Saturday, 17th March 2007
Fred’s got this mate called ‘Double 0’ whose girlfriend is your biggest ever nightmare. Have you come across these women that constantly think you’re up to no good? On the ‘phone all the time checking up on what you’re doing. Getting one hell of a serious strop on if you’re late home. That’s Double 0’s girlfriend and the poor b*stard gets the old Antarctic wind blowing down on him all the time.
You can imagine what happened after Fred and Double 0 had enjoyed themselves too much after a day out at the gee gees. Nuclear winter. If you wondered what killed off the dinosaurs, you’d soon find out round Double 0’s gaffe. The collateral damage was still being assessed two days later on the way up to the game as Fred was sympathising on the ‘phone with his mate.
Being a former holiday rep, Fred tends to know people in far flung areas and unsurprisingly he had a mate living in the heart of Blackburn. Naturally we had to pay a visit and duly turned up to one of those typical northern terraced streets where you expect to see some flat-capped youth delivering Hovis door to door or clog-dancing in the road.
Being an unreconstructed Londoner myself, I have to say that I do tend to get on with northerners. The thing is they seem to live such uncomplicated lives. It’s a whole different pace of life up there. Fred’s mate, Willie had just been down the supermarket and had purchased a large bottle of tomato sauce with one of those big plastic tomato dispensers. You know the ones – you used to get them in Wimpy bars where you used to have ketchup fights with your mates. Anyway, he was pleased as f*cking punch with that purchase.
As Fred’s mate and his daughter are Rovers fans they were going to the game so we invited them down to the official West Ham pub for a few pre-match drinks. A most agreeable boozer where we all stood around looking depressed as Boro’ did their usual mid table “we’ve got f*ck all to play for” act. Still, at least that kept Pearcey in his job.
Could it be that we would finally get to see our first away win of the season? Well, perhaps the omens were not good but odds of 14-1 for a West Ham 2-1 win were a little too tempting and £20 was stuck on that. The scoreline is a traditional bet for us when at the wrong end of the M6. We had a similar wager when we went to Wigan in the season we went up and cashed in.
The team lineup went Green, Neill, Collins, Ferdinand, McCartney, Bowyer, Reo-Coker, Noble, Etherington, Harewood and Tevez. Neill was taking all sorts of abuse from the northern monkeys and was somewhat reluctant to venture close to the touchline. When he did I saw a Rovers fan leaning over a hoarding waving money at him.
In a poor first half, only Tevez showed any sign of making something happen with all the chances going Blackburn’s way.
The first major panic attack happened after 12 minutes when Green came flying out of his goal to clear a pass played over the top, only to be beaten to the ball by Benni McCarthy. To be fair to the South African he kept his feet, when others would have taken a tumble to try and get the ‘keeper sent off. With the goal gaping McCarthy pulled the ball back to Derbyshire on the edge of the area, but the Hammers goalkeeper recovered to clear the ball behind for a corner, spanking a clearance perilously close to his own goal.
Dunn shot wide from the edge of the area after a pass from McCarthy when he should have done better. The same could be said of Marlon after Tevez pulled a ball back across goal for him to shoot poorly wide.
The best chance of the half undoubtedly fell to Pedersen though, who raced onto a through ball to get into a one-on-one with Green. It looked a certain goal but he misjudged a dink over the advancing keeper and we all held our breath behind the goal as the ball slid mercifully past the left hand post.
The fragile 10 either side of half time
I was counting down the minutes as West Ham has always looked vulnerable in the last ten minutes of the first half this season. The same could be said for the first ten minutes of the second half as well and this was proved again as barely two minutes in Samba powered in a header from a corner. Collins was nowhere to be seen defending that play, although it looked like he had run straight into Harewood.
It had an air of predictability about it and someone nearby suggested that this might be time for a conga in true West Ham style. It was a premature call and I said to Fred that I would lead that conga if we went 2-0 down.
It was then that something truly remarkable happened. How much have we suffered this season? How many times have you felt that God is a Sp*ds fan? When have you thought this season that Lady Luck had run off with the milkman? Not today, for in a truly amazing 5 minute spell from 70 minutes onward we managed to score two goals and steal the match away.
First, Tevez went off on a diagonal run and went down under a challenge in the box. Howard Webb and my now favourite linesman of all time, Jim Devine (now tell me that this isn’t a pornstar name) had no doubt it was a spot kick. This time there was no Marlon on hand to slice it wide and it was our very own strange-looking Argie who stroked it nicely into the corner.
Sure plays the mean pinball
Then, in the 75th minute, the strangest goalmouth scramble that I’ve seen in many a long time. It was like pinball in there and just as you thought Zamora couldn’t miss he seemed to hit it straight at Tevez who looked to be standing in an offside position smack bang on the goal line. It was right in front of us and it looked nothing like a goal, but the divine Jim on the touchline flagged decisively to give a goal. Bedlam ensued on the pitch and all around where we were standing.
That game undoubtedly turned with the introduction of Mullins for Noble and Zamora for Harewood. Both injected energy into our game and Mullins in particular had the look of the way he played last season when we were riding high.
There was a nervy 15 minutes to navigate where I had to go to the toilet twice due to hypertension but the whistle blew to deliver £280 profit to Fred and myself. There was only one way to spend these winnings – a little trip to Manchester to see some mates.
Gone but not forgotten
We arrived in a pub in Audenshaw to be greeted by City and United fans of our acquaintance and spent the rest of the evening watching even more remarkable events unfolding as Ireland and Bangladesh won their respective games in the cricket World Cup. I was also able to make plans with the City boys for an end of season party after our final game at Old Trafford. The original plan was to have a joint going down party, maybe we’ll put that on hold for the time being.
The other thing that caused me to reflect on an emotional day was a team photograph in the pub. It was of City and at the bottom was a picture of Marc Vivien Foe. You can’t look at that bloke and not feel sad. You are also reminded that players like him without an ounce of arrogance or interest in the millionaire culture of Premiership football are what we are sadly missing.
(Player ratings by Graeme Howlett)
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Coped fairly well with everything that was thrown at him - and did enough to put off Pedersen when a goal looked on the cards.
A decent showing on the return to his former club. A target for the home fans throughout the game, the big Aussie had the last laugh - and more importantly, lasted a full 90 minutes.
Tenacious in the tackle as always, although you're never truly convinced that he looks completely comfortable at this level.
Still one or two questions over his overall defending but a fair performance. Held a high line well along side Collins.
Despite being responsible for losing his marker for the goal, Collins was probably the pick of the defenders on show - despite some poor distribution at times. If only he could stay fit ...
One game too many perhaps as the youngster was out-fought and out-thought by Blackburn's veteran wily Turk. Rightly substituted today, but he's done enough in recent weeks to show he should be in with a shout.
There was less verbal and a lot more commitment from NRC today, who played a vital part in the equalising goal. Maybe it was the threat of losing the captaincy? Whatever, it worked.
Not in the game at all, huffed and puffed and - dare one say it - looked as if his days are numbered.
Although there was more effort than perhaps in recent weeks the end product is still missing. You would like to see him gamble a little more when attacking his full-back; however on second thoughts ...
Blackburn defenders flocked to him like flies round ... well, you know ... everytime he had the ball at his feet - yet he won a penalty and then had the audacity to claim the second. Bravo, Carlitos.
Very, very disappointing. Obviously Marlon is a huge confidence player, but how on earth do you turn this kind of form around? Missing a first-half sitter when set up by Tevez appeared to render him useless thereafter.
(Replaced Noble, 45) A good substitution by Caurbishley that ultimately paid dividends. Offered far more than Noble had previously.
(Replaced Harewood, 55) For the second consecutive game Zamora came on and made a difference. Given Harewood's form Bobby must be a candidate; whether he can be as imposing from the start remains to be seen.
Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Tevez, 83) Barely featured although it was good to see him on the field again. Hopefully he can now start repaying some of the £5m we paid for him.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, James Collins, Mark Noble, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Marlon Harewood.
Goals: Carlos Tevez 71 Bobby Zamora 75 .
Booked: Lee Bowyer 20 Nigel Reo-Coker 41 Bobby Zamora 70 Anton Ferdinand 81 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Friedel, Warnock, Khizanishvili, Samba, Dunn, Tugay, Pedersen, Emerton, Bentley, Derbyshire, McCarthy..
Substitutes: Roberts (Derbyshire 64), Peter (Tugay 78)..
Subs not used: Brown, Henchoz, Gallagher..
Goals: Samba (47)..
Booked: Bentley (18), Emerton (70), Roberts (73), Dunn (76)..
Sent Off: Bentley (90+3)..