Saturday, 10th February 2007
The evidence was overwhelming but his wife stood by him to the end. Even when she knew he was going down to the state pen, she stood on the steps of the court and said, “It's not over till it's over”.
Following today's sh*t or bust game against Watford we’re all standing on those steps beside her, staring down into the dark abyss but refusing to believe the inevitable. It was like at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I looked at a despondent ESM Junior and said, “We can still make it”, knowing that like Paul Newman and Robert Redford we are going to get shot to f*ck in a hail of Mexican army bullets.
You felt that the manager was beginning to understand the problem. Matty was brought back to try and bring some width back into the West Ham game. It's been sadly lacking. But disappointingly, he started with Zamora and Harewood, leaving Tevez on the bench. There were also no other attacking options available either - no sign of Cole, Kepa or Sheringham. Maybe the return of Lucas Neill explained that - we needed two defenders on standby just in case he broke down again.
Boa Morte was also sitting on that bench - an almost inevitable outcome given the recent poor performances. But there were still two people missing, surely? Mullins and Konch. It's been a season of missing people, hasn’t it?
To add further to the mystery, Green was brought back in goal. Now I've heard a lot of people arguing for his return, and maybe he should have come back after the glaring error of Carroll in the FA Cup game against Watford. However, the fact of the matter was that Carroll had played very well away at Villa, making two of the best saves I've seen from West Ham goalkeeper this season. So why bring Green back now? This had all the signs of an attempt to quell the media speculation about a fall out between the manager and the goalkeeper.
The reason I’m making these points is that you really begin to feel that the manager has lost the plot. It's difficult to follow his thinking, unless there is some hidden tactical subtlety which I’m missing. Maybe someone can explain this to me.
Let's cut to the chase. The harsh reality is that our new owners made a very poor decision in sacking Alan Pardew. You can criticise me if you like for harping on about a decision that no-one can change. I plead guilty to that, but it is a decision which is costing us dear. I said it at the time and I'll say it again, I fail to see what added advantage Curbishley brings above and beyond Pardew. I fail to see how a manager that had been out of the game for many months - through his own choice because he had become stale at his former club – was ever going to offer anything new.
It’s now a sad irony that the last time we went down it was because the Chairman failed to sack the manager. This time it looks like we’re going down because the Chairman did sack the manager. Still, that’s no surprise given the truly surreal nature of the season so far.
Today's game showed just how far the rot has set in. In that woeful first half, we saw a catalogue of errors and misplaced passes. We witnessed a completely unnecessary penalty conceded just 10 minutes in by the returning Anton Ferdinand. It was a tug back that could only have been the result of not playing competitive football for a few weeks.
One nil down and the heads dropped. We couldn't even string simple passes together. Davenport passed it into touch and so did Yossi. Quashie the Jonah of the relegation battlers was all at sea.
It took 27 minutes before we created an opportunity on goal after Reo Coker got free on the edge of the box. He tried a shot which was going wide but there was Zamora waiting on the edge of the 6 yard box to poke it poorly wide. It looked easy to put it on target.
No-one looked the slightest bit surprised just after the half-hour when Lucas Neill pulled up again. It had all the signs that he had been brought back too early from the injury which he suffered on his debut.
Nigel Quashie, the captain of the midfield submarine which is taking us down to the sea bed littered with Coca Cola bottles. Poor passing and getting caught in possession is not what we need.
Yossi, the one creative spark in the whole show. He is able to unlock a defence, but we have no one on the pitch who can exploit his openings and finish. Yossi knows that, and he tried to make up for this lack of firepower by scoring himself after a quick free kick in added time. Foster was equal to it and made a good save although it came at a very good height for him.
Half time, and the boos are ringing out again from the Upton Park faithless.
Action by the manager during the interval sees the introduction of Tevez for the hapless Zamora. It was a decision that should have been made at the beginning of the game and not halfway through it. The manager himself knows that our recent problems have revolved around chasing the game. There is not enough positive football and you wonder whether Curbishley is suffering some form of post Charlton depression which naturally makes him have such a negative outlook. He is the Victor Meldrew of the League Managers Association, miserable as f*ck and clearly in need of therapy.
Was there any real threat obvious from Watford in the first half? Did Green have anything to do? Could we have sacrificed some defensive cover and add to our options up front? Sir Trevor – for f*ck’s sake have a word.
Tevez sparks a much more progressive outlook in the team. Yossi begins to excel with some tantalising runs. The movement of Tevez is in stark contrast to the diabolical fare of the first half. First a free kick by the Argentinean which goes just over, then a turn in the box which allows a looped shot which everybody around me thought had nestled into the back of the goal rather than hit the side netting.
Quashie has not improved as he makes another misplaced pass. Then one of those seminal moments of a season arrives 12 minutes into the half as Tevez makes a superb flick on to release Reo Coker through the centre. He looked certain to score but is brought down clumsily and inside the box. A penalty, but inexplicably no red or even a booking.
I knew it, the whole f*cking ground knew it, there had to be only one candidate to take the spot kick. We’ve been dying for him to score. It's so blindingly f*cking obvious that it defied belief. Yet no, Marlon was the man from the job and he spectacularly f*cked up. Players in form with goals under their belt are entitled to take two step penalties. Marlon had no such entitlement yet this is what he chose and put the shot 6 foot wide of the left-hand post.
That could well have been the decision which has sent us down. It was like that Kanouté penalty miss against Arsenal.
It was better than the first half but as time wore on the belief ebbed away. With 10 minutes left, Boa Morte replaced the awful Quashie but appeared to be positioned outside of Matty. The latter had a poor game but quite frankly this is a guy that the manager had signalled as surplus to requirements. I make no apologies to my fellow Eaststanders for arguing prior to the game very strongly the case of Matty to start. Width, pace and penetration. Three things that have been absent from West Ham's play and surely key to opening up a 10 men defence. Fine in principle, but when the man you are asking to do that job knows he's not wanted, you are setting the team up to fail.
Then the spectacle of watching the Premiership's bottom team running down the clock. The lifeblood draining out of the team as they looked helpless to respond. Then probably the worst thing of all. Or the most embarrassing thing of all. The nadir of this season. West Ham fans telling their team that they are not fit to wear the shirt.
Now I may have been listening to Joy Division in my car on the way back and I do admit that that is music to cut your throat by, but I can say that I really hit the depths when I heard our own singing that. I feel your hurt, but that kind of self-indulgent bollocks is gonna take us nowhere. Take a look at yourselves for f*ck’s sake. Tell me how that is gonna help us. We are West Ham. Get a grip.
This was the must win game that we lost, but it's not over till it's over. I think we can actually get past those Mexican soldiers. Look, isn't that a game away Charlton next week? Aren't those freefalling Lillyshite lasagne noshers due at the Boleyn ground next time? Does the Pope wear a tall hat? Come on you Irons.
(player ratings by Gordon Thrower)
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Didn’t actually have a save to make.
Oh bloody hell how many more injuries are we going to get?
Doesn’t help Etherington nearly enough for me.
Look you’ve seen them diving all over the place why give them the option by trying to pull them back? Tested only the once and found wanting.
Defensively not really tested but distribution was poor at times.
Watching him put yet another 35 yard effort into row z behind the goal or a 10 yard pass into touch was one of the more depressing sights of the match.
Tried to instil a bit of fight about the place but wasn’t really all that convincing.
Looked dangerous when running at people but had precious little support.
Came into the game a bit more in the second half having spent the first half stuck on the touchline screaming for the pass that never came.
Awful. And not just for the penalty.
Should have scored first half but skied a sitter.
(Replaced Neill, 32) Not tested defensively, didn’t show going forward.
(Replaced Zamora, 46) Looked capable of rescuing the match. I’d have liked to have seen him on from the start.
Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Quashie, 80) Came on for Quashie late on. Apparently.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Calum Davenport, Nigel Quashie, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora.
Booked: Calum Davenport 12 Jonathan Spector 67 Yossi Benayoun 76 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Foster, Mariappa, DeMerit, Mackay, Stewart, Smith, Mahon, Francis, Cavalli, Henderson, Kabba..
Substitutes: Bangura (Cavalli 75), Ashikodi (Kabba 79)..
Subs not used: Priskin, Shittu, Hoskins..
Goals: Henderson (12 pen)..
Booked: Mariappa (75)..
Sent Off: None sent off..