Thursday, 31 March 2011

Ashton's wife lets cat out of the bag!

In an Ashton friendly article where the "articulate and intelligent" former player insists he is not and never has been gay, his wife lets the cat out of the bag on Ashton's retirement. Whilst Zola was looking forward to having Beano in the team, and Duxbury, the Grand Puppet Master, was spinning about Ashton as if his job depended upon it, it seems that the striking blond bombshell knew his career was over.

Mrs Beano reveals: "It’s been a different journey for him to the one the fans have seen. I think he has known himself for a lot longer than they did that he would have to retire. When it came to it, he had already dealt with that in his head."

And that is pretty much how I called it when I said Ashton was claiming a salary and resisting retirement because he wanted to eke out as much as he could financially. God, the stick I took for that! You can't blame Ashton for making as much as he could before being sent to the knacker's yard, but yet again you have to marvel at the stupidity of Duxbury, for agreeing that new improved contract, and the gullibility of Zola, who couldn't be arsed to pick up the phone to speak to Ashton, but still banked on him being available for selection.

Who was kidding who? Well ultimately, they were all taking the piss out of the fans. How many season tickets were sold on the back of Duxbury's pledge that Ashton would return to first team action in September?

And as for that new contract, it makes you wonder what was going on between Dean and Dux behind closed doors doesn't it? Given the need for the gay denial, were they the new Bishop and Morley? Or was Duxbury simply THAT stupid?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Redknapp gets Twitchy as Spurs call in the Lawyers

Poor old 'Arry. With Spurs harvesting just two points from nine, the last words 'Arry wanted to hear were, "Judicial Review" and "the High Court". You can bet your life he had a get away driver revving up the engine as soon as he heard that Levy was talking to a Brief. 'Arry's tax trial is still pending and, as rich as he may be, there's only so many beaks even Bagpuss can afford to bribe.

As an opponent of the move to the OS, I am mildly amused by the idea of Tottenham challenging the decision to award the stadium to us. God help us if Sullivan, Gold and Brady are called into court to give evidence. Entrust the Olympic Heritage to those three? It's like allowing Al Fayed to marry into the Royal Family and we all know the lengths that the establishment went to in order to prevent that!

Cole Facing Racist Charge! Absurd!

So the all white disciplinary panel of the FA are considering bringing Carlton Cole to book for racist comments on Twitter. And I bet they do it without seeing any sense of the absurd!

You can just imagine the hearing. Cole enters the room and Major Ponsoby Smyth demands to know why one of the natives has been allowed into the building. Upon hearing that this is Carlton Cole, the man on the racist charge, the good Major coughs into his tiffin and exclaims, "But I thought this man Cole had played for England! Dear God the man is a nig..."

If the hearing takes place, Carlton should take one look at the all white committee and say he wants OJ's jury instead!

Crazy, sheer bloody crazy. Now a black man can't make jokes about illegal immigration! What chance does 'Arry have of getting the England job in the light of his explanation of why Abou was unfit to play: "The lad went home to the Ivory Coast and got a bit of food poisoning. He must have eaten a dodgy missionary or something"!

Has the world lost its sense of humour? Of course it hasn't! Red Nose Day raised £74million for the people of Africa and on the same night 132 cruise missiles costing £300,000 apiece were fired into Libya! I bet the poor sods were laughing their heads off as a missile turned right at the end of the street and headed in their direction.

I might make a joke now but then I would run the risk of being on a charge of racism! And the monopoly board sums up the FA's attitude to Cole, not mine, before you level an accusation!

Parker or Barry? It's like asking Angelina Jolie or Subo!

Ok so he has provoked me already. Parker or Barry? What a bloody stupid question. Fillet steak or dog food? Soft or hard core? The Maldives or Blackpool? Stella or Cat's Piss? Coleen or a sixty year old granny? Ok, there's no accounting for some people's taste!

How can anybody who knows anything about the game pose such a stupid question? Where Barry is laboured, Parker is dynamic. Where Barry is lazy, Parker is industrious. Where Barry is carried on the back of the team like a heavy rucksack, Parker carries the team and the club on his battered and bruised shoulders.

Parker or Barry? It's like asking if you would like chalk with those crackers or if you fancy a bit of Subo instead of an all night session with AJ. As bloody stupid questions go, it is right up there!

Come On You Irons!


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Parker or Barry? The argument goes on!

Well after Scotty was efficiently anonymous against the might of Wales, Gareth Barry pulled on the armband, led England impressively, made two absolutely delicious passes, the like of which Parker dreams, deflected a certain Ghanaian goal over the bar and so so so nearly got in the block when Gyan scored that late, late, late equalizer after turning Kryton inside out.

Ghana, of course made the quarter final of the last World Cup, and with better luck would have made it to the semifinal; the Wales team that Parker faced would struggle to finish in a play off position in the Championship!

So who is the better bet for England? West Ham fans will ridicule the comparison but Man City chose to buy Barry and could have had Parker for considerably less - and presumably there was a reason!

Tonight's performance showed that Gareth is not the mug that some seem to want him to be. I'm glad Scotty wasn't out there because the Black Stars were taking no prisoners in the tackle but I do wonder how well he would have coped against obviously superior opposition to the Dai Ordinaries he faced on Saturday!

Half Time England 1 Ghana 0 - Thank God Parker Aint Playing!

Ouch, it is a bit tasty out there! Has anybody told Ghana this is a friendly? Some of the buggers seem to think they have joined a mercenary rebel army in Libya! Twice I've flinched thinking, that could be a broken leg on another day, particularly that coming together of Baines and one of the Black Stars.

It has been a refreshingly competitive game in every sense of the term. What a miss from Young and what a save from Hart. And the Carroll goal was a beauty. He really did bury the chance superbly and Downing's movement, lay off and shielding of Carroll to prevent the defender from getting at him, was very clever indeed. Young's pass was also very good.

We are looking very vulnerable at the back. Baines may be good going forward but he is weak in the tackle and Ghana have skinned him two or three times already. Cahill and Jagielka both look as if they can do it at this level but only with Ferdinand or Terry alongside them.

I must say, even with wingers on the wrong flanks, I like this performance. How ironic, given arguments over Zola's use of wrong footers, that when Downing had the chance to bend in a shot with his left foot, he chose to blast it with his right - wide of course.

The Barry - Parker argument is still undecided in my book. Barry played a delicious pass out to Johnson - it went further than all Parker's passes added together on Saturday; and Ghana are a darn site better than Wales. That said, I suspect Parker would be screening the back four better. Might it be that Barry is a better creative midfielder than the Claret & Blue Anchor?

The Final Sod Laid To Rest On West Ham United's Heritage

London 2012 Olympics: Olympic Stadium completed 'on time and under budget'
There are a few sods I wouldn't mind seeing laid to rest I must admit, but the completion of the green space in the middle of the Olympic bowl does not fill me with glee. Is it just me, or has that tiny patch of green simply emphasised how far away we fans will be from the pitch?

The stadium has been completed on time and on budget - remarkable given this is Britain and the Labour Party were in charge until very recently - but we have yet to see how the pitch will play when it is being used week in and week out for football, whilst also hosting javelin, shot put and hammer throwing events.

I'm not sure why Coe is overseeing the lifting up of a flap of the pitch in that picture. Is he saying, "And under here we are burying the heritage and soul of West Ham United Football Club" perhaps?


Monday, 28 March 2011

Introducing Ironside!

Having fought against Hammersfan from the sidelines since the inception of this site, I've decided that if you can't beat him, join him. Iain Dale has his Chandos so Hammersfan now has his sidekick, though it is my intention to give him a damn good kicking at every opportunity.

Here's the deal. Hammersfan has agreed to carry my articles in answer to his. Where he seems determined to see the negative in everything West Ham - especially everything Parker - I will be offering the counter position. And he has pledged to post everything I submit subject to grammar and spelling editing. He says he may tweak my English but will not tamper with my opinions. We will see how that goes.

All my articles will be signed off Ironside. I won't be as prolific as Hammersfan - I have a life and don't intend to post for the sake of it - but hopefully this site will now read more like a West Ham blog than a bloody Spudfest! Unless he provokes me, expect my first article to be a match report on Saturday. Let's see who reads the game better, me from the Bobby Moore Upper or Hammersfan from his blue and white armchair! (And I bet that doesn't get through his edit!)

Come On You Irons!


Capello's inconsistency re Parker is a disgrace!

What the hell is going on? How can John Terry and Frank Lampard be released from the England squad because of European games in the middle of next week, whilst Parker, carrying TWO injuries, may be required to play for 90 minutes tomorrow, ahead of an early kick off on Saturday?

The barmy Italian claims that tired players pick up injuries easily but who should be feeling most leg weary at the moment, Frank Lampard who has missed a great chunk of the season and who plays in a well oiled machine, or Parker who has carried West Ham on his back since August, hardly missing a game?

Add in the fact that Parker's Dad died last week, and you have to wonder at the absurd inconsistency of Capello. Parker is potentially both physically and emotionally exhausted. This is clearly a case of the crazy Italian cowtowing to the big clubs and saying to Hell with the smaller fry.

What right has he to release one club's players and not another's? Rooney is back at Man Utd as we speak, resting and preparing for the battle at Upton Park on Saturday; whilst Parker is confined in Capello's prison, facing a potentially bruising encounter with Ghana tomorrow. Rooney has started 26 club games this season, Parker 36. So who is more in need of a rest exactly?

This is truly outrageous and West Ham should lodge an official complaint. If Parker is ruled out of Saturday's game and Rooney scores the winner, will we be compensated? Not a cat in hell's chance. Sullivan should get on the blower and order Scotty home and Capello should be hauled before the FA to explain his crass inconsistency!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Is international football easy or are some West Ham players uncommitted to club football?

Sorry, but you have to ask the question. Week in, week out, Spector and Barrera look crap, yet put an international shirt on them, and suddenly they look the part!

This weekend, Barrera had a hand in two Mexico goals, Spector played at right back - a problem position at West Ham for 3 years now - against Messi and Argentina and was not disgraced, Keane climbed off the treatment table and netted the winner for the Republic of Ireland, Ba scored a late winner for Senegal and Parker played a starring role for England, albeit against the might of Wales! And yet we are fourth from bottom in the Prem!

You can add to that list Tomkins who was a star for the England U21s in a 4-0 victory over Denmark and Green will probably play for England on Tuesday. Hitz famously captained Germany on the eve of this season, Cole has not looked out of his depth in an England shirt, Jacobsen is a regular for Denmark, da Costa has been in the Portugal squad, Upson played in the last World Cup and Bridge would be on England duty if Terry hadn't cocked up his international career - literally! Oh and Obinna and Ilunga have both ended up in the winning sides in qualification for the Africa Nations Cup. You have to wonder why we are not challenging for a place in the Champions League based on that list!

If I was Grant, I would be having a chat with Barrera in particular on his return and asking, through an interpreter, what the fcuk he is up to. If he can look so good for Mexico, why can't he pick a cross or a pass in the Prem?

Was Mark Noble Misquoted?

The Daily Star is reporting Mark Noble claimed that Avram Grant could take West Ham into the Champions League! Really? Or did he say the Championship?

One thing's for sure, if Noble is really giving this vote of confidence to Grant, he will be off Karren Brady's Christmas card list!

Behrami joins Ince, Defoe, Reo-Choker & Lampard in West Ham's Rogues Gallery

What a total cnut! Speaking about his return to the Switzerland squad, Mr Huff & Puff said: ""It's wonderful to be back in the Switzerland side and I am here thanks to Fiorentina, who allowed me to play regularly."

Oh yes? So West Ham didn't allow him to play regularly then? Grant was leaving him out of the team was he? Well no, not quite!

Valedictory goes on: "My family and I are happy again at last. After the World Cup I returned to West Ham, but it wasn't easy to overcome the disappointment of that. I slowly managed and started to play again, but I no longer felt at ease in London.Then, finally, I had the opportunity to come back to Serie A. I wanted a return to Italy with all my strength."

In others words, just as I kept suggesting, Behrami wasn't injured as such, he was sulking and refusing to play! Poor diddums, his wife was unhappy in London, and he was disappointed after playing terribly in the World Cup and getting himself sent off he "no longer felt at ease" and couldn't play "with all (his) strength"! And then, he moves clubs and suddenly he is fit again.

So whilst we had eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve payers ruled out with GENUINE injuries, it sounds as if Behrami was pulling a sickie because he wanted to leave, putting a gun to the head of the club by refusing to play.

How foolish do all those who backed Behrami, when I criticised him, feel now? Mr Huff and Puff took you all for mugs! And whilst you were defending him, even excusing that foul that saw him dismissed in the World Cup, he was pocketing £45,000 a week and "not feeling at ease"! What a total cnut!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Parker Efficiently Anonymous!

What a brilliantly anonymous performance from Scotty. He wasn't booked, he didn't create a goal, he didn't have a shot, he didn't give away a free kick in a dangerous area, he didn't make a goal saving last ditch tackle. In fact, if you weren't watching out for him, you could be forgiven for not even realising he was playing!

And that is not a criticism, that is exactly as Doctor Capello demanded. It was fascinating to watch Parker. The centre circle and ten yards behind it were his. When he had the ball, nine times out of ten he passed it sideways over  a distance of five yards - rarely did he break that rule either by offering forward momentum or by covering more territory. Keep it simple. Keep it simple. You could hear Capello's words in his head every time he touched the ball.

And on the rare occasions he found himself in advance of the centre circle, his first thought was to retreat as soon as he had released the ball. Time and again he gave and dropped. He knew others were in the team to hurt the opposition, he was in the side to screen, to protect, to stop Wales ever threatening the English defence.

And for 45 minutes Wales didn't even manage a shot on goal, never mind force a save from Hart. Did they manage a shot all game? To be honest, it was so drab in the second half that apart from watching Parker, I drifted off!

I do hope Parker plays in exactly the same way against Man Utd next week! How refreshing would it be if we won and Parker had a quiet game? Parker as the anchor, as opposed to the canon, is the key to our survival!

Capello has Parker's number, let's hope Grant calls it too!

It is beginning to look as if Capello has grasped what Parker can bring to the international table, and significantly, it is not what he has spent the best part of 3 years doing at West Ham.  My gripe about Parker all along is that he is used in the wrong way by West Ham. Playing Parker as your midfield general is as crazy as playing a tall, strong, slow centre half as a left back. Yes both positions are in defence but they require different skills.

Martin Samuels writes,The most intriguing selection concerns the partner for Wilshere in deep midfield. In training yesterday, the most in-form midfield grafter in the Barclays Premier League, Scott Parker of West Ham United, was played alongside the Arsenal man, presumably instructed to win it and give it in the old-fashioned way."

Win it and give it, in the West Ham midfield, before Hitz recovered? Give it to who? To Behrami? That's like playing Grid Iron Football, he would make it to the next ten yard line and then go to ground under a tackle. Give it to Boa? Why not just give it to the opposition and miss out the middle man? Give it to Kovac? Why not pass it back to a centre half or directly into touch as that's all Kovac will do anyway. Give it to Noble? Fair enough now he has recovered his game but when he looked up prior to Christmas, what did he see? Cole close marked with his back to the opposition goal; and nothing else. Diamante was the answer, of course, but Zola never had the vision to use him properly and give Parker the role that Capello is now considering him for.

Why? Because Parker is Billy Big Boots at West Ham and wants to be the midfield general. That and Parker's drive and frustration. If nothing is happening, it is quite natural to try to make things happen, especially when you have the hunger of Parker.

And that drive may be his undoing in an England shirt. He looked very good against Denmark because he held his position and did his job. But we saw against Germany what happens if your holding midfielder deserts his sentry duty and wanders into no man's land - you are over run! So Parker needs to exercise restraint and self discipline, he needs to play the part of a cog, not try to be the complete machine on his own.

Never mind England, next Saturday is a much bigger game, and we need Parker to hold and hold and hold again when the Mancs come to Upton Park. I thought he was superb against Spurs because he did exactly what it should say on his tin. He covered, he closed, he won the ball and he gave it to others, more gifted playmakers to set up the play. If he was needed for that role at Tottenham, how more pressing will be the need when Rooney, Valencia, Nani, Scholes and company look to get at our back four?

But some think Parker had a quiet game at Spurs. They want to see him driving forward, they want the all action figure they are used to seeing and will bay for him to play that role at Upton Park. And THAT could be our undoing.

Friday, 25 March 2011

RIP Stan Burke

Very sad to read that former Academy kit man and coach driver Stan Burke has passed away after a stroke. Stan served the club for more than 40 years, starting his employment under the great Ron Greenwood.

I am sure all true West Ham fans will offer sincere condolences to the family of a man who served the club for so long. Ron, John and Bobby are probably throwing a "You took your time" party for him as we speak.

Another link to our Glorious Past lost to this mortal coil!

Redknapp Gives Helping Hand to Capello

Well done to 'Arry. Fearing for our chances in the vital qualifier in Wales, 'Arry identified the biggest threat in the Welsh team and took appropriate action.

I wondered why an obviously struggling Bale was not withdrawn on Saturday and now we know. You would almost believe that Capello's number one fan, 'Arry the Albatross, was just ensuring that the injury that Gareth was still carrying would keep him out of this weekend's game!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Read this & see Grant in a new light!

Follow the link and read this article. If you don't respect Grant after this, I despair!

James Tomkins Future England Captain

They used to call Mike Atherton FEC - Future England Captain - as a kid at Lancashire, it was so obvious he was going to lead his country one day. Well the initials should be inscribed on Tomkins' locker at the Boleyn as a future international centre back pairing was forged tonight. Never mind Terry and Ferdinand, the future of England's defence is Tomkins and Smalling.

Tomkins came on in the 6th minute for the U21s in Denmark tonight and played a leading role as the young lions turned the Danes into masticated bacon. England won the game 4-0, but more importantly, that Tomkins and Smalling pairing was forged. The pair are stars of the future, no question!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Jordan Spence on 24 Hour Stand By

It sounds as if  young Spence is doing well down at Bristol City, with their results improving since his arrival. He is playing at right back, interestingly, and whilst it is only the Championship, he has done well enough for the Robins to extend his loan.

But Grant has insisted on a 24 hour stand by clause, enabling us to recall Spence should we need him. It would be great if we could pull sufficiently clear of trouble to allow the boy to enjoy a run out in the Prem before the end of the season. That's dangerously optimistic I know, so I'm going to retract it immediately just in case. But, you know what I mean...

Spence is tall and quick and has filled out since that picture! Let's hope his development continues apace. It would be great to see an Academy Graduate holding down a first team place in the Prem next season!

To any Bristol City fan visiting the site, how has he looked in a Robins shirt?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Dyer Returns To Form!

After shocking the football world by playing for a whole 70 minutes on his return to Ipswich, Kieron Dyer, the man who claims he is not injury prone, returned to true form at the weekend: he missed the game with an injury!

And having checked out the comforts of the Ipswich treatment room, that's probably the last the Tractor Boys will see of him on the pitch until pre season friendlies!

Injury prone, Kieron? Rubbish! He's just unfortunate!

Insincere Commiserations Following Parker's Loss Ring Hollow

Oh dear God. RIP Mick Parker. Mr Parker We Salute You! Sincere condolences. It's all so easy to trot out isn't it? But if these condolences are so sincere, would they have been posted had Parker joined Tottenham in the August transfer window? No chance! In fact some idiots in West Ham colours might well have taunted Parker during the game had he been wearing a Tottenham shirt. Just like they taunted Lampard after the death of his mother.

Scott Parker is being painted as some sort of hero because he took to the field only hours after his father died - and good on him for doing so - but I would have thought that it was a great way to get it out of his system personally. Tell me, as we praise Parker for playing a game of football, how many Japanese people "did their duty" within hours of their loved ones dying in the tsunami? How many soldiers press on after friends and colleagues fall in battle? How many Libyans will be at work today after family members have died courtesy of a peace keeping cruise missile? Parker probably saw things in context as he stood for a minute's silence out of respect for the Japanese tsunami. Yes his thoughts would have been with his father, but that death and personal loss must have been contextualised by events elsewhere. To parade personal grief at such a time might have felt inappropriate so Parker soldiered on.

Mick Parker died after a prolonged illness so the death was hardly a surprise and may possibly, in its way,  have been a blessed release. It certainly was when my father was released from the agony of lung cancer. I was in work the day after he died. Earlier this month, a colleague's father died during the working day: he completed the working day before going home to begin the grieving process and, having made provisional arrangements for the funeral, was in work by mid day of the following day. Life goes on. It has to.

Scotty played a game of football after his father died following a prolonged illness. Some might say big bloody deal given there are children in school today in Japan whose parents are missing following the tsunami.  They had no time to prepare themselves for the shock of death. Let's get a sense of perspective here can we? Life doesn't stop; it can't. How could Parker look himself in the mirror if he had sat out the game and watched that minute's silence for the thousands wiped out in Japan? There are doctors, nurses, policemen, teachers, soldiers, firemen, rescue workers in Japan who have lost fathers, brothers, spouses, children...and they are getting on with life, because they have to. We make such a fuss because somebody is a footballer. Good on Parker, but he got on with the job in the way that millions of others do around the world over the course of a year.

But it is the hollow nature of the commiserations that strike me. How sincere are they? Just imagine for a moment if Parker had joined Spurs. That's how sincere! Look at the treatment of Lampard, that's the respect shown to the dearly departed on the football terraces sadly.

I'm sorry for your loss Scott. But it happens as I'm sure you understand. Especially in the light of events in Japan.

And for all those posting RIP on the net, which is so easy to do and so hollow in consequence, how about buying a card and sending it courtesy of the club? Or better still, send the £5  you would spend on a card and postage to help the victims of the tsunami. In a situation like this, action really does speak louder than internet typed words.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Avram Tells FA To Poke Their Charge Where The Sun Don't Shine!

Portsmouth manager Avram Grant blasts ref as pressure builds ahead of High Court d-day
Good old Avram has told the FA where to stick their misconduct charge following his comments about the absurd performance of referee Mike Jones which effectively secured our FA Cup exit. Angered by a series of decisions that favoured the home team, Grant justifiably took the idiot in black to task. I trust he will be calling Etherington to explain his post match comment on the award of the penalty seconds after half time: ""At that stage of the game, and after their goal appeared to be a handball, it looked as though the ref was going to give us something."

Grant will be found guilty of course. There's no such thing as a fair trial at the FA. But good on Avram for standing up to them I say. It's a shame Brady isn't backing him through her column in The Sun. Instead of padding it out with silly comments about wasting money on sending the team to Portugal for a short break, she should be setting out why Grant was so enraged.

But then she might find herself in the dock alongside Grant, and the idea of doing time together probably has zero appeal for both! The only time Grant and Brady are likely to share a courtroom together is when Avram sues the club for unfair dismissal!

Full League Table Compiled on Results Since Christmas!

Well done to Dave in Gloucester, who in response to my "credit where credit is due" article has compiled a league table based on results since Christmas. I can't personally verify that the table is correct - I have to work for a living - but I'm trusting that Dave has done his sums properly. It makes interesting reading!

1 Arsenal  W7,D5, L0, GD+15, Pts 26

2. Man Utd : W8,D1, L3, GD+12, Pts 25

3. Chelsea : W7,D2, L3, GD+10, Pts 23

4. Liverpool : W7,D2, L3, GD+7, Pts 23

5. Spurs  W6,D4, L2, GD+4, Pts 22

6. Manc City : W6,D3, L3, GD+9, Pts 21

7.  Everton : W6,D3, L3, GD+3, Pts 21

8.  Fulham : W5,D4, L3, GD+6, Pts 19

9. West Ham : W5,D4, L3, GD+2, Pts 19

10. Wolves : W5,D2, L5, GD-1, Pts 17

11. N’castle : W3,D5, L4, GD 0, Pts 14

12. Bolton : W4,D2, L6, GD-4, Pts 14

13. Stoke: W4,D1, L7, GD+3, Pts 13

14. Villa : W3,D4, L5, GD-4, Pts 13

15. Wigan : W3,D4, L5, GD-8, Pts 13

16. W Brom : W2,D6, L4, GD-8, Pts 12

17. Birmingham: W3,D3, L6, GD-11, Pts 12

18. Blackburn: W3,D2, L7, GD-7, Pts 11

19. S’d’land : W3,D2, L7, GD-7, Pts11

20. B’pool : W2,D2, L8, GD-11, Pts 8

I think that makes Blackpool, Blackburn and Birmingham favourites for the drop! Everybody was talking the three Ws, now it might be the three Bs!

But as they say in the financial services ads, past performance is no guarantee of what will happen in the future. Especially in this craziest of seasons!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Did a West Ham chef prepare Tottenham's breakfast?

Interesting to see Sandro puking his ring on the pitch on Saturday. It brought back memories of a certain game at Upton Park that cost Spurs a place in the Champions League! Fletcher! Goooooooaaaaaaallllllllll!

Makes you wonder if a West Ham chef cooked Tottenham's breakfast. Well, the Cockyfools have trotted out a million and one other excuses to explain their failure to beat us. How long before they resort again to food poisoning?

Form since Christmas would see West Ham finish in top 8!

It hasn't all been Hunky Dory since Christmas, what with the 5-0 hammering at Newcastle, the 3-0 thumping at home to Arsenal and the 0-1 reverse at the Boleyn against Birmingham, but the twelve Premiership games since Christmas have yielded a very healthy 19 points which, if averaged over a whole season, would see us finish on 60 points, enough last season to finish eighth!

I kept saying that Grant had inherited a mess and that he needed time. There was a faction sworn to Avram's overthrow and they were delirious with excitement when O'Neill appeared to be about to replace him, but they are strangely silent now, as week after week, the team performs admirably. Last week we lost at Stoke because of the absurd performance of referee Jones, but I still saw plenty of fight from the team. Yesterday, we put in the sort of performance that I haven't seen from West Ham since the early days of Zola's reign, before he presided over the dismantling of the team and the demoralisation of the playing staff.

According to his critics, Grant can't coach, can't organise a team and can't motivate. Oh yes? Well, that argument was always silly given he took over from Jose at Chelsea and actually improved on the Special One's results, and then took Pompey to Wembley as the club was hit by a financial tsunami. Ask Pompey fans what they think of Avram and you hear nothing but praise. Compare Avram's record to Scolari's and Ancelotti's at the end of this season - if Chelsea don't make it through to the Champions League final - and Grant will emerge as the better man. Odd that given Scolari won a World Cup, Ancelotti is one of the most successful managers in the history of the game and Grant can't coach, can't organise a team and can't motivate. Square that circle if you can!

The Zola apologists will point to the support and backing Grant has received. Support? When Brady undermines him almost weekly in her newspaper column and when O'Neill was lined up to replace him? That is a funny kind of support!

But look at the money he has spent, is the next argument, and, of course, he has spent very little. Ba could cost us £6million but only if he keeps playing and scoring - what a sensible deal! Keane could cost us £6 million; but only if we stay in the Prem. Barerra might cost us £4million, but only if he makes the grade, which seems very unlikely. Bridge is costing us his wages. Jacobsen was picked up for peanuts. Reid has been signed on a structured deal based on appearances. Piquionne was a bargain at £1million. O'Neill is doing a job and cost less than Zola paid for McCarthy and Hitz, incredibly, cost nothing. Given Reid is "one for the future", I think Grant's transfer dealings have been remarkably smart, much smarter than Nani, Zola's and Curbishley's!

But do I hear Grant being given any credit? Why aren't his critics offering apologies? Why aren't the Avram detractors praising him for his signings, his tactics, the motivation of the team and the results? Remember, we also made it through to the semifinal of the League Cup and were robbed of a semifinal place in the FA Cup by an incompetent referee.

Aston Villa spent £24million on Bent in January and stand one point above us! Mark Hughes inherited a Fulham team that reached a Europa League final last season and they are just 3 points above us. Had we beaten Newcastle, West Brom and Blackpool at home, we would now be on 39 points and relegation would not be an issue. Does anybody believe that with Hitz fit, we wouldn't have won those games?

This is not the time to be complacent and in this craziest of seasons, we could yet go down. But our form since Christmas has been very impressive and, for that, Grant deserves credit. So why is it not forthcoming?

Howard Webb keping up with the Joneses!

It's beginning to look as if a new law has been introduced to the game without anybody telling us. Mr Jones spent the whole of the second half last week, apparently trying to redress his perceived error when not disallowing Piquionne's handball when scoring; and yesterday, after doubt over a late flag which ruled out a Blackpool goal, Webb seemed to seize the first opportunity to award the Tangerine Dreamers a penalty, even though nobody in the stadium was calling for a spot kick, not even Ollie!

You have to wonder if Holloway will now be on an FA charge for saying that Webb got it wrong when awarding his own team a penalty...and then going on to explain how the man who ruined a World Cup Final then made a whole series of mistakes in the run up to the Blackburn equaliser. Once again, we saw a referee, like Jones at Stoke, apparently refereeing on the basis of balancing out cock ups.

And yes, here it is! I've found the wording in the latest rule book for Association Football in England: "And lo, if He who wears black maketh himself look a total cnut, he shall, at every opportunity thereafter, do what evereth He can to confirm that impression. For in a game the rule must apply, "If once a cnut, always a cnut"!"

Scott Sinclair might be worth a look

Scott Sinclair Scott Sinclair of England in action during the U-20 International Friendly match between England and Italy at Loftus Road on March 31, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Scott Sinclair
If we survive and Swansea miss out on promotion, I reckon Scott Sinclair might be worth a gamble. When he first went out on loan as a kid he looked the dog's bollocks but seemed to have lost his way until his move to Swansea in the summer for a bargain £500,000.

The boy has pace, great control and an eye for goal. If Grant wants to persist with 4-3-3, he looks perfect for the formation and could probably be picked up for less than £3million in the summer.

He is still only 21. If I was in charge, I would try to buy him!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

What a mad mad mad season this is!

At around about 4.30 this afternoon, Wigan were cut adrift, Wolves were second from bottom, West Brom were clear of trouble, Blackpool were breathing more easily, we were fourth from bottom and Blackburn were in the bottom three. Then Blackburn scored. They were still losing, but goal difference took them above us and put us back in a relegation place. Unable to cope with the tension, I went out to make myself a cup of tea and "forgot about bloody football".

Then the season went crazy again. Arsenal fought back to get a draw, pulling the Baggies back into trouble; Blackburn equalised, lifting themselves up to THIRTEENTH and pulling Blackpool back down into the quicksand; and Wigan came back from the dead, scoring a late winner against Birmingham. Suddenly, we were back out of the bottom three and Birmingham, proud holders of the League Cup, had sunk beneath the cut off line. Wigan are back on our shoulder, Wolves are level on points with us but with a marginally inferior goal difference and Aston Villa hover just above the drop, with only one more point than we have. If Fulham lose at Everton they are still in the shit and even Newcastle are not out of the woods after their 4-0 thumping at Stoke!

Thirteenth to eighteenth are separated by just ONE POINT and thirteenth and twentieth by just THREE POINTS. The game has gone crazy, with knobs on!

Tottenham 0 West Ham 0 - da Costa, Upson, Bridge and Green Stand Tall!

Wow, how wrong can a man be? Before the team was selected I said we needed to score three to win and possibly even to draw and when Grant's selected side was announced, I called the decision to replace Tomkins with da Costa mad! But today, our defence stood tall and, with some wonderful assistance from Green and a gift or two from Lady Luck, we battled away to secure what could prove to be a crucial point.

Tottenham fans will moan that Bale was not 100%, that Defoe had a mare and that we were lucky because the ball kept bending inches wide or striking the woodwork,  but we made our own luck. After 15 minutes, the prognosis did not look good, Tottenham were ripping us apart down the flanks and a goal looked inevitable sooner or later. But, unlike under Zola, the team dug deep. We closed, we harried, we got a foot in here and a foot in there, we kept our shape, we said to Spurs, keep the ball as much as you like out there, but we will close you out as soon as you get 10 yards outside our box. And we created four half decent chances ourselves and so could have won the game.

That said, Defoe did have a mare! I didn't realise that he was on 99 Premier League goals for Spurs going into the game! It was nailed on for Judas to score against us: he even had 100 goals written on the t-shirt under his top, the arrogant little shit! And boy did he miss some chances. The one in the first half, when the ball came back off the post from Lennon's shot, must be a competitor for miss of the season and it was even worse because, had he got out of the way, Modric was a certainty to score! In the second half, Green pulled off a brilliant save with his right foot but, inside the six yard box, unchallenged, Judas shouldn't have given the keeper a sniff. Going back to the first half, Defoe also screwed the ball inches wide from a Bale cross, under pressure from da Costa, and then, in injury time, he blasted high and wide when he really should have worked Green.

Cockyfools will also bemoan the hitting of the crossbar in the first half but Green had Dawson's shot covered: it dipped very late and hit the top of the bar. Then Bale's freekick hit the woodwork too, but only because of a brilliant save by Green - and that's what a keeper is paid to do.

Actually, second half, I felt pretty confident. Early doors in the second 45, Bridge was done a few times as Tottenham doubled up on his flank but we closed ranks in the middle, dealing expertly with the ball into the box, and kept Tottenham at bay; and for the last 20 minutes Bridge was our best player. Upson and da Costa were giants throughout, and the four in midfield offered very little going forward but shielded the back four superbly. Parker really was everywhere defensively and only gave away one stupid free kick.

And we did have our chances! Cole should have scored when put through by a delicious ball from Ba. His shot was tame and far too easy for Gomes to save. That said, Cole turned brilliantly in the second half, shrugged off a challenge and forced an excellent save from Gomes with an angled shot. In the first half Hitz also played Cole in but, cruelly, the ball bounced awkwardly and Carlton was caught in two minds: he stretched, made contact, but the effort was tame. Then there was Ba's shot, which was heading for the bottom corner but for a brilliant Gomes save. Noble really should have done better from the edge of the box after brilliant build up play, trying to bend the ball with the outside of his boot instead of striking it with venom, and the shot was woeful. But Noble did come over all Brazilian with an excellent over head kick which flashed narrowly wide. Yes Tottenham could have scored three or four, but so could we. The draw was therefore a fair result.

Today was all about character. It would have been so easy to fold under the Tottenham pressure in the first 45 but we didn't. Defensively, we were superb today and had Cole taken that great chance in the first half, we might have won. The Cockyfools will claim we were lucky, but today we really did make our own luck. And Grant deserves huge credit because he selected the team and they gave him everything!

Player ratings: Green 9; Jacobsen 6, Upson 9, da Costa 8, Bridge 7; O'Neil 6, Noble 7, Parker 9, Hitzlsperger 8; Cole 7, Ba 8 Sub: Obinna 6

Tomkins Dropped? Grant is off his trolley!

What the hell is Grant up to? da Costa cost us both goals at Stoke, giving away the throw for the first stupidly and commiting the initial foul that led to Tottenham's second, and yet he starts ahead of Tomkins at Tottenham!

Tomkins has been our best defender for some time now. True he was exposed at right back, but he isn't a right back! It looks as if Grant was bargaining on Crouch starting but Spurs have left out their tall man. So now it is the nippy Defoe and the bright Van der Vaart against the slowing Upson and the gormless da Costa.

I can only assume Tomkins is carrying a slight knock, otherwise this is a ridiculous decision. The fact that Gabbidon is also on the bench adds some weight to this idea.

Jacobsen returns at right back, Ba starts and O'Neil returns but Piquionne - the man who scored against Spurs at Upton Park - is ruled out. I'm worried that Lennon will skin Bridge, Bale will stretch Jacobsen and that da Costa will have a mare.

We need to score three to win and possibly even to draw! Let's hope Hitz and Ba have their shooting boots on!

How BAd is Demba's Injury?

It is our worst nightmare. Thus far, there has been no definite explanation of Ba's absence at Stoke. Initially it was reported he had been rested, then there were suggestions of a knock, then some tried to start a rumour that he had been dropped for disciplinary reasons. Through it all, there has been no official word from the club.

The Independent is now carrying a story that we are short of attacking options for today's huge game at Tottenham. Piquionne is struggling to overcome the injury he collected when scoring at Stoke, Keane can't play because we have him on loan from Spurs, and Ba is, apparently, struggling with an injury.

The trouble is, any suggestion that Ba is struggling carries with it a ring of truth. Waiting for Ba to break down is like waiting for the next earthquake in Japan. You know it is going to happen but you just don't know the extent of the resultant damage. Will it be the big one, the number 9 or 10 on the Richter scale, or just another tremor through the fault lines of Demba's jarred and grinding tectonic plates?

We desperately need Ba today. With him, we can get a result, without him, we don't stand a chance. Obinna looked ordinary with a capital  O last week and Cole crap with a capital C. To get any sort of result, I reckon we need to score twice and I can't see us doing that without Demba. So, my prediction is that Tottenham will bag two goals; the question is, can we reply with two or more of our own?

Let's hope Demba is not as injured as some might have us believe!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Champions League Draws Means Tottenham Must Prioritise Prem

Well, we needed that Champions League draw like Avram needs Karren Brady to discover she has a clone. Until Lineker gave Barcelona a bye to the semifinal where they await the winners of the Spurs v Real Madrid quarter final, 'Arry might have cherished thoughts of actually winning the biggest prize in club football.

Had the draw been kind, Tottenham might have found themselves an easy route through to the final, via Shaktar and Inter. Real might have knocked out Barcelona and lost in the semifinal to Chelsea, with Inter winning their quarter final, defeating Man Utd over two legs. Tottenham would have still been an outside bet against the Plastics in the Final but they would at least have been in with a shout.

But not now. To win it, Tottenham now have to beat Real Madrid, Barcelona and probably one of Man Utd or Chelsea. Forget it. 'Arry might as well play the kids at the BernabĂ©u to save first teamer's legs!

So tomorrow's game now becomes the first in a series of Cup Finals for Tottenham as they chase a finishing position in the top 4 as their only route through to next year's Champions League competition. They have a taste for it now and will be desperate for a repeat helping next year.

The timing couldn't be worse. Until that draw, our need was the greater; now that's not so clear cut. We are playing to stay in the Prem; Tottenham to stay in the Champions League. Read like that, our chances don't seem great do they? But we beat them at Upton Park and a win at White Hart Lane is long overdue so, who knows?

Come On You Irons!

Queen Karren Brady Insists Mirror Is Cracked!

"Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" demands Queen Karren as she takes out a legal action against the left wing rag for suggesting that she has sought to undermine Dear Old Uncle Avram. Perish the thought!

Her Royal Highness has always been solidly behind the man in the lucky scarf. Time and again, she has stressed how brilliant Avram is at his job and the goodly Queen was the very first to deny all rumours that Martin O'Neill had been offered the position of West Ham manager. It is true that no words were actually spoken by Her Majesty on the subject, and it is also true that a ringing endorsement of the incumbent manager was not forthcoming in her "Diary" in the rival Sun newspaper, and it is true too that the World and his wife were allowed to believe that O'Neill had agreed to take the job, with no denials from the Club whatsoever; but who cares about little details like that?

And so what if the Royal Prerogative was exercised when Her Majesty decided to announce to the world that we would not be signing Sidwell, without first telling Avram who was banking on the carrot topped midfielder bolstering his ranks; with the mighty Spector first in reserve, that was just a technical oversight!

No, Queen Karren has never once sought to undermine Mr Grant and has always offered him her total backing. That is clear to everybody! So, I'm glad we've got that straight!

In fact, Queen Karren loves Avram so much that she's probably planning on giving him a big red apple as soon as the season's over!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Mark Noble Injury Compensation Claim!

Direct Line have been trying to sue Mark Noble but calm down, calm down, it's the wrong Mark Noble! Now, if Direct Line had video evidence of our Mark Noble running around on a football pitch, I suspect they would win their case that the compensation award following a traffic accident was excessive. But it wasn't our Mark Noble, it was another Mark Noble, an altogether older and less talented, football wise, Mark Noble. But somehow, the reports have made their way onto the West Ham News Now boards!

Mind you, if the unfortunate victim had been called Kieron Dyer, Direct Line could have employed all the Private Dicks in the World and not found any evidence at Upton Park that the claimant could move about without help of a wheelchair!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Etherington may be cheating scum but backs Grant's claim of Darren Bent ref!

Bloody hell, have these footballers no shame? TV replays clearly showed that Etherington was tripped by thin air but, fearful perhaps that his bet on a missed penalty might not be paid out, Matty has claimed he "felt contact" to explain why he crashed to the ground in the penalty box.

Note that term, "felt contact". Explaining why he crumpled like a Bahraini protester shot by a high velocity rifle, Etherington said, "If people want to have a go at me, it's water off a duck's back because I know I felt contact." Oh dear God! Was he clattered? No! Was he tripped? No! He "felt contact"! It was Scotty breathing on the back of his neck, or his bookie touching his collar perhaps!

It used to be that Argies and Italians went to ground when they "felt contact". Now it seems even journeymen Brits go to ground at the merest hint of a challenge, at the merest suggestion of a foul! Perhaps Etherington might like to watch the TV replays and explain how, exactly, he "felt contact" and how that foot of thin air sent him flying!

But even more telling is Etherington's explanation of why he went to ground. Remember, this was just one minute into the second half, one minute after the interval, one minute, perhaps after Pulis and Jones had put their heads together over a cup of tea and a promissory note. Matty's words are so, so, so telling: "At that stage of the game, and after their goal appeared to be a handball, it looked as though the ref was going to give us something."

O did it Matty? That stands repeating: "and after their goal appeared to be a handball, it looked as though the ref was going to give us something." The FA will surely be very interested in where that idea came from! Presumably, Grant will cite the evidence of Etherington when he is called upon to explain his own comments about the refereeing performance of Mr Jones! And presumably, the FA will then launch a much more appropriate enquiry into why, exactly, Jones seemed to put on red and white striped underpants at half time!

Grant Faces FA Rap for Telling the Truth! Bring it on!

Well, just as this site exclusively predicted, (, Avram Grant faces the prospect of a touchline ban because of his comments following the Stoke game. West Ham should welcome the investigation and implore the FA to conduct a public hearing!

Then, armed with video evidence, the club's lawyers should turn the hearing on its head and invite the FA to explain why a penalty was awarded when Etherington took a dive, why Stoke's second goal was allowed when Huth manhandled Hitzlesperger out of the wall and why we were not awarded a penalty after Tomkins was wrestled and then thrown to the ground by Walters. One dodgy decision is understandable, two makes the performance of the referee questionable, three makes the performance positively bent.

Both Pulis and Jones should be summoned to the enquiry and asked, under oath, if anything was said by the Stoke manager to the referee during the half time interval. Additionally, Jones should be asked if he was aware that Piquionne controlled the ball with his arm and if he felt under pressure to redress the error. He should be asked what he thinks the odds are of making three wrong calls in the space of 45 minutes, all favouring the home team. Pulis should also be challenged on whether Stoke players are trained in rough house tactics at set pieces and what action the club has taken against the three cheats subsequently.

Huth, Walters and Etherington should all face an FA rap for cheating and given bans. If Grant is in trouble for what he said, why aren't the three Stoke cheats on a charge for what they actually did? Aren't the FA's priorities arse about face here?

Bring the enquiry on I say! How can we lose? If Grant gets a touchline ban, nobody will notice anyway!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

After Stoke Debacle, Technology is the Only Answer

I watch the cricket World Cup and see controversial dismissals referred to the third umpire. I watch the Six Nations rugby and see "tries" referred upstairs to check that they are legitimate. I go horse racing and a photo finish determines the winner. And yet here we are, in football, with game after game being won and lost not through the brilliance of the players, but because of the incompetence of the referees and his assistants.

I don't hold with the argument that the decisions even themselves out over a season. Will we be reinstated into the Cup later in the season? Will any three points be as important as the two we lost and the one Wolves gained as a result of Clattenbung's crazy decision in the last minute of our game at Molineaux? Will Arsenal get another bite at the Champions League this season?

The argument that technology would slow down the game is also nonsense. We knew by the time Etherington took his penalty that the decision was wrong. He wouldn't have tried it on in the first place had he known that his cheating would be exposed and a red card issued in consequence. Nor would Huth have pulled Hitz out of the wall had he known that the goal would be ruled out anyway and he would be given a red card for cheating. But anyway, the players were still celebrating the goal as TV replays revealed Huth's cheating. And as for the Walters foul on Tomkins, our players were still arguing with the referee as we watched the replay on TV.

The failure to use technology is a cheats charter. We want to see games decided fairly by players, not unfairly by incompetent or bent officials!

Dyer announces he has no money worries!

How galling is it to read that money is not a factor for Dyer when he decides where to sit out his football next season? Money isn't an issue but he refused an offer to buy out his West Ham contract of course - well why would you walk away from £83,000 per week for sitting on your arse in the treatment room?

Kieron positively gloats when he says, "I have not got to think about money in the summer when my West Ham contract ends. It is a good situation to be in" and, in case we missed it first time around, adds, ""I don't have to worry about money and through my injury problems it has been wanting to play that has driven me on." Bollocks! What's driven him on is the next pay cheque and the fact that a compensation payout in the event of career termination would amount to a reduced payment overall .

So Dyer has kept himself one hop, skip and limp ahead of retirement for three years now, in the process pocketing in the region of £13million for doing next to nothing. Dyer doesn't want to be known as a sick note apparently. Quite right too, if he is a piece of paper, it is a bank deposit slip!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Unreal Allergy Attack Lays Star Low!

You have to laugh at the thought of Super Mario Balotelli being allergic to grass! Allergic to cannabis would be fair enough but we are not talking the stuff dope heads smoke, it's the stuff football pitches are made out of that bring Balotelli out in a rash! Luckily for Unreal City, their £24 million man isn't allergic to all grass, but like the wrong type of leaves on Railtrack lines, it's only certain types of grass that stop the wacky Intercity kid from running!

Poor Super Mario only became aware of his ailment last week when he came out in a rash in Kiev and it makes you wonder what other latent ailments footballers might suffer from. It would seem that Ba is reduced to a physical wreck by the mere mention of Stoke. Tristan was definitely allergic to running, whilst Kovac is rendered dizzy by a football! Rob Green and vampires share the same aversion to crosses and Boa loses all sense of direction when he gets within 25 yards of the back of the net!

But the worst sufferer of all is Kieron Dyer. Never mind grass, the mere mention of competitive football obliges the poor sod to have a little lie down lasting nine months!

Here's hoping that Blackpool, Wigan and Wolves are all allergic to the run in at the end of a season and that Stoke choke on the Wembley grass!

Pulis Airbrushes Huth out of Picture!

Look at that picture below. Ignore the fact that the ball would have hit Parker on the shin half way up had he stood still. My big question is where the Hell is Huth?
Danny Higginbotham scores against West Ham in FA Cup quarter-final
Video evidence clearly shows Huth's arm around Hitzlsperger's waist, pulling his fellow German out of the of the wall whilst, no doubt claiming, "I am only following orders!" Hitz is still on the move in that picture but where is Herr Huth exactly?

Has Pulis, fearing an FA style Nuremburg trial, tampered with the evidence? Has he recruited former members of the Stasi to airbrush Huth out of the photograph?

Or have Stoke invented a new secret weapon? Never mind the Delap Hurl, have the Potters developed an invisible paint that renders players invisible to the naked eye and still cameras? It might explain why Upson was standing five yards away from Huth when the opening goal was scored and why Cole didn't seem to realise the giant German was up his arse everytime he touched the ball.

Did anybody count how many players Stoke had on the pitch? Were there eleven plus the invisible Huth?

Vorsprung durch Technik - It's German for Cheating Northern Bastards!

Parker to blame for Stoke's winner

Danny Higginbotham scores against West Ham in FA Cup quarter-final
There's a lot of talk about how West Ham players were pulled out of the wall for the Stoke winner, but the photographic evidence above challenges that assertion. Where is Huth, the accused man? Is he invisible? Did Shawcross cover ground at the rate of Usain Bolt, dragging the reluctant dead weight of Parker behind him into the bargain?

It looks as if Hitzlsperger and Parker are taking evasive action to me! And you can see the ball deflecting off Parker's foot, which is why Green was unable to save it. Look at Green's position. The ball is clearly heading straight down his throat until it flicks off Man of the Match Scotty Parker. I said in my match report that the Man of the Match award should have gone to either Green or Sorensen; I'm even more convinced of it now!

Avram Grant to face FA charge?

Well Avram seems to be losing his patience with the idiots with the whistle at long last. Up until now, he has bitten his tongue and exercised discretion, despite the folly of blundering officials. But after the rank display of Mr Jones yesterday, Avram has cracked.

True Avram stopped short of calling Jones a cheat, but he suggests that the referee was a homer in the second half, intent on making up for his error in the first half. Admittedly Avram uses the word "maybe" but he doesn't pull any other punches when he says,  "Maybe this [Piquionne's goal] is the reason the referee started the second half very, very strange. Until they scored the goal, he gave fouls and penalties, everything for them."

And Grant was equally as blunt when it came to the failure to award Tomkins a penalty after he was wrestled to the ground by Walters, saying, “It was a penalty for us at the end and he didn’t give it. Maybe he felt a little bit weak.”

Ferguson is on an FA charge for his outburst following the game at Chelsea and Grant is in similar territory with his comments. He is spot on of course, but the FA don't want managers to be honest when they talk to the press do they?

Will Grant receive an invitation to explain his comments? If so, he should go along with a recording of the game and ask the powers to be to explain why Etherington was awarded a penalty when he wasn't touched and why Tomkins wasn't when he was clearly thrown to the ground. An explanation from the FA and Mr Jones might just be appropriate in the circumstances!

Hang on. Mr Jones? Is that really his name? Or has Clattenbung The Homer assumed an alias?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Decision to Play the Semifinal at Wembley is Absurd!

With Stoke meeting Bolton, it should be at bloody Twickenham!

Stoke Aggro 2 West Ham 1 - Bullies Win the Day!

Well, at the end of the day, we can claim we were unlucky but, if truth be told, Stoke battered us for 45 minutes and we were very fortunate to go in at half time level. Yes, the referee more than made up for his failure to spot the Piquionne handball with a series of decisions in the second half that put him well and truly in the Homer camp, but the guy who cost us the game was not the guardian of the whistle, it was Manuel da Costa.

First half, da Costa dawdled, was closed and put the ball into touch stupidly. Stoke duly scored from the Delap throw, courtesy of a foul by Walters on Upson. I don't think you can blame the officials for missing that one because I didn't see it in real time. However, the failure to give the penalty when Walters pulled Tomkins to the ground in the second half is a completely different matter.

Second half, da Costa conceded the freekick needlessly that set up the second Stoke goal. True, it needed a further contribution from the referee, giving handball against Cole when the initial free kick was blocked, but Cole did jump and the ball did hit his arm. Parker was right, Cole was protecting his pretty boy looks, but we would have been shouting for a free kick at the other end so again, I don't think we can point the finger at the referee for that one.

Much more of an issue is the fact that we allowed Stoke players into the wall and let them break out and leave a hole. It was a well executed free kick and further tribute to the work done on the Stoke training field on set pieces. Green was very unlucky. He got down, got a strong hand on the ball and so nearly pushed it wide. It was cruel fate for it to his the post and roll agonisingly behind the line.

Green deserved better. It is beyond me how Parker was made man of the match. That honour surely had to go to one of the two keepers. Green's penalty save was fabulous, his save from Etherington's header in the first half excellent and he coped admirably with the barrage of crosses into his box all afternoon. At the other end, Sorensen made a fantastic stop from Obinna and a brilliant reflex save from Keane. Yes Parker played well, but in the last 10 minutes he went back into headless chicken mode, charging around all over the pitch and forgetting that there were colleagues out there to pass to. We lost our shape as a result and it became like kids football, which suited Stoke better in the circumstances. That said, we were so unlucky when that Upson header crashed against the bar!

The penalty decision in favour of Stoke was disgraceful but I warned before kick off that Etherington would skin Tomkins and so it proved. Matty was a danger all afternoon and whilst he dived for the penalty, he turned Tomkins inside out to get into the box in the first place. It was a mistake not to play Jacobsen and a mistake to play da Costa, just as I called before the start of the game. I praised Grant last week for his flexibility; Pulis out thought him today by pushing his wide men high and pressing us back.

Let's hope the Piquionne injury isn't serious. I saw enough of Obinna today to know he is not the man to keep us up. Hopefully Parker and Hiztlsperger have come through the game unscathed and Ba was rested and not injured. The dream of the Cup is gone but if Stoke's focus is on Wembley, they may yet get sucked into the relegation scrap, although playing like they did today, I'd be amazed if they didn't bully their way to safety. It's ugly stuff but it can be effective, especially in end of season matches against opposition with nothing to play for.

Player Ratings: Green 9; Tomkins 6, da Costa 4, Upson 5, Bridge 6; Noble 6, Parker 7, Hitzlsperger 6; Piquionne 6, Cole 4, Obinna 3. Subs: Spector 5, Keane 6, Hines 4 (what was that push all about in injury time?)

Half Time Stoke 1 Piquionne's Arm 1 - Brainless & Lucky So Far

Somebody needs to talk some sense at half time. Thus far, we have allowed Stoke to dictate the tempo and style of the game. We are being bullied and are not thinking our way out of the problem. We need to get hold of the ball, pass it around and take the sting out of the match. But can we do it?

How mindlessly stupid was da Costa when he put the ball out for a Delap throw one foot from the corner flag? He was slow to deal with the situation in the first place and then, when he was closed, I was screaming at him to hammer it against the Stoke player or put it out for a corner. Under NO circumstances should you give Stoke a throw in that position. But da Costa is brainless so he very deliberately conceded the throw. And it was obviously going to be a goal as soon as it went into touch.

Of course, we should be able to deal with the situation. We know where the ball is going, and we know that Huth is the primary target, but the German was still given a free header after Walters blocked Upson's run. It was a foul but that happens every time the ball is played into the box for a Stoke set piece. Handball is a little easier to spot!

The Hitzlsperger pass to Piquionne was superb, and the Frenchman finished brilliantly, but Clattenbung would have disallowed it, even without the help of a linesman. Freddie handled it, no question. But who cares?

Going forward we have been poor. Obinna has looked crap and behaved disgracefully again when booked. His feigning injury was pathetic; to then jump up and complain in a Lazarus style recovery would have earned him a red if I had been the referee. I fear he will collect another yellow if he comes out for the second half. I would bring on Keane and go 4-4-2 personally.

At the moment I can only see one winner. Upson has looked like a rabbit in the headlights all game, Tomkins is struggling against Etherington and da Costa is on a dangerous yellow yard, like Obinna. Keane is our best bet in my opinion, if Grant decides to risk him.

Ba Out, Obinna In

So, Avram has tweaked it, but just a bit. Obinna comes in for Ba, but otherwise we line up as last Saturday. The OS doesn't yet carry Stoke's team so we don't know the extent to which we are set up to counter Pulis's side but I suspect Obinna is there to give more protection to Tomkins whilst, at the same time, sparing Ba from brutal reprisals at the hands of the Stoke thugs.

I would have picked Jacobsen, personally, and moved Tomkins to centre back but I can see the logic of retaining da Costa, given Stoke's threat at set pieces. So, it's all set up for a classic. Fingers crossed that Avram may yet be taking us to Wembley!

All Change for Stoke and Trains to Wembley!

So, what do the managers do as we go head to head again one week on from our 3-0 victory over Stoke at the Boleyn? Everybody was clear that survival in the Prem took priority over winning the Gnat's Piss Cup but somehow the Not Won It For Aeon's Cup clouds the issue. Both teams stand on the brink of Wembley, even if we are only talking about losing a semifinal, and the history of THE Cup means that it would be a brave manager indeed who picked a weakened team at this stage. Ferguson did it yesterday but even Wenger went for his first choice eleven!

Until last weekend, Pulis wouldn't have felt any sense of dilemma. Until we thumped them, Stoke stood aloof of the relegation battle, their Premiership survival not secured, but very probable. That all changed last weekend. They have both feet in the quicksand now and can feel the downward pull. They only need two wins to survive and will almost certainly get them, but pressure can do strange things to the head, and so can the prospect of a Cup Final!

Stoke will go for it today regardless, with Pulis picking a full strength team. That means that Kenwyne, Ricardo and Matty will start because Stoke looked much better when this talented triumvirate took to the field last weekend. Pulis will therefore test Avram's tactical nounce to the full. Will Grant set up to compete with the aerial bombardment or will he pick a specialist right back to deal with the threat of Etherington and the more talented tackler in the centre to deal with the trickery of Fuller? I would go with Jacobsen at right back and Tomkins in the middle personally but Grant will be crucified if he does and we come unstuck.

What about Parker and Hitzlsperger? Do we risk them or should Grant protect them, wrapping them up in cotton wool ahead of the game at Tottenham. Parker is carrying an injury already. Remember the game at White Hart Lane last season when Parker started when only 80% fit and came off inside 20 minutes. We were murdered.

And up front, dare Avram risk Ba, or will Obinna get a run out? Obinna has a good record against Stoke so a case can be made for including him offensively. But again, vital inches would be conceded when trying to defend set pieces.

So will it be all change for Wembley or no change at all? Should Avram prioritise the game at Tottenham or go for the Cup without any sense of compromise? I'm glad I don't have to pick the team today because selection is fraught with dangers.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Birmingham v Bolton. Who needs a midfield?

Wenger should watch the game! There's no way that Barcelona could have defended on the edge of the Birmingham and Bolton boxes as they did against Arsenal. Owen Coyle has supposedly changed Bolton's style of play, but you wouldn't know it watching this one!

Both teams went route one, and did so with typical bludgeoning success. I'm not suggesting that either could live with Barcelona, but both would give the Catalans a more uncomfortable ride that Arsenal gave them. Clever managers adapt tactics according to the opposition - aka Grant's change of team and tactics for the Liverpool and Stoke games - but some are too pig headed to take the opposition into account.

After 20 minutes of the Barca game, the situation was crying out for Arsenal to change tactics. If Barca wanted to press around the edge of the Arsenal box, the obvious tactic was to bypass midfield. Get the ball, lump it and chase after it! But how could the Gallic purist sanction route one football? Coyle would have said "Bollocks to style" and ordered the cavalry charge!

And if Bolton finish top half and make it to the Cup Final, a strong case could be made for Coyle to be manager of the season. Unless we get past Stoke and dump Bolton out in the semis of course. Then Grant could be in line for the award providing we don't go down!