Filed: Wednesday, 23rd May 2012
By: Gordon Thrower
Every year, just after the season ends, Gordon Thrower locks himself away in a darkened room with a laptop, a vast urn of extra strength black coffee, three bottles of aspirin and a tin of swarfega. Nobody knows why. However, when he emerges a few days later, he is usually clutching a copy of his personal review of the events of the previous season. Here, in part one of his look at what turned out to be (another) eventful year, he looks at pre-season and the opening month of our return to the Championship. Don't worry - it all ends happily enough....
The pre-season period opens and, for a change we look outside the Boleyn goldfish bowl as, just for once, the funniest thing about the word of football at this time has absolutely nothing to do with West Ham United. North of the border, Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov goes into plot-losing meltdown on the Edinburgh club’s official site. Hearts’ failure to break the domination of those shy and retiring types at Rangers and Celtic is blamed entirely on “outside forces” such as the “mafia” who steal players, rig matches and generally mess things up for the Jambos. As statements go it’s a corker from the man who allegedly fixed a vote on Lithuania’s version of Strictly Come Dancing in his own favour. As we say, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with us but it’s damned funny and suddenly SuGoBra only seem mildly mad in comparison.
Having been on holiday for a week or two since signing his contract (well it was a very heavy biro), Sam Allardyce is finally officially unveiled as the new boss as the club finally find a use for Benni McCarthy’s old training kit.
Allardyce immediately breaks with tradition by announcing that no team of his would ever lose a match from 2-0 up as we did up at Wigan. Give it time Sam, give it time.
Meanwhile an announcement appears on the forums of kumb.com on behalf of a company willing to pay £3,000 to individuals willing to spend time undergoing clinical trials. The freshly unemployed Kieron Dyer turns down the opportunity on the grounds that he fancies a change of career.
The fixtures come out. Cardiff at home is the opener, a match immediately moved to the Sunday for TV purposes (a decision one suspects that also owes more than a little to input from the Met). This is followed by a first round tie at home to Aldershot in whatever the League Cup is officially called this year and a trip to Doncaster Rovers. Though the dates for Millwall home and away are announced, few expect these games to be played on the stated date. My guess is that it’ll be played at 3am on an unannounced date with the first we know about it being the hush hush announcement of the result on Classic FM in between snippets of Beethoven and Mozart.
Spurs and Leyton Orient have another attempt to have a judicial review of the Olympic Stadium decision rebuffed by the High Court. However, using the Sheffield United tactic of “never mind the law just keep going back until you can find a judge stupid enough to agree with you”, the latest decision merely meets with another application to the courts.
The “out” door at the Boleyn is working overtime. Dember Ba takes his suspect knees to Newcastle, a relegation release clause in his contract meaning that the Geordies don’t have to touch any of the £35m received for Andy Carroll last term. Thomas Hitzlsperger, having indicated that he might be willing to stay on at the Boleyn depending on who comes in as manager, takes one look at Allardyce before activating the relegation release clause in his own contract. Also on the way out is Radoslav Kovac for whom FC Basle have paid an “undisclosed” fee. Presumably the “undisclosed” nature of the transaction is to protect Basle from embarrassment at the prospect of admitting that they actually paid a fee for the player.
Zavon Hines is embroiled in contract discussions, seeking a raise in the pocket money he is being paid by SuGo. The club seem reluctant to increase Hines’ salary by a significant amount pointing out that even Kevin Keen still has a paper round.
Stoke cause mild amusement by offering £3m for Carlton Cole. Not to be outdone, neighbours Port Vale put in a bid of £2.50 and a packet of wine gums for Lionel Messi stating “if Stoke want to be daft, we can be dafter”.
Further silly season amusement is provided by Fulham whose owner Mohammed Fayed (the “Al” bit of his name is as bogus as the rest of him) takes the meaning of the word “bonkers” to a new level. Not content with erecting a pointless statue to the memory of Michael Jackson outside Craven Cottage, the ex-owner of Harrods goes one delightfully mad step further by introducing a range of wacko merchandise in the club shop. Attempts to establish exactly how many t-shirts showing the phoney pharaoh and Jacko pictured together meet with an embarrassed silence before the shop manager hangs up on me. Meanwhile, other trinkets available such as key rings and small statuettes contain the website warning “may contain small pieces that may be harmful to children”. Sometimes you have to really work hard for a punchline. This is not one of those times.
More rumours abound as Leeds’ Max Graidel and Craig Mackail-Smith of Peterborough are linked with moves to the Boleyn. Mackail-Smith eventually picks Brighton & Hove Albion as a destination despite Barry Fry’s rather public attempts to get us involved in further negotiations.
Sammy Lee resigns as coach at Liverpool. Apparently he has just heard that West Ham are after a fat bloke called Sam for a top role. The club later confirm that he won’t be coming to the Boleyn, a fact lamented by local bakeries and pie shops still reeling from the loss of Benni McCarthy related profits.
Kevin Keen decides to up sticks to join Steve Ckarke up at Anfield where he is promised a bigger salary and protection from the bigger boys whilst doing his paper round.
Shenanigans-a-plenty as the Olympic Stadium takes centre stage. The Legacy Company suspend Dionne Knight, an employee, over revelations that she has been paid as a consultant by the club, a fact of which the Legacy Company had previously been unaware. Meanwhile, the club temporarily suspend Olympic Project Director Ian Tompkins as it is revealed that he has been in a relationship with Ms Knight for some time. As the dust settles it transpires that the club has been quite open with its dealings with Ms Knight and that there are serious concerns as to how private financial dealings became public. The club announces legal action against Spurs, who it seems have resorted to using a private investigator in their rather shabby attempts to move upmarket, and against the Sunday Times who have been conned into acting as Spurs’ mouthpiece over the affair.
Another part of the Murdoch empire is in trouble over ‘phone hacking claims as it transpires that the News Of The World has been listening into the messages of murder victims and the families of dead servicemen, as well as the hundreds of two-bob so-called celebrities who couldn’t otherwise buy that sort of publicity. Thousands are left wondering as to how they will be able to keep up with the lives of Ashley and Cheryl Cole as the NOTW closes down for good. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy sadly fails to take the hint.
More transfer rumours as Joe Cole is linked with a loan move to the Boleyn having slummed it at Chelsea and Liverpool over the past few years. As ever it appears that wages might be a sticking point, what with Cole’s agent rather unsportingly suggesting that we might consider paying some.
Scott Parker’s still about. A reported £10m bid from Turkish giants Fenerbahce finds favour with the club but not the player who prefers to stay a little closer to home. The player’s future is further muddied by the fact that Spurs had been favourites to sign him, something that seems unlikely whilst legal action between the clubs is on the cards. Aston Villa shuffle about looking interested in the background.
An unusual announcement is made as the club seeks sanctions from the Italian FA over Alessandro Diamanti. It seems that Brescia haven’t been keeping up with the payments for the Happy Shopper Di Canio. We ourselves read the club’s statement several times, unfamiliar as we are with the concept of somebody actually owing money TO West Ham United. Diamanti manages to pick up an Italian cap after his departure from the Boleyn, though his six goals in 31 appearances for Brescia aren’t enough to save them from relegation to Serie B.
Another ex-player in the news is Mido who has been sent to prison not, as one might have thought, for impersonating a professional footballer, but for his involvement in a fight with some students. In an uncanny reflection of our own end of season dinner, Mido, whose real name is Ahmed Hossam Hussein Abdelhamid, gets into an argument when the students ask him what was taking so long as he gives an autograph.
Mido’s initial sentence of two weeks inside is extended to a month to allow the prison Governor time to complete the paperwork.
Back home, the club decide against producing a 2010/11 season highlights DVD, presumably on the grounds that there are only so many times you can repeat the wins over Man Utd and Liverpool on the one disc before somebody will notice. Nobody appears too upset at this news, other than those completists who have every video and DVD since they started making them. “I have every video and DVD since they started making them” one moans at us before admitting: “I draw the line at actually watching them though.”
The club announce a brand new system for reducing injuries within the squad. The system involves constant computerised monitoring of players’ performances with personalised websites into which the players (and presumably former News Of The World employees) can log or (hack into) order to review fitness and recovery levels. A proud computer boffin (not Ruud) tells us “according to my stats we’ve already reduced injuries by 98% since 1 July” though he is less than happy when we point out that the expiry of Kieron Dyer’s contract on 30 June might have skewed the figures a bit.
Pre-season proper starts with Green, Parker and Cole all travelling to Switzerland with the squad despite rumours of imminent departures. Cole in particular is said to be Stoke bound with the Potters making an increased bid of a rumoured £6m including add-ons. The clubs agree the fee but Cole is said to be wavering over personal terms, the player wanting more money if he is to give up football for life with Stoke.
Also on the plane are Polish defender Hernani Da Rosa and Irish midfielder Joey O’Brien, both of whom have been on trial at the club. The more observant of you notice the decided un-Polishness of Da Rosa’s name as it transpires that the 27 year-old Korona Kielce stopper is Brazilian by birth. It’s that whole “Polish-Brazilian” thing again. O’Brien, who, unusually for someone with a full Republic of Ireland cap, was born in Dublin, has spent much of the last few years injured, at one stage having had part of a kneecap removed. So far so traditional.
In Switzerland (the official name of which is not in any of the country’s four official languages, trivia fans) the club take part in something called the Uhren Cup. This turns out to be a Swiss pre-season tournament and not, as many had suggested, a piece of scientific apparatus designed to worry certain players, for example, picking random names out of the air, Rio Ferdinand or Shaun Newton.
The tournament opens as an experimental side (containing both of the aforementioned trialists as well as Faubert and the previously persona non grata Ilunga) goes down 2-1 to Young Boys, Frank Nouble netting for the Irons. The match represents the end of the pre-season run in for Young Boys. In fact they’ve played so many games already the win is probably good enough to actually win them the Uhren Cup before we have had a chance to enter it. We are left to play for the contents against FC Basle who beat us with a 93rd minute spot-kick given away by Julien Faubert. Junior Stanislas nets our goal, again from the spot. Despite the defeats the trip is regarded by a success by the club, with the new management team getting to look at the squad. We at kumb.com are also congratulated for managing to go a whole paragraph on the trip without making any schoolboy gags relating to the name of our opponents - though try as we might we can’t see anything inherently funny in the name “Basle” anyway.
In football there are a number of constants that never change. One of these states that: “Whenever a transfer window is open West Ham will be linked with – but will fail to sign – Eidur Gudjohnsen”. With that in mind physicists start to worry about their understanding of the fabric of the universe as Gudjohnsen turns up for and passes a medical. It looks for all the world as if the Icelandic striker will sign at the 1,947th time of asking. However, Allardyce flies back from Switzerland to talk to the player and, after a chat over tea and biscuits, the manager expresses some doubts as to the player’s desire to become a Hammer. As the player’s agent (who happens to be his Dad) mentions that AEK Athens have offered two years rather than the one to which we are willing to commit, the manager pulls the plug on the deal once and for all. Rumours that Gudjohnsen’s parting words to Allardyce were “see you same time next January” are unfounded.
The “Cole to Stoke” saga draws to a conclusion with the player staying put. Stoke supremo Peter Coates makes some comments of a sour grape nature stating that the player is injured anyway, something that both player and club deny. “He’s been 100% fit ever since we introduced our new fitness monitoring system” a proud physio/computer boffin (not Ruud) informs us, though he is less than happy when we point out that the system was only introduced a few paragraphs ago.
That legendary German sense of humour comes to the fore as Thomas Hitzlsperger appears before magistrates accused of driving at 107 mph in a 70 mph zone on the A14 in Suffolk. Der Ex-Hammer somehow manages to keep a straight face as he explains that he needs to keep his licence as he’s, er, currently unemployed and needs to drive so he can find a new club. Incredibly, Suffolk magistrates fall for the line and leave the midfielder a mere £750 lighter in pocket for his trouble with licence intact (albeit six points heavier). A spokesman for the Bury St Edmunds Magistrates court defends the sentence pointing out that “it could hardly be Mr Hitzlsperger’s fault that the man with the red flag didn’t prevent him from exceeding the limit. They still have those, right?” Meanwhile if anyone else out there is unemployed and arrested for speeding let us know how well that particular defence goes – on prison notepaper if necessary.
The club announces the arrival of a new “Development Coach” in the form of Ian Hendon, who has come in from Gillingham where he has been plying his trade as assistant manager. We spend some time wondering why we need an expert in film processing in an age when even my camera is digital, before realising that the club has changed the name of the Reserves to “The Development Squad.” This sounds like the sort of low budget remake of “The A-Team” that British tv would have made had it occurred to them back in the 1980’s. (Current TV executives please note: our lawyers are watching).
All change next for the West Stand for which naming rights have been sold to some foreign exchange dealers. Officially the stand is to be known as the “Alpari Stand” – and whilst to those of us of a certain age and (un)fitness level the trek up the stairs often feels akin to climbing an alp, I decide I’ll stick to calling it the West Stand, if only so that I have my bearings for the journey home. Up North, Newcastle deny that their away section is to be christened “The Lunar Stand” just to keep things in proportion (if you’ve been there you’ll know), though as the final Space Shuttle mission draws to a close NASA confirm that Atlantis has made a slight detour to deliver some pies to the Sir John Hall stand on its way back from the nearby International Space Station.
The new sponsors’ first task is to come up with a favourable rate for the Danish Krone as the club fly out to Copenhagen for a pre-season friendly against the imaginatively-named FC Copenhagen. On hearing that a match will be taking place close to the “home of Carlsberg” a number of supporters miss out on the trip having confused “Denmark” with the “Denmark Arms”. However, few realise the mistake after consuming a few pints of the aforementioned libation. Those who hear that the match is taking place at the home of “Lurpak” are not so lucky. My attempts to get another joke out of spread-related puns are thwarted when Shamrock Rovers become Copenhagen’s next Champions League opponents by beating Estonian side FC Flora.
The match ends up 1-0 to us with Freddie Sears putting away a fine finish late on, the one down side being the stitches required by Rob Green after a collision with a Copenhagen forward. West Brom see the damage and put in a bid for the ‘keeper of a few bob they happened to find down the back of the sofa. The bid is described by a club insider as an “insult”, presumably because it doesn’t include the cost of the silk used to make the stitches.
The Football League announces a change to the substitute regulations. The number of players allowed on the bench from the Championship downwards is to be reduced to five from seven. The FA Cup and League Cup are not affected by the ruling and we’d rather not worry about the Johnstones Paint Trophy at this point. The extra space, added to the availability of the seats previously allocated to Benni McCarthy allows the club to increase the capacity of the Boleyn by a few hundred.
Talking of the portly South African, he reappears at Ajax. That’s Ajax Cape Town rather than the Dutch lot of Cruyff and total football fame. The former Bafana Bafana striker turns up for training with the “Urban Warriors” (which was the slightly more violent follow up to “The Development Squad” on “Bravo”, no doubt featuring Danny Dyer) hoping to earn a contract. An Ajax Cape Town player is quoted as saying that McCarthy “oozes class” which suggests that, despite the hosting of a World Cup, football in South Africa may have a long way to come. Either that or we mis-heard the comment – but frankly we’d rather not have to consider what else might have been oozed. In unconnected news, Cape Town’s fleet of tourist boats are said to be anticipating a bumper whale-watching season.
Pablo Barrera becomes the latest subject of departure speculation. Completely unused up to this point in pre-season, he has, nevertheless, caught the eye for Mexico in the Gold Cup (like the Uhren Cup only made of gold). Real Zaragoza offer to take him on loan, offering to pick him up when they pop round for the SBOBet Cup (like the Gold Cup only made out of, er, SBOBets). However the deal collapses over one basic detail. “You want US to pay his wages as well?” Zaragoza ask, having not quite gotten the hang of this loan thang. We appear unworried by this turn of events, the player’s international form having apparently stirred interest in a number of clubs willing to take the player on.
The “Trotterfication” of West Ham United continues as Matt Taylor arrives from the Reebok in a deal worth £2.2m. A left-sided midfielder with stints at left back on his CV he is perhaps best known for his occasional habit of scoring goals from the half-way line whilst on the books down at Pompey, Everton and Sunderland being on the receiving end of two particularly noteworthy efforts.
Taylor’s signing comes too late for the next warm-up but Barrera is included in the shop window up at Wycombe, a turgid affair that has “pre-season friendly” written all over it as it plods its way to a 0-0 draw.
QPR feature heavily in the next flurry of transfer activity. Target DJ Campbell decides, against all evidence to the contrary, that he can score enough goals to keep a side in the Premiership rather than enough to promote a side out of the Championship and elects to sign for the West Londoners rather than us. Also Loftus Road-bound is Danny Gabbidon who joins Kieron Dyer in Shepherd’s Bush, the deal having been struck in order to provide Kieron Dyer with some company for those long hours in the treatment room.
Elsewhere it seems that Der Ex-Hammer is making full use of his retained driving licence. Having enjoyed last season’s relegation fight so much he looks set to embark on another one as Wolves become linked with the traffic cops’ best friend.
Further rumours link us with Owen Hargreaves. Now call us picky but we’re sure that the Canadian born England international may just have missed one or two matches in recent years through injury and might, as a result, not be quite 100% fit shall we say. Our physio/computer boffin (not Ruud) refuses to confirm our interest but tells us worryingly “we have the technology. We can rebuild him” at which point we put in a call to Alpari to establish exactly how much $6m is in sterling these days (obscure 1970’s tv reference there for our older readers).
Jason Puncheon is next to enter the rumour zone, which seems to be populated with a number of players being linked simultaneously with ourselves, QPR and West Brom, suggesting a bit of journalistic kite-flying might be taking place. Puncheon is out of favour at Southampton, firstly with management, for inconsistent performances and rumours of off-field shenanigans, and secondly with the supporters, for indicating that he’d actually be interested in a move to Pompey. Having spent much of last season on loan at Blackpool it seems that the sea air is to the winger’s taste, though quite what he thought of the pong at Millwall where he spent an earlier period on loan we couldn’t say.
Up front, both we and West Brom are also supposedly interested in the Reading striker Shane Long. After Reading’s playoff final defeat, dodgy chairman John Madejski was heard to refer to the player as “world class” valuing him at £20m. We offer £8m (£5m plus add-ons)pointing out that whilst we sympathise with the apparent loss of Madejski’s wig, it hadn’t been very convincing in the first place and that we’ll be damned if we are going to finance its replacement. However, we do like a good pun here at Kumb Towers and the fact that Long is from (Co.) Tipperary has us grinning in anticipation. Yes we do need to get out more.
Dagenham & Redbridge are next up in the pre-season friendly carousel. Abdoulaye Faye is missing as the curse of the pre-season signing injury rears its ugly-if-familiar head. Having pulled a hamstring in the Young Boys match he has failed to make an appearance. This gets us thinking: would it be an idea to make our first summer signing each year someone who is already injured, that way getting it all out of the way early so we know where we stand? Owen Hargreaves – come back and see us next summer.
The Dagenham & Redbridge match ends up with a 1-0 win courtesy of a decent Carlton Cole finish. Matt Taylor makes his debut, Joey O’Brien continues his trial spell whilst Spanish triallist Alex Lopez, who replaces Cole on 55 minutes, lasts 19 minutes before being replaced by Robert Hall, suggesting that he was either that good or that bad. Take a guess which. Fans trying to watch the match on a hooky internet stream spend a lot of time looking at the back of Sky’s pitch-side reporter’s head.
Danny Gabbidon takes a swipe at his former employers, “It’s hard to work out how the owners come to some of their decisions” he points out. Of course it’s a lot easier at QPR where the owners include some of the richest men on the planet. The logic behind their signing such players with injury records like, er, Danny Gabbidon and Kieron Dyer despite having available funds coming out of their ears is, in comparison, really easy to fathom.
Talking of QPR’s ownership, it is revealed that pint-sized Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is in talks with Tony Fernandes with a view to selling the club.
Silly news is put into perspective by the news that Academy youngster Dylan Tombides has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Happily the prognosis is that, like Bobby Moore and Eamon Dolan before him, the disease has been diagnosed early enough for a full recovery to be made. Doctors also suggest that Tombides, who, but for injuries elsewhere on the pitch would have made his first team debut in the season-closer v Sunderland, should be able to resume his career as well. The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t be afraid to check them for lumps guys – and get anything that doesn’t seem right looked at properly.
In the lunatic asylum that is FIFA, Mohammed Bin Hamman is banned from football for life for bribing officials in return for votes during the run up to the FIFA elections. Strangely, Blatter’s own bribing of officials in previous elections is not mentioned as a strange bout of collective amnesia hits FIFA’s ludicrously-named “Ethics Committee” who, for good measure then go after those accused of accepting the Qatari’s largesse.
Another heavy dose of perspective is served up with the news that Dean Moore has passed away aged 43. Natural causes, possibly linked to long-term problems with alcohol are blamed for the death which, like that of his father before him, came at no age at all.
Elsewhere on the international scene, just as we’d managed to expunge the memory of the last World Cup from our minds, the draw for the qualification for the next one is upon us. Before the draw some computer boffin (not Ruud) points out that the already bizarre FIFA ranking system has a glitch in its programming which means that the Faroe Islands should be ranked 0.07 of a point higher. This moves them above Wales who, thus relegated to 112th spot in the table, are placed into the same qualifying pot as Liechtenstein, Malta, Khazakstan, Andorra and the Dog & Duck 2nd XI. For what it’s worth England are in 6th place, down from the dizzy heights of 4th – a position into which we sneaked into temporarily while Brazil & Uruguay were on holiday before the Copa America. This ranking is still good enough, however, to keep us apart from Spain, Germany, The Netherlands and the Dog & Duck 1st XI in the draw. As usual England are drawn with Poland which means that we’ll be shown that bloody 1973 World Cup qualifier over and over again along with footage of Cloughie referring to ‘keeper Tomascewski as “a clown” on endless loop.
The pre-season friendly run comes to an end with a 2-0 win over Real Zaragoza, Goals from Matt Taylor and Freddie Sears do the trick. Joey O’Brien signs a 3 year deal and his place as the statutory ex-Bolton player on trial in residence is taken by JLloyd Samuel, whose hour or so against the Spaniards is not the most testing of his career, this being Zaragoza’s first friendly of pre season. Allardyce misses the second half to go on a scouting mission elsewhere, presumably in search of the striker that Mr Gold (in his programme notes) says we will be signing before the window closes.
The last days of pre-season arrive with the news that one candidate for the striker vacancy is Mikael Forssell. The German-born Finn is available on a free and has been training with the club, missing out on the Zaragoza match having arrived too late to have any meaningful involvement.
Allardyce confirms that, despite a lack of any discernible interest from elsewhere, Scott Parker is still likely to be on his way by the end of the window as long as someone comes up with what is now rumoured to be a £7m asking price. We could have sworn that it was £10m when we started writing this.
Also on his way out is Luis Boa Morte who, it transpires, has gone home to Portugal having had the final year of his contract cancelled “by mutual agreement”. Often on the receiving end of some appalling and largely unmerited abuse from some sections of the crowd, the player always put in a lot of effort over the years – occasionally too much - which is more than can be said of some of his contemporaries. Despite the stick, LBM retained his dignity and, though this will upset some, he goes with my good wishes anyway.
Also on his way is Jonathan Spector. Spector – forever damned with the faint praise title of “utility player” - made little impact during his tenure at the club. Being used generally as a “fill-in” player gave him little chance to establish himself in the side. However, he will be remembered for one glorious evening in the snow in 2010 when he picked up a couple of goals in the 4-0 League Cup demolition of Man Utd. Our favourite Septic is on his way to Birmingham City.
Sharing the same initials (how’s that for a tenuous link) is Jordan Spence who is on his way back on loan to Bristol City, a club whose initials, spookily, are the same as those of Birmingham City. (You don’t get this level of insight on the official site!)
We take another a baffled but amused look north of the border at Hearts where, two matches into the SPL season, ever so slightly bonkers owner Vladimir Romanov sacks manager Jim Jeffries. Normally we’d express sympathy with one losing his job but, on this occasion we can’t help feeling that Mr Jeffries might just be better off out of it. As we said earlier, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with us but it is amusing in a “car crash” sort of way.
And so the season finally starts. Sort of. In fact thanks to the tv people the start of the season is spread over three days – if you don’t count Crawley v AFC Wimbledon in the League Cup which happens the week before. And the Europa League, the preliminaries of which started so long ago some of the players who will be playing in the final will not have been born when their club played their first fixture in the opening “ante-preliminary-extra-pre-qualifying round (first leg).
Our opening match against Cardiff takes place on the Sunday, a couple of hours before the “Traditional Curtain Raiser” of the (Care In The) Community Shield between Salford and Manchester City.
Before we start there’s still time for another signing as Norwegian striker John Carew arrives from that club Unattached who, at this rate, will be struggling to put out a side. Carew has spent all summer looking for a club rather than training so isn’t considered for the opening match, which we somehow contrive to lose 1-0 missing a shedload of chances in the process. “I won’t sleep tonight!” claims Sam in the post match press conference.
Elsewhere in London things go a little bit silly as a peaceful if misguided protest over the police shooting of someone carrying a gun is hijacked by the sort of idiot who takes the opportunity to undertake his own protest at not having a 50 inch telly by going out and nicking a 50 inch telly. Shops are looted and buildings set alight as the Met struggle to cope. Sensibly, and understandably, The Met decide that there are more pressing needs about town than keeping an eye on a football match and our League Cup match v Aldershot Town is postponed. The England v Netherlands friendly is also postponed to the relief of club managers everywhere.
The break gives us time to sign yet another player as we welcome back George McCartney on a season-long loan from Sunderland. Linda has not been high up Steve Bruce’s pecking order and spent much of 2010/11 on loan at Leeds, where Ken Bates was heard to criticise the player’s attitude. Now anyone who manages to get on the wrong side of such deep thinkers as Bruce and Bates must be doing something right so the signing looks to be a shrewd one. Especially given Herita Ilunga’s “goldfish floundering out of water” impression during the opening match. Quite what Mrs McCartney thinks of it all we’re not told.
Another returning to the fold is Steve Potts who is appointed part-time coach to the U16 group of players.
One player who we are told won’t be on his way is Nice (the city not the biscuit or the faintly damning adjective) striker Eric Moulongui who is told by his chairman that an alleged bid made by the Irons “is of no interest”.
Outside football the rioting spreads to other towns and cities in the UK. Steven Gerrard tells people to stop criminal behaviour in Liverpool. Yes THAT Steven Gerrard. Dictionary editors get knocked over in the rush to redefine the word “irony” and church groups consider booking David Pleat to tell everyone how bad kerb-crawling is. Meanwhile, Spurs v Everton is postponed “due to concerns regarding the local infrastructure”. Rumours that Everton supporters are refusing to travel because all the good stuff has already been nicked are of course cheap, scurrilous and funny. Elsewhere Police flood N17 with officers searching for offensive weapons but announce that, although they have found knives, guns and samurai swords, there’s no sign of a big club.
There’s even more tension in the North West as thousands of football lovers threaten to riot if the Blackburn v Wolves match actually goes ahead.
More ex-Hammer news as Matthew Upson (who was, apparently, our captain last season) announces his retirement from football to sign for Stoke City. “I welcome the opportunity of creeping up behind Robert Huth in a cowardly fashion and decking him from behind when he’s not looking” the player claims before manager Tony Pulis puts him right – “no son, that’s what we do to our opponents”.
We return to action at Doncaster where we suddenly remember exactly what it’s like to win a game away from home. Over 3,000 Hammers are in the 11,000 or so crowd at the Keepmoat to see skipper Nolan pick up the only goal of the game after five minutes.
It’s a bad day for the ex-Hammers at QPR. Gabbidon nets an own goal but that hardly seems to matter as Kieron Dyer’s desperate run of luck continues, the player being stretchered off after only six minutes of QPR’s 4-0 home defeat to Bolton. Fears that the player might have broken a metatarsal (or “toe” as we used to call them) are unfounded however, as are fears that the player’s career might be at an end.
No sooner have the players got off the train at Kings Cross then it’s back on to the Metropolitan line up to Watford where we run out comprehensive 4-0 winners, again in front of a large away support of close to 4,000 (officially). Tomkins, O’Brien, Cole and Parker are the ones to trouble the statisticians, who spend a few post-match hours in the records basement before emerging covered in dust to announce that this is the first time since 2007 that the team have pulled off back-to-back away wins.
Parker’s barnet is barely dry after the match before it is announced that QPR have bid £4m for his services, the money coming courtesy of erstwhile prospective Hammers owner Tony Fernandes who has just bought 66.666666666(etc)% of the Shepherds Bush club. The size of the bid does not impress David S who dismisses the bid as a publicity stunt: “It’s like us bidding £12m for Wayne Rooney”, he claims, before adding “I don’t suppose that would interest you at all Sir Alex?” on the off chance.
Der Ex-Hammer arrives at Molineux having driven at a constant 55 mph all the way from Bury St Edmunds magistrates court. However, on arrival he finds that nobody is expecting him. After a few 'phonecalls, Hitzlsperger’s slightly hard of hearing agent is red-faced and admits: “er, it was actually Wolfsburg that called”. Hitzlsperger jumps straight back into his car and triggers every speed camera on the M1 before picking up a flight from Luton to sign for the German outfit.
Another player on his way is Zavon Hines who, you recall, wasn’t happy with his pocket money. Hines cleverly avoids confusion as to which players are on his side by signing for Burnley. Although the player is out of contract, his age and the fact that he came up through the youth ranks mean that a tribunal will decide on compensation.
The Eric Mouloungui deal seems to be back on as the player pops over for a medical, allegedly. However, after a few hours of having his knees tapped with those little rubber hammers the player decides that he’d rather return to Nice (the place not the biscuit etc).
Leeds are the next visitors to the Boleyn and they are also the next visitors to pick up a late goal. Their 90+1 minute effort gives them a deserved point from a match in which both sides have dominant spells. Cole and an o.g. are our scorers in the 2-2 draw.
Yet again we concede a late goal, this time in the League Cup as a mixture of first XI and development squad players throw away a 1-0 lead against the might of, er, Aldershot Town. Rookie centre half Calum McNaughton picks up our first red card of the season for a so-called “professional foul”. There are lots of mutterings about “homesickness”. None of these are heard by Pablo Barrera who, after being substituted in the second half heads straight along to Stansted, ending up at Zaragosa on loan, the Spanish club finally having worked out how the loan system works.
As the window nears closure, the transfer front, which has been a bit quiet for a while, suddenly wakes up with rumours of a move for Milton Keynes striker Sam Baldock. Baldock, fresh from a hat-trick in a league match and a fine strike against Norwich in the League Cup is also reported to be interesting Southampton but eventually arrives for a reported £2m.
Another new arrival is striker Montenegro-Marrinez, whose first name of “Brian” seems strangely incongruous. One can only speculate at the conversation that took place in the maternity hospital: “Congratulations Mrs Montenegro-Marrinez, it’s a boy. Have you given any thought as to what you’ll call him? Yes doctor, we thought we’d name him after portly 60’s Hammer Brian Dear – his nickname was “Stag” and he once scored five in 20 minutes against West Brom you know”. Brian (he’s not the Messiah he’s a Paraguayan forward) comes in on a season-long loan from Uruguayan outfit Deportivo Maldonado, which sounds like the sort of name that a few mates from Essex might give their Sunday League team as a joke.
Non-football happenings include the sabotaging of stocks of Nurofen Plus, packets of which are found to contain anti-psychotic drugs used in the treatment of depression. The problem is noted only when thousands of people claim that they still have headaches but don’t really care.
Back to football and neither of the new signings are available for the next match which sees us continue the fine away run by beating Forest at the City Ground. An o.g., Nolan, Cole and Reid are on target as we come away with three points from a 4-1 win.
A major philosophical problem befalls Irons fans everywhere as we try to work out whether Spurs losing 5-1 at home to Man City, thus going bottom of the league, is funnier than Arsenal’s 8-2 defeat to the Salford lot at Old Trafford. Meanwhile there’s further disappointment for North London football fans as they discover that all stocks of Nurofen Plus have been removed from the shelves as a precautionary measure.
The Parker saga seems to be coming to a close with talks opening with Spurs, something that leads to the player’s omission from the Forest match, the boss reckoning that the player is not mentally right for the match. Transfer negotiations take place in something of a tense atmosphere when the club reveals that Spurs have offered to withdraw objection to the Olympic Stadium deal if we would, sort of, bring ourselves to, er, “forget”, the little incident involving the illegal accessing of personal financial records by people acting on behalf of Daniel Levy. West Ham pass that note on to the Met’s finest as well.
Parker submits a formal transfer request to add to the informal one hinted at by his early season performances.
As the window hots up (if windows can be said to heat up) Lionel Messi and Wesley Sneider are but two of the many players with whom we aren’t linked. One who does arrive is Papa Bouba Diop who comes in on a free. “The Wardrobe” as he is known first came to attention many moons ago playing in the World Cup, something that prompted m’ website colleague Rio at the time to namecheck Cleo Laine in what I believe is still one of the funniest one-liners ever to grace this particular corner of the interweb.
Arsenal midfielder Henri Lansbury is next to appear, arriving on a season-long loan with an option to purchase. Our writers immediately christen the midfielder “Angela” so that Linda McCartney won’t feel alone in the side. The on-off-on-off Mouloungui deal is seems to be on again for one final time before it finally fails to occur. However, the cosmopolitan nature of the game is reinforced by the arrival of midfielder/right back Guy Demel. The French-born Ivory coast international comes in from Hamburg while our writers go completely mad trying to figure out exactly how they are going to work the phrase “Demel Hempstead” into match reports.
The Parker deal is finally concluded with the player deciding to wind down his career at Spurs, whose position at the bottom of the league at the time prompts speculation that what the player really enjoys is a relegation battle.
David Bentley takes a step up in the world by coming in the other direction to sign on a season long loan. Whether or not the deal is part of the Parker deal is not revealed but we reckon there’s a fair way to go before “The Parker Deal” attains the same mythical status within kumb.com as “The Carrick Deal”.
On the way out is Junior Stanislas who joins Zavon Hines up at Burnley. Benedictine shandies all round then. Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio (and how weird does that phrase sound?), fresh from having a ruck with one of his own players, takes Ahmet Abdulla on loan to provide further sparring practice. Jordan Brown goes to Aldershot for a month to find out how to win Cup matches. And that was yer lot for the window.
And it's only August...
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
07:35PM 29th May 2012
''Class, as always. Cheers!''
by peter Burnett
10:46AM 29th May 2012
''Very entertaining read. Brilliant stuff.''
by Lee Byron
10:12AM 28th May 2012
''Top writing! Very enjoyable read, and I agree about the Cleo Laine remark all those months ago. Still has me quoting it to unsuspecting punters.''
10:40PM 23rd May 2012
''Highly hilarious, can't wait for the next instalment.''
comments powered by Disqus