Sunday, 13th May 2007
Shocking pink lycra and what looked like a latex balaclava. That has got to be the best fancy dress I have seen since I turned up at Maine Road a few years ago to find a posse of Elvises (if that indeed is the collective noun) sporting the King’s favoured 1970’s spandex.
As is usual, when away in Manchester, we set off the day before to spend the night with the legend that is Midnight Al, so called because it was only at midnight after a day watching England play cricket in South Africa that he would wake up from the previous day’s hangover. Audenshaw is Midnight’s manor and he’s one of those old school Man U fans.
Miles away from civilisation
It is a bit odd in The Pack Horse his local though, as the landlord tries to keep everybody happy by having equal United and City memorabilia on the walls. It is also 184 miles to London, which is part of the boozer’s claim to fame. Who knows why they make so much of that.
After several beers and the obligatory curry, we are set up for the next day’s proceedings which kick off with a monster Irish style breakfast, before getting a lift to the ground with a geezer who has a car park pass.
Only one thing left to do and that is to get in touch with another mate of mine, Mr Blade in Sheffield, who is on his way to Bramall Lane. I’ll be brutally honest at this point and admit that I was begging the bloke to get his team to take something out of the game as I was convinced we were going to get spanked. It had West Ham disaster written all over it, down on the last day on goal difference.
He sounded pretty confident, although you can never be sure exactly what the Yorkshire boy is saying. I’ve got more chance of understanding Mandarin Chinese than colloquial Steel Mill.
It was a carnival atmosphere outside the Theatre of Dreams (or the Swamp, as Gilo my Man City chum calls it), with the home fans walking around with inflatable Premiership trophies that no doubt had been knocked up in some Manc garage. They were embarrassing.
Someone had been out with a spray can the night before sprucing up the anti-Glazer graffiti. ‘LHUG’ was the favourite slogan, which apparently is shorthand for Love United Hate Glazer. It gave me an idea for one or two walls around the Boleyn Ground – ‘LECB’ – Love Eggy Castrate Brown.
All the local skanksters were out selling their t-shirts with ‘Champions’ emblazoned all over them. One wash and they wouldn’t fit Sammy Lee. The price ranged from £10 to £5 and I always wonder why people buy these before a game when everybody knows that the price drops after the match when the frantic hawkers are left with half of Top Shop on their hands. Not the brightest though, are they, the northern monkeys.
No so frightening
It wasn’t the most frightening Manc lineup but still pretty worrying for the hopeful travelling Irons. Midnight Al and his mate still felt that it was a pretty decent team and they fully expected the awesome trio of Giggs, Scholes and Ronaldo to feature at some point.
No point in discussing our team as it was a no-brainer yet again. That team is picking itself and such a contrast with the early part of the season where you sometimes wondered if the names were picked out of a hat.
And so our 90 minutes with destiny began. Sh*t or bust.
The first move of note was a free kick conceded about 25 yards out but Boa managed to get a head on Rooney’s shot to deflect wide. It was at that point that the news we were dreading from Bramall Lane arrived – Wigan had gone one up. Yep, the last day tragedy was looming.
Rooney was set free in the box after a poor clearance fell to Fletcher . Fortunately he took one touch too many. Reo Coker then got caught badly in possession by Rooney who fired a ball in which Solskjaer got his foot on but it went over.
No-one’s humour was improved by the need to replace George McCartney with Spector. That bloke has been awesome of late and Spector always fills me with dread.
I shouldn’t have worried as Spector made a great blocking tackle to deny Smith who was free in the box. He caught the ball right where it hurts, wearing his bollox for earrings. Then O’Shea had a shot blocked on the turn. From the corner, Smith’s looping angled shot was cleared off the line by Yossi and then again by the Israeli to deny Heinze. A real rescue job.
Under the cosh
We were totally under the cosh and the pressure just seemed to be mounting up every five minutes on the 10 West Ham men behind the ball.
Richardson fired in a cross in from the right but it was too high for Rooney at the far post. Then the welcome news from Sheffield that The Blades had scored after a false alarm that had done the rounds earlier.
There was little respite, and one of the rare forays forward saw Zamora attempt a long range shot from the edge of the box which was blocked, although not long after Reo Coker broke free and put a ball through to Tevez who hit a first time shot which deflected off Wes Brown.
Down the other end, O’Shea had a free header but nodded straight at Green in possibly the only place he could have saved it.
Then on the stroke of half time, a long kick forward by Green saw Zamora bring the ball down followed by a one-two with Tevez that saw our talisman get free in the box. The ball bounced up off a defender and he slotted in under the keeper. One nil to the cockney boys and absolute bedlam in the appropriately named East Stand.
It was just like the game at The Emirates, same domination by the home team, same lack of possession by the visiting team. But a goal at almost the perfect time just before the break, although this time it was Tevez and not Zamora. We were stunned but jubilant.
Half time and not unexpected news then filtered through from across The Pennines, as ex-Hammer, ex-Blade David Unsworth had dispatched a penalty on the stroke of half time. But which of his former clubs might he send down?
The confidence of a goal at the right time meant that we started the second half in a positive frame of mind. An excellent ball by by East End revelation Mark Noble sent Yossi off down the right and he sent in a dangerous low cross which Tevez met first but couldn’t direct goalwards.
Then big trouble which had ESM Jnr with his head in his hands. Off went Smith, Evra and Carrick for Giggs, Ronaldo and Scholes. How the f*ck would we survive the coming onslaught?
Giggs chipped it to Solskjaer, but he weakly headed at Green who took it easily. Ronaldo began to look tricky and always looking for the free kick. One such free kick saw Giggs drift one over from the right to find Ronaldo airborne but he couldn’t get a scissors kick away.
Marlon came on for Zamora to end what has been a really excellent season. He has been key to the link up play with Tevez and has scored some truly crucial goals. It has been so impressive the way he has applied himself to the cause over these past couple of months despite carrying an injury.
Noble laid a great pass to Reo Coker who hit a deep cross but Tevez got in the way of the oncoming Boa Morte who spooned a good chance over the bar. Anguish in the West Ham ranks.
Rooney weaved around the edge of the box and got a shot away but there were bodies flying in and the shot was deflected. Then Anton laid off a great ball to Marlon who fought tenaciously for the ball and hit a ball in low to find Boa Morte in tussle. He managed to get free and hit a shot which glanced off the post with the goal gaping, but the ref blew for a foul which did not go down well with the left sided player who was massively pumped up. He’s got his act together as well, hasn’t he?
Ronaldo was in acres of space down the left, he advanced, cut in and fired a shot which hit Green in the chest. A big shout for a penalty followed after O’Shea ran menacingly into the box and looked like he’d been taken down from behind by Boa. The ref was not interested.
8 minutes left and Tevez came off for Mullins. There is no doubt in my mind that this was his last appearance for The Irons, an immense talent that caused us such trouble and such delight. Noble sent Marlon on a sprint and he fired in a low shot which bounced off Van de Sar’s chest for a corner.
Very little time left and Rooney laid off a ball to Richardson on the edge of the box. He hit a swerving shot which mercifully went wide of the left hand upright. 3 minutes added time and Scholes was found centrally 25 yards out. He hit a good snap shot which Green palmed comfortably over.
Then the sound that everybody around me was craving for, the sound of the whistle that signalled huge scenes of celebration. It was bigger than the Playoff Final. We p*ssed on the Manc Championship bonfire and then enjoyed every minute of their celebration afterwards. The result over in Yorkshire had been rendered irrelevant.
The only downside for me that there were not many more Irons around to suck in the heady, beautiful scent of that unlikely victory. If I’d had some jam jars with me I would have preserved it for posterity. Di Canio and Tevez.
One stayed longer than the other. Both were controversial figures. Both scored an exhilarating goal at Old Trafford and I had the supreme good fortune to be there both times and laugh at the Mancs. Both are West Ham legends.
But let’s not forget the immense contribution of our defence. Ginge has proved what I thought I saw when he took on Ronaldinho in the Wales/Brazil friendly. He is class. Lucas Neill, possibly the best buy we have made in years, calmness and quality personified. I am truly delighted that we shall see him back at the Boleyn Ground next season.
What can you say about the schizoid season we have been through? From basket case to Champs League form in one easy lesson. Look back at those last 9 games. Think about the 20 points we had before those 9 games. Now tell me how we got there, ‘cos I’m f*cked if I know, tsand I've been at every one of 'em.
Some say it was the determination which flowed after losing to those Lillysh*te tw*ts that turned it. I don't think so. It was the goal that never was at Blackburn that did it.
It’s taken time to sink in, but like Pardew before him, I do not think that the fantastic contribution by the manager has not been properly recognised. He took some time to get his head around being a manager again, he inherited a club that was all over the place, he took some major hits along the way, but he saved our bacon and brought £50 million to The Egg.
Eggy and the whining
I f*cking love that little Icelander. I’ve never been to Iceland, but I tell you I’m going to take a trip there soon to give my personal thanks to the nation that spawned the pint-sized geezer. He is a born-again West Ham fan and I have seen his pain. The same pain that we all feel. But I have also seen his joy and f*ck me he knows how to large it. I only wish I could have got near enough to him at Wigan to plant a kiss on his freaky-looking head.
The whining, of course has started. No disrespect to Blades fans, but Neil W*nknob is Grade 1 pr*ck. I am sorry they went down as they are much more a football club than the pie-eating egg chasers from Wigan. However, he needs to look to his own failings than trying to blame it on refs, the Premier League or us. You faced a team that hadn’t won since March and you blew it, my loud-mouthed northern friend.
I am ashamed of the previous regime of our club and their deceit, greed and incompetence, but it is time as well for the so-called ‘Gang of Four’ to put up or shut up. I have a little experience of the legal processes that they will no doubt have to invoke. The fact is that the FAPL made a judgement. It was made by a properly constituted inquiry panel, appointed by the FAPL clubs themselves.
Whe*an and his crew of hangers-on and bad losers have to prove, presumably by Judicial Review of the FAPL decision that it was unfair, unreasonable or perverse. Let them spend fatty Whe*an’s hoodie and cheap trainers money trying to prove that against the background of no other club having been deducted points for the infringements made by our club. Let them realise that such processes can be strung out for months. Let them also understand that even if they are successful in a court case, the decision is bound to go back to the FAPL. What are they going to do at that point – which might be several months into the season - relegate us and bring the Blades up?
It’s over, smell the coffee and move on.
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Dealt with everything thrown at him – unbelievable to think we actually dropped him for Carroll earlier this season!
There was one dodgy ball played back towards his own goal but he performed well and I’ll be glad to have him on board next season.
Was doing ok but his early knock curtailed his participation in the afternoons events.
At the risk of repeating myself, he has benefited immensely from Collins’ presence in recent weeks.
Continued his awesome form of recent weeks by doing it against the best. Ridiculously booked for winning the cleanest of tackles.
Snapped and harried and hassled for the whole 90 minutes. If we were going to be relegated he was damned sure it wasn’t going to be his fault.
Could have been overrun in the middle but he wasn’t overawed and stuck to his task well.
The flow of traffic meant that opportunities to shine in his usual manner were limited. Brilliant goalline clearances saved the day in the first half.
Luis Boa Morte
It all passed him by a bit really. Maybe a bit unfortunate over one chance but having made himself room for another he should really have put it away instead of hitting the post.
Brilliantly taken goal but this wasn’t a game where his play was ever likely to dominate. If that is to be his last game – and I hope it isn’t – then we owe him thanks for brightening up the place over the past few months.
A game of few chances for us, but, as has been the case lately, he ran himself into the ground for the cause.
(Replaced McCartney, 28) Did well coming in for the injured Linda.
(Replaced Zamora, 63) Bustled about and made a nuisance of himself.
(Replaced Tevez, 82) Not really on for long enough to make much of a difference.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: James Collins.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, James Collins, Mark Noble, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Luis Boa Morte, Carlos Tevez, Bobby Zamora.
Goals: Carlos Tevez 45 .
Booked: James Collins 67 Carlos Tevez 74 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Van Der Sar, O'Shea, Evra, Heinze, Brown, Carrick, Fletcher, Richardson, Solskjaer, Smith, Rooney.
Substitutes: Giggs (Evra 58), Scholes (Carrick 58), Ronaldo (Smith 58).
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Vidic.
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: .