winning it by a very comfortable margin. The next few seasons saw the usual peaks and troughs associated with West Ham. The peak of this period was the club's highest-ever league placing of 3rd in 1985/86. Relegation in 1989 saw the end of Lyall's reign as manager, when his contract was somewhat unceremoniously not renewed by the board.

 

There's a famous picture from the 1980/81 promotion season that show fans holding a banner with the words "Lyall Style". This style was based on the teaching of his mentor, Ron Greenwood. It continued the legacy of regarding the game as an entertainment, while conducting oneself with dignity. There were very many memorable moments from Lyall's reign at Upton Park, not just the obvious successes, but even in the toughest of seasons the team could produce performances that will be talked of for many years to come by those fortunate enough to have witnessed them.


Cup Success, but at a Price (6th April 2006)

It's been a while since I updated this page, and there's been quite a bit happening with West Ham in that time. Much debate has surrounded Pardew's decisions to field weakened teams in league games in order to keep players fit and fresh for FA Cup matches. Starting with the league match at Bolton, Pards put out a side with several changes, and we got thrashed 4-1. This decision appeared to be justified a few days later when we played Bolton again, this time in the 5th round cup replay at Upton Park. We nicked a tight game 2-1 after extra time. Due to the craziness of this season's fixture list and the insane decision to have the FA Cup quarter finals spread over 4 days, we were then faced with having to play the next round only 2 days after a league match against Portsmouth. Pardew again opted to field a weakened side, and Pompey duly saw us off with a 4-2 win. Again this decision appears to have been justified, when an almost full-strength side (only missing the injured Anton) put in a fine performance to see off Manchester City 2-1 at Eastlands. Dean Ashton scored both goals - the first with a cracking finish.

 

Now we have the excitement of a semi-final to look forward to, at Villa Park against either Charlton or Middlesbrough, who have to replay their tie. In the meantime, it seems that any outside hope of making it to Europe via a league place has all but disappeared. It's unlikely that we would have got anything more than a point - if that - up at Bolton, but we may well have taken all 3 off Pompey with a full-strength side. Given that it was only an outside chance of Europe in the league, and that we have already done far better than expected, I'm prepared to support Pardew's choice to concentrate on the cup run. The draw for the semis has given us a great chance of making the final, where we would be guaranteed a European spot anyway.


England Job, You're 'Aving a Larf! (21st February 2006)

The Hammers at BoltonMy first-ever trip to Bolton was for Saturday's FA Cup 5th round game. Following 7 wins on the trot, this was always going to be a difficult game in which to maintain that winning streak. So it proved, with Bolton looking a stronger side than us. We rarely got into our attacking stride, our only real chance coming with a second-half header from Ashton that he put into the side netting, when he should really have scored. Despite Bolton's dominance, they rarely threatened Shaka in goal, largely due to Anton and Gabbidon in central defence, who hardly put a foot wrong all afternoon. Bolton did have a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside in the second half, and it probably would not have been an injustice if they'd won the game. However, we will take our luck when we get it, and hopefully we can see them off in the replay. Funny moment of the afternoon was when Fat Sam attempted to control a ball that had been knocked out of play, but failed miserably, prompting jeers and a chorus of "England job, you're 'aving a larf!" from the West Ham contingent.

Despite it's so-called space-age design, the Reebok is another of the soulless modern stadia that are springing up around the country. It's set in amongst a retail park and industrial estates, and lacks any genuine "feel". The only good things to be said for it are that it is easy to get to from the motorways, and there is plenty of parking available. The home crowd was pathetic. 17,000 people turned up, of which at least 5,000 were West Ham. Apart from the rhythm-less beating of a drum, the home fans struggled to create any atmosphere at all. It seems to be a common theme that these new out-of-town stadiums are lacking in atmosphere.


Fitting Send-Off for Ron Greenwood (14th February 2006)

The Monday game against Brum was preceded by a short but emotional remembrance ceremony for Ron Greenwood. It was led by Sir Trevor Brooking, who was joined by former Greenwood players Martin Peters, Brian Dear, Peter Brabrook, Roger Cross and Tony Carr. This was followed by a perfectly observed minute's silence.

Then it was down to the business of playing relegation-threatened Birmingham. West Ham started the game at a high tempo, knocking the ball around with great style. When Marlon put us in front with a thumping shot after ten minutes, it looked like we might run riot. It was not quite to be, however, as we then seemed to take our foot off the pedal a bit. Birmingham were poor and although they had a fair amount of possession, they never seriously threatened our goal.

The second half started in much the same vein, until for some inexplicable reason, a Brum defender handled in the area. Marlon's penalty was saved, but he followed up to tuck away the rebound. Two minutes later, Scaloni put in a great cross, and although Yossi failed to get a touch at the near post, Deano was on hand at the back stick to nod into an empty net.

With the game comfortably sown up, it was time for the crowd to indulge in some Bruce-baiting. Steve Bruce had infamously remarked before a vital game between the two clubs that he would love to send us down as revenge for stopping Man Ure from winning the title in 1995. Chants of "Steve Bruce is an ugly ****" and "Going down, going down!" echoed loudly around the stadium.

While West Ham gave Greenwood a good send-off, it is sad that the rest of English football did not see fit to do so. Only a few clubs held a minute's silence at their games this weekend. The rest failed to do so, saying that it was down to the authorities to tell them whether they should. Meanwhile the authorities said it was down to the individual clubs. A disgrace!


Ron Greenwood R.I.P. (10th February 2006)

Sadly, former West Ham manager Ron Greenwood has died, aged 84. Greenwood was the manager when I first starting getting into football and going to Upton Park. His innovative tactics and love for stylish, attacking play laid the foundations for what the club is today. When he joined in 1961, the club was in the top flight, but was content to muddle around going nowhere. He transformed it into a successful side, and the club name became known across the football world. He won the club's first major honours, winning the FA Cup in 1964, and the European Cup Winners Cup the following year.

He also had a major influence in the England side's World Cup win of 1966. West Ham of course provided 3 of the players who won the trophy. It was Greenwood who transformed Geoff Hurst from a failing wing-half into a top-class striker. It was also Greenwood's previously unheard-of tactic of playing crosses into space at the near-post that led to two vital goals in the competition. Both were scored by Hurst, one created by Martin Peters, the other by Bobby Moore.

Greenwood's influence is still evident around the club today. He encouraged his successor John Lyall to take up coaching after injury ended his career - and Lyall went on to win 2 FA Cups and take us to our highest-ever position in the League. He bought the club's longest serving player, Billy Bonds, who also went on to manage the club. Another of his players, Sir Trevor Brooking, still plays a part in the running of the club (it was he who recommended that Alan Pardew should get the manager's job). Yet another - Tony Carr - is the long-serving youth team coach, who has been responsible for launching the careers of the likes of England internationals Paul Ince, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe.

Greenwood also managed England for 5 years, with mixed success. His World Cup campaign in 1982 saw the team return home at the quarter final stage, having not lost a game!

Above all, Greenwood conducted his life as a gentleman and with great dignity. Throughout his time at West Ham, he never had a contract, believing that his word as a gentleman was good enough, and expected others to accord him the same respect.

R.I.P.


Six of the Best (7th February 2006)

After the terrific result at the Arse, it was back to Upton Park for the visit of bottom side Sunderland, who are having a nightmare season, having picked up only 9 points to date. Hopes were naturally high that we could add to our winning streak with a 6th consecutive win. Those hopes were heightened as early as the 24th minute, when the Mackem right back was sent off for his second bookable offence. However, Sunderland made life very difficult for us, defending very well and limiting us to just one genuine chance - A Dean Ashton header that was very well saved - in the first 70 minutes.

Then Marlon came off the subs bench and transformed the game. His pace and power proved to be too much for the Mackems. He had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside, TV replays clearly showing that he was comfortably onside. Then he had a good shout for a penalty turned down, before beating two players and getting a good shot away from the edge of the box. The shot was parried by the keeper, but only for Ashton to put it away for a home debut goal. A few minutes later, Konch sealed the win with a 20-yarder that somehow squirmed under the keeper into the net for his first-ever West Ham goal.

As well as Ashton, Lionel Scaloni, our new on-loan right back made his debut. As the Mackems showed little attacking intent after the sending off it would be difficult to judge his defensive abilities on this game, but he does like to get well forward, and looks comfortable on the ball. There were also good performances from NRC who is showing a return to the high-energy performances of earlier in the season, and Mullins who's work rate and tackling were top-notch. NRC's driving run down the wing early in the game that took him from just outside our area to just outside the Sunderland area before being fouled was pure quality.

Overall, the team looked a bit jaded after their midweek efforts, but the fact that AP was in a position to bring Marlon on late in the game showed that we are beginning to develop some strength in depth to the squad. In the circumstances, it was an important win for us - one that we might not have managed not so long ago.

We are now 18 points clear of the relegation zone and, barring a disaster of Titanic proportions, we should now have sealed our Premier League place for next season. A further 6 points should see us definitely safe. Considering that we started the season thinking that the best we could hope for was to just about avoid relegation, to be in this position with 13 games left is a terrific achievement for Pardew and his team.


Cup Joy, A Highbury Night to Remember, And A Bit of Argy-Bargy (2nd February 2006)

With the much-maligned Dailly stepping in to fill the departed Repka's boots at right back, there were a few nervous punters at Upton Park as the FA Cup match against Blackburn got under way. We found ourselves a goal down after only 28 seconds, which did not help, although Dailly was in no way to blame. After taking a few minutes to settle down, we gradually found our rhythm. We levelled midway through the first half thanks to a Teddy penalty, scored with a Di Canio-esque chip. A few minutes later we were ahead thanks to a well worked move finished off by Matty. In the second half, a good move down our left saw a Konch centre being diverted into his own net by a Rovers player to put us 3-1 ahead. Rovers then pulled one back with an excellent goal, but Zamora (whooaaaooo) sealed the win with a simple finish into an empty net after a Marlon shot had been parried by their 'keeper. We now have a tricky trip to Fat Sam's Bolton in the next round. It's the draw I least wanted, but we should be taking around 5000 fans up there, so it promises to be a good day out.

Four days later we were at the Highbury Library for the last-ever time to face an Arsenal side that have not been firing on all cylinders lately, but still had an excellent home record (9 wins to 1 defeat). Pards made the brave decision to play Clive Clarke at right back for his Premiership debut. A more difficult one would be hard to imagine as he had to face Pires and Henry, perhaps the best left-sided combo in the League. After a hesitant opening, he settled well into the role, and put in a worthy performance. We were lucky to survive the opening 15 minutes as Arsenal missed 3 good chances thanks to hitting their own player, the post and a Yossi goal line clearance. Then out of the blue, we were in front. Sol Campbell made a mistake that left NRC in the clear, and he finished cooly through Lehmann's legs. Cue pandemonium among the West Ham following. A few minutes later, we found ourselved in dreamland as a sweeping cross field pass by Konch found Zamora (whooaaaooo) A slip by Campbell allowed Bobby to get a shot away, which he curled superbly into the far corner of the net. Cue more pandemonium in the West Ham ranks. The Arse continued to put us under pressure, but just when it looked like we would hold our 2 goal lead into half time, Konch failed to control a simple ball, which let the Arse in to pull one back.

The second half brought more of the same, as the Arse continued to dominate possession. yet it was us that scored the next goal. Some good work by Newton led to Etherington hitting a shot that took two deflections on its way into the net. Cue delirium in the West Ham ranks. Arse pulled one back with a few minutes left, but we managed to see out the remaining time to record a famous win.

While it could be said that we rode our luck, with Arse missing a number of chances, and two of our goals resulting from terrible defensive errors, yet again we showed the fighting spirit that has served us so well this season. Many a West Ham side of the past would have folded under the pressure, but we kept going, always making life difficult for our opponents and hassling them out of their stride somewhat. Kudos to Pards for having the guts to play Clarke, and for making tactical changes early in the game, which helped stem the tide of pressure and keep Arse at arms length. Also credit for sticking with Marlon and Bobby up front, instead of starting with Ashton just because he'd cost £7m. Ashton did come on for 15 minutes or so at the end and looked assured, holding the ball up well, alleviating the strain on our defence.

All in all a fantastic evening, one that will be remembered by those of us that were there as a top, top night. We kicked up a fantastic atmosphere at our end all evening, which then spilled out into the streets afterwards as we entertained ourselves with a variety of songs while queuing to get in the tube station. I don't think the local residents were too impressed though!

The attempts to replace the departed Repka before the transfer window closed were looking to prove fruitless until the last minute loan signing of Argentinean international Scaloni from Deportivo la Coruna. I must admit I don't know anything about the player, but apparently he's a no-nonsense defender/midfielder, with plenty of experience at right back. He wants regular first team football, which he wasn't getting at Deportivo, to try to get into the Argy World Cup squad this summer. Hopefully that desire will make him do the required job for us until at least the summer, when we can look for a permanent replacement.


Hello Dean, Goodbye Tom (25th January 2006)

Monday night's home game against Fulham was notable for several reasons. Firstly, prior to the match, our new £7m striker Dean Ashton was introduced to the crowd, although he wasn't signed in time to be available for the game. Secondly, the game featured two superb goals from Anton and Yossi. Thirdly, it saw a return to winning ways at Upton Park after four straight defeats. Finally, it was a farewell to our previous record signing, Tommy Repka, playing his last game before returning to his native Czech Republic.

The game itself was fairly entertaining, but West Ham didn't really get into their full stride for much of the match. That we won it was due to the two fantastic goals already mentioned. The first came from a corner which was partially cleared, but fell to Anton on the 18 yard line where he swivelled and hit it on the volley, sending it dipping over Niemi into the goal. For the second, Yossi received a pass from Matty just outside the box and some good footwork bought him a yard of space. Seeing Niemi off his line, he hit a sublime chip over him into the net.

In the second half, Fulham came back at us, keeping us under pressure for long spells. A mistake by Gabbidon let them in to pull one goal back early on. We looked very nervous after that, but managed to hold on for the win.

In the final few minutes, Dailly was brought on to help shore up the midfield, and was booed as he came on by sections of the crowd. This is poor form by our so-called fans. They should have a look at the team's record this season when Dailly has been brought on to help us defend a lead - it's works every time, which shows that Dailly is doing the job asked of him. He may not be the best player we have by any means, but he does do this role well. The boo-boys should lay off him, if only so that they don't show their own ignorance.

I'm not sure what to make of the signing of Dean Ashton. I think he is a very promising player, and the type of striker that Pardew has been looking to get - one that can hold the ball up and bring others into the game, while still getting his fair share of goals too. The price tag is questionable, and will look silly if he fails to live up to the promise. Of course, if he does prove his worth then it will look like a bargain, so here's hoping for that.

Farewell Super Tom, you may not have been the greatest defender we've ever seen, but you weren't bad either, and your commitment to the club cannot be questioned. Hope all goes well in Prague for you.


Villa Double (17th January 2006)

It was a late decision for me to go to the game at Villa, but fortunately there were tickets still available, and it turned out to be a good day out. Having been given some good advice on where to park by my boss, who is a Villa fan, I was at the ground quite early. I wasn't too impressed by the burger I bought inside the stadium, it didn't taste very good and the bun was a bit stale.

Although Matty had a very good chance to put us in front after only a few minutes, Villa were the better side in the first half, and probably deserved their 1-0 lead at half time, scored by Lee Hendrie, who'd only come on as a sub.

The second half saw a great improvement from West Ham, and we really stormed at Villa in the opening 20 minutes or so. During this spell, we scored twice. Firstly Zamora (whoooaaaooo) ran in unmarked to head home a free kick from Konch, then we got a penalty from a handball by a Villa defender. Marlon scored with a coolly taken spot kick.

Villa came more into the game after that opening salvo, but things stayed pretty even, with us looking just as likely to add to our lead as they did to equalising. Katan came on for the last 15 minutes to make his league debut for us. He didn't really have much opportunity to show his stuff, but he did take one decent free kick. Although the keeper saved it comfortably, it was at least on target, which is more than can be said for many of our other efforts this season.

It was another top-notch effort from the travelling Irons too. Nearly 4000 of us turned up to roar the side on to another vital win. Interviewed after the game, Alan Pardew commented on the influence the fans had in spurring the team on and keeping them going.

Finally - a big thank you to Villa for six vital points and the chance to take the mickey out of my boss twice this season! :D


Bad Run (9th January 2006)

Since I last updated, West Ham have suffered a poor run of form, winning just two of 9 league matches. Despite getting off to a flying start against Man Ure, thanks to a Marlon Harewood goal in the first minute, we were comprehensively outplayed for the rest of the match and ended up losing 2-1.

That was followed by 3 away games, none of which I got to. Vital wins at Birmingham and Everton sandwiched an arguably unlucky defeat at Blackburn. Zamora scored a superb solo goal at Birmingham.

We played well in the next home game against Newcastle we played quite will, but defended poorly at critical moments and were punished, which meant we lost 4-2. This was the first of 5 successive matches I went to, during which we only gained one point, at Portsmouth. Crucial injuries in this spell - to Gabbidon, Reo-Coker, Benayoun and Repka - severely tested our limited resources.

At Pompey we played very badly in the first half, and also lost 3 players to injuries. But in the second half, we rallied, equalised and should probably have won it. Next up were Wigan at home, where we played badly throughout and were deservedly beaten 2-0. I was disappointed to hear home fans booing by half time in this match - a pointless exercise that invariably does more harm than good.

At Charlton, we started very well, pinning the home side into their own half for long periods, forcing several corners. Unfortunately we couldn't make the pressure tell, and got caught on the break to go in at half time a goal down. The second half was more even, but again it was Charlton that scored, to end up 2-0 winners. I was very disappointed with this result, as I'd really fancied us to get a result against a side that had been in poor form prior to this match.

At home to Chelsea, we were totally outclassed, losing 3-1. Although Harewood levelled at 1-1 just after half time we were never really in the game. The gap in class between us and Chelsea is vast - not surprising really, given the equally vast gap in financial resources.

Our most recent fixture was the FA Cup 3rd round tie at Norwich, which resulted in a 2-1 win for us. By all accounts, it was a lot more comfortable win than the result suggests. A home game against Blackburn in the next round is the reward.


Catching Up (23th November 2005)

I have neglected to update this page for a while, having been caught up in some fishing triumphs that are mentioned elsewhere in this site. However, I haven't been neglecting watching West Ham, and since I last updated, I've been to games at Liverpool and Spurs, as well as seeing us beat Middlesbrough and West Brom at home.

The home game against 'Boro saw us turn in a decent performance, following two dismal showings at Sunderland and Man City. Despite playing well, we had to rely on a shocking linesman's decision to give us the win. He signalled a goal to us when clearly the ball had not crossed the line.

The trip to Anfield was my first time there and it was good to visit one of the most famous football stadiums in the world. Unfortunately, we had our usual performance there and lost 2-0. We haven't won there since 1963, and never really looked like we would change that this time.

The home game against WBA saw both sides have a number of decent scoring chances, but it was only an extra piece of class by Teddy Sheringham that saw us take the points with a 1-0 win. They may prove to be vital points taken off potential relegation rivals come the end of the season.

Most recently, we were at Spurs for what is always a lively meeting, on and off the pitch. Spurs took an early lead, but despite dominating possession for much of the game were unable to add to it. As the game wore on we came more into it, and had them under some pressure in the dying minutes. In the final few seconds of added time we won a corner. Everyone including Shaka Hislop went forward for it. Konchesky swung the ball in, and Anton leapt at the back post to head the ball in for the equaliser. Cue utter delirium among the West Ham fans! It was a really sweet moment, denying Spurs the win with almost the last touch of the game. Rivalries apart, the point was a bonus one in our bid to stay in the Premier League.


"Reserves" Triumph At Wednesday (21th September 2005)

Fielding a team that featured eight changes in the starting line-up from the Fulham game, West Ham succeeded in seeing off Sheffield Wednesday in the Carling Cup last night. Bobby Zamora opened the scoring as early as the second minute, then added his second in the second half, Dailly having also scored in-between. We had to endure an anxious last few minutes as the Owls scored twice in as many minutes as well as hitting the bar. David Bellion - making his debut as a substitute - finally settled the issue with our fourth goal.

It makes a nice change to win this type of fixture, particularly as it was achieved with what was virtually a reserve XI, allowing most of our first team a break before Saturday's match with the Arse. The night was made especially sweet with the news that Grimsby had dumped Spurs out of the same competition.


Tough Times Ahead (19th September 2005)

No doubt about it - we've had a much better start than anybody could have realistically expected. There's also no doubt that our next eight fixtures up to the end of November present a much stiffer challenge than those we've already had. They include games at Man City, Liverpool and Spurs, and home games with the Arse and Man USA. Any points at all from those games will be regarded as bonuses. We must therefore capitalise on the other three games in this spell - Sunderland away and 'Boro and WBA at home. We should look for a minimum five points from those fixtures, otherwise things will not be looking so rosy as they are now. We certainly cannot afford to lose to either the Mackems or Albion, as they are both likely to be around the relegation area come the end of the season.


A Nice Day Out by the River (19th September 2005)

Having booked my ticket for this game several weeks ago, it still hadn't arrived a week before the game, so West Ham's ticket office arranged for me to collect a duplicate from Fulham's ticket office on the day of the match. That went OK, the ticket was there waiting for me, but when I got to my seat, there was already someone in it, with a ticket with the exact same seat no. The stewards were no help whatsoever in resolving the problem, but fortunately I had a spare ticket for the neutral section, and was able to use that. As it happens the so-called neutral section was full of West Ham anyway.

The game itself was highly entertaining, both sides looking to attack and playing open football. We rode our luck a bit early on, with Carroll making a couple of excellent saves. As the half went on, we got more into it, with Marlon hitting the bar and NRC missing from the rebound. Marlon then followed up his Monday hat-trick by putting us two up early in the second half. Although the second goal will officially be given as an own-goal because it hit the post and rebounded in off the keeper's head, Marlon deserves the credit for spinning and getting the shot in. Boa Morte pulled one back for Fulham, but we held on to record a very good win. Once again our performance was full of energy and pace. Both these qualities were personified by Reo-Coker, who was all over the midfield, winning tackles and often leading the breaks from defence.

The travelling army of Hammers were also quality, easily out-singing the home fans, and revelling in our superb start to the season.


Villa Thrashed (16th September 2005)

A fine performance by West Ham against an admittedly poor Aston Villa saw another 3 points going into the bag. A hat-trick from Marlon Harewood and a late goal from Yossi Benayoun completed a 4-0 rout. Villa's boss David O'Leary said afterwards that the Hammers played with passion and desire, and out-muscled Villa all over the park. I was pleased that Marlon got among the goals at last. Hopefully he will now settle down into the Premiership, and get a decent tally of goals. His first one was a cooly-taken effort, slotting home after being put clean through by Sheringham. All the West Ham players had decent games, notably Mullins, Reo-Coker, Harewood and Yossi. Yossi caused problems to the Villa defence throughout, and capped his performance with a quality goal in the last minute, turning two defenders inside-out, before placing the ball inside the far post. Seven points from the first four games is more than most of us would have realistically expected to get, so it's been a good start. Although there will be tough times ahead, our prospects of staying up are looking quite reasonable.


Bolton Defeat (31st August 2005)

Failure to convert some decent chances cost us at least a point - if not all three - on Saturday. Marlon Harewood squandered two great chances to score in the first half, and the Bolton keeper made some excellent saves, notably from Yossi and Konch. Bolton managed to score twice in the second half before Teddy pulled a late one back from the spot. The chances that Marlon missed emphasised the need for a decent striker to be signed, but it isn't looking likely, as we are now only hours away from the closing of the transfer window. It was encouraging again that we produced some decent football. Anton and Konch again had very good matches, although Gabbidon looked a little less assured than in the last two games. Yossi was man of the match with another skillful performance. Aliadiere also looked bright when he came on - his pace causing Bolton's defence a real problem. I hope that the result doesn't affect the squad's confidence too much, and that they can build on the positives from the game rather than the negatives.


Aliadiere on Loan, Bolton Preview (26th August 2005)

It's beginning to look like we've given up hope of signing a top striker before the transfer deadline next week. Pardew has brought in Jeremie Aliadiere on loan from the Arsenal, but I can't figure out if he is going to be a regular player or just as cover for our existing forwards. He is a bright prospect, with plenty of pace, but hasn't had much chance to show his qualities at Highbury.

Bolton are at the Boleyn tomorrow, and I fancy this game will be a much tougher test than the two we've played so far. Fat Sam Allardyce has made them into a very difficult side to beat. I wouldn't like to say which way this will go, but I doubt there will be more than a goal in it either way. Good news from earlier in the week was that Konch's red card has been overturned, so he will be available to play.


Good Point at the Barcodes (but could it have been better?) (22nd August 2005)

Despite having Paul Konchesky controversially sent off early in the second half, West Ham held on to earn a goalless draw against a troubled Newcastle side. The Toon are having problems on and off the pitch at the moment, and following our win last week, there was confidence that we could do well. This was proved to be the case, as we were arguably the better side until the sending-off. Even after that we looked comfortable, and could have snatched a late winner. Although most people reckoned that Konch's red card was undeserved, I tend to side with the ref on this one. Konch launched his challenge with both feet off the ground, and the way the rules are interpreted by referees these days, this is simply asking for trouble - which he duly got. The rest of the Hammer's defence coped admirably with Newcastle's attack, with Ferdinand and Gabbidon looking very solid in the middle.


Take Over Bid To Happen? (19th August 2005)

Speculation is rife that a take over bid for West Ham is being mounted by a middle-east consortium. The bid is said to consist of £45m for the club, £30m debt repayment, £30m cash flow coverage, and £100m for new player. On the face of it, this is exciting news. I'm concerned though by the nature of the consortium, and what they intend to do with us. While I have no doubt that they want success for us, I have a horrible feeling that they could rip the heart and soul out of the club. I would hate to see us become a "franchise" type club, with new fans who are only in it for any glory that may come our way. Real West Ham fans have been brought up on the odd bit of success and a lot of failure, any reward we get is well earned and therefore very much appreciated.


A Great Opener (15th August 2005)

What a cracking opening match for West Ham as we beat Blackburn 3-1 to get the season off to a flyer. After a slow opening 20 minutes, during which we conceded a sloppy goal from a corner, the team bounced back to produce a heartening and exciting performance to deservedly take the points. The new boys Gabbidon, Konchesky, Yossi and Carroll all had good starts to their West Ham careers. The second half performance gave much cause for optimism with a combination of pace and power ripping Rovers to pieces. The only downers really were our inability to defend well at set pieces, and Harewood squandering some decent chances. On the other hand, Marlon's pace and strength gave problems throughout to Rovers' defenders, who simply failed to cope with him.

The fans at the Boleyn were also in fine form, producing an atmosphere reminiscent of years gone by, even when we were a goal down. This is going to be vital for us this season, as we need to back the team even when things are not going well. I'm sure this helped us to turn things round on Saturday.


Striker Search Continues (12th August 2005)

We're on the eve of the new season and it seems West Ham are really struggling to find the striker we need this season. Bids for various players, like Crouch, Ashton, Baros etc have not born fruit, and it seems the chances of getting anything better than we've already got have all but disappeared. This is going to be a problem for us, as we really do need a good goalscorer to improve our team.


Pards Admits Interest in Baros (31st July 2005)

Pardew has admitted that he is interested in signing Milan Baros from Liverpool. Can't say I'm terribly excited about that prospect. Baros has not exactly set the Premiership alight during his time with the Mickey Mousers and I'm not convinced he will add the fire power required to boost our chances of staying up.


Sam Allardyce Whinges About Yossi (25th July 2005)

Fat Sam, Bolton's Manager, has been complaining about Yossi Benayoun choosing to sign for us instead of Bolton, claiming that he did it purely for financial reasons, and therefore Fat Sam didn't want him anyway. This completely ignores the fact that West Ham were offering the same money as Bolton were, so finances did not influence Yossi's decision. A typical whinge from Fat Sam. All I can say is AAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Yossi Signs/New Striker Speculation (19th July 2005)

Yossi Benayoun's move to West Ham is complete, following the approval of a work permit. It would seem as a goal-scoring creative midfielder that he is just the sort of player we need. Let's hope he can do the business for us. There is now lots of speculation that we are in for a top striker. This stems from comments Pardew is supposed to have made off the record on the club's Scandinavian tour. No-one actually seems to have a clue who it is. One person it won't be is Peter Crouch, who is about to sign for Liverpool. We had a £6m bid for him rejected a couple of weeks ago.


The New Berko (15th July 2005)

After several days of speculation, offer and counter-offer, it looks like West Ham have landed the signature of Yossi Benayoun, the Israeli international midfielder. I must admit I'd not been aware of him prior to the last few days, but having read about him and seen some video clips of his skills, he looks like the type of player we need to open up defences. Let's hope he can make the transition from the Spanish to the English leagues. If he has the class of our last Israeli player, Eyal Berkovic, then he could prove to be a good acquisition. Bolton were also trying to sign him, and if it's true that we've pinched him from under their noses, then that is also good news, and up yours Fat Sam! :D


Bowyer - No Thanks (13th July 2005)

Rumours persist that Lee Bowyer is about to return to Upton Park. I hope they are unfounded. Quite apart from debates over his playing ability, the man is (allegedly) a racist thug and should never play in West Ham's colours. We have a multi -racial squad and I think team spirit - which will be vital to our chances of retaining our Premier League status in the coming season - would suffer as a result of Bowyer's presence. We should not sign this player.


Pards Still Looking (12th July 2005)

Alan Pardew was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 last night. During the interview, he stated that he was happy with the way his defensive line-up was taking shape, following the 3 signings of Gabbidon, Collins and Konchesky, but was looking to add a striker and a creative midfielder to the squad before the new season. Depending on prices, that may become two of each. Pardew said he needs a player(s) to unlock defences, and he's right. While having the defence in order is obviously good, against most Premier sides it is likely that we will concede at least once in most games. Thus we will need to score a fair amount of goals in order to have any chance of surviving in the Premier League. Etherington is probably our most creative player at present, but he did not really make an impact at this level during his time with Sp*rs. We need another player capable of opening up a defence, and one to put the chances away with at least a reasonable level of consistency. Unfortunately, quality players like these are not easy to come by, and demand a hefty fee. Pardew has already had a bid of £6m for Peter Crouch of Southampton turned down. He may have to take a risk on an overseas player and hope it pays off.