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The Great Escape

Filed: Friday, 26th November 1999
By: Graeme Howlett

Well. What a month it has been. Not one, but three great escapes that Steve McQueen and Donald Pleasence would have been justifiably proud of. So what's happened to the Hammers lately?

Let's start with Sheffield Wednesday. Great escape number one. Behind twice, then forcing a winner late on. Described as 'the game of the season' by pundits who had no idea of what lay ahead in the ensuing weeks.

Then Birmingham in that enthralling game at St.Andrews - ironically on St.Andrews day, although it'll probably be known as St.Joes Day from hereon. Looking down and out we score two in the last three minutes to clinch a place in the Worthington Cup quarter final. Which leads me nicely on to ...

... Aston Villa. If we were looking down and out at Birmingham then we were six bloody feet under by the time Kitson fell, oops I mean was fouled, in the penalty box. And all this before Trevor Sinclair missed a vital penalty in the shootout which left Villa needing to score only two penalties to knock us out.

Sadly for many Hammers present at the Villa game the excitement of the past few weeks proved too much to bear, and they left the stadium after Dublin's goal before being forced to bear witness on another hour of heartbreak and finally, jubilation.

It took me back to a game many, many years ago when, coincidentally playing Villa again, my old man decided to lead me from the stadium in the final minute with us 2-1 down (another sodding coincidence). As we turned into Green Street the whole place erupted behind us - the Hammers had scored in the dying seconds to snatch a point. Never since have I left a ground before the final whistle ...

Anyway, I digress. Has this ever happened before? For years now I have watched West Ham capitulate in the face of such enourmous pressure. Stockport, Swansea, Luton, Bolton - I could go on but we'd be here forever. So what has changed to instill this 'never say die' attitude which is currently prevelant in our team?

Confidence is obviously a huge factor here. Players like Di Canio, Cole and Ferdinand ooze it, and inevitably this rubs off on the rest of the team. Who wouldn't be confident with players like that alongside you? What it means is that this Hammers team almost believe they deserve to win every game, and never stop going until their aim is achieved, or until the final whistle anyway. What else can explain the sudden rejuvenation of Harry's men?

Of course I could simply be spouting bollocks whilst wallowing in the euphoria that follows a game like Villa. We could just be the luckiest bastards that have set foot on a pitch anywhere this season. Trying to be as non-judgemental as possible I suspect that the truth is somewhere between the two; we certainly are more confident these days (at home mainly but you've got to start somewhere eh?), but come on - we've had some luck haven't we ?!? I'm thinking of Sinclair's penalty against Wednesday, Owen's 'dive' against Liverpool, and Kitson's penalty against Villa here.

Whatever happens I'll be buying the fat lady another beer in the Boleyn this weekend, in hope that she'll hold that song on Saturday until two more minutes of injury time have been played ...

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.

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