Sunday, 23rd August 2009
Last season when the genius Juande Ramarse was in charge, you didnít see a single one of those bird flu ridden cockerels about. It was as if production had shut down in China and transferred instead into something more socially useful like porn DVDs.
The problem was that our recent record against this renegade outfit did not fill me with too much hope. The belief drained a bit further when it became clear that Spector was going to have to fill in for the injured Ilunga. Still, on the plus side we did have our new signing from Real Madrid, Roberto Carlos. Well, he does look a bit like him if you squint a bit having consumed 12 pints of Stella.
The good news was that the East Stand had retained all of its decrepit charm. As long as those bogs are as insanitary as that; as long as we keep those 1980ís steam driven TVís; and as long as we all turn up again to find that no-one amongst the catering staff thought about sticking a few bottles of coke in the fridge half an hour before the start, my ongoing love affair with the stand will remain undiminished. Letís just hope that the North Atlantic financial crisis continues for some time yet to preserve this retro gem.
Now letís talk about Defoe a bit. As I said at the time, we should never have sold him when we did in that January transfer window. To this day I believe we would not have lost to Palarse at the Millennium Stadium if he had been kept at the club. Colonel Gaddafi is more popular in America than Defoe is at the Boleyn, but I have maintained a secret admiration for his skills which cannot be mentioned amongst fellow fans. Barely had the diminutive striker entered the arena but some Eaststander behind me raised Defoeís alleged Ďdriving offences in a pedal carí.
But what soon became clear about the game for me is what a potent force for England a Cole/Defoe combo would be. It is my current choice for the World Cup and it would work.
Our man, stranded on his own up front showed supreme strength and application throughout the game, and scored an awesome goal on the turn. We may not see one as good again this season. Letís not mention the hero to zero moment that happened too soon after when for reasons which will never be understood, he slotted an inch perfect ball to Defoe to generate the stomach-churning spectacle of Lillyshites celebrating in the Sir Trev Stand Lower. His decision-making made Icelandís move to make Kerry Katona the face of their company look sound. So thatís why mums go to their Charlie dealer.
Iíve already forgiven Cole though because I think he is a class act. We all make mistakes, but the man needs help and something has got to give on this striking front. Surely we are going to bring somebody in before the transfer deadline? If it takes a sale to pay for it then letís get it done. There is cover elsewhere and the imbalance between the striking options and the rest of the team has never been seen in my lifetime. It cannot be allowed to continue. What will happen if Cole gets injured? A recall for Sears?
It pains me to say it but that Spuds midfield is looking very strong at the moment. Modric is one hell of a player and a real creative spark of a type which we have lacked since Yossi went up north. Parker, Noble and Collison are by contrast energetic and put themselves on the line for the cause. Parker, in particular was flinging himself around like a man possessed. But the guile of Modric is something we do not have.
We also sat far too deep on occasions and this was just what Huddlestone ordered. At times, he seemed to have all the time in the world to look up and spray out a pass. He is slow and you gotta get in his face.
On the plus side, Junior looks like he is growing in confidence and it always warms the cockles of my heart to see a winger beat his man and run menacingly into the box. It was only a shame that Cole couldnít get on the end of what looked like a perfect tee up for a goal. Central defence also looks very good and we will be hard to break down if we carry on in this vein. Will Upson still be here to give us that undoubted solidity at the back? We shall soon see, but even if he isnít our other options in the position look good, assuming that Collins will stay.
The other area where the Spuds have the upper hand is in the form of Palacios. This is a box to box player with just about everything, except a neck. Cricket fans will know what I mean when I say heís Gladstone Small. Someone else who never gets a sore throat.
Jimenez turned out an encouraging performance but he doesnít have the look of a prolific goal scorer. He will probably get a spectacular goal or two but I hope that he will not be flinging himself around Robert Pires-like all over the shop under the slightest challenge.
We could have and maybe should have got something out of this but you canít giftwrap goals like we did. Christmas came early for Defoe and Lennon and in the latter case itís hard to be too harsh on Spector who gave a pretty good performance against what looked like a terrifyingly pacey Lennon. But you canít afford errors like that at this level and expect to get away with it. That is a fact.
Pointless again, itís hard to take, although it was nowhere near as bad as that 3-4 when it looked like they had sent us down. We still have the upper hand though. Lasagnegate. As the Bobby Moore Lower recalled - we laughed ourselves to bits when T*ttenham got the shits. But not as much as I laughed when it meant their Champions League spot going to their sworn enemies. We may not have won as many as they have of late but we have hurt them more.
Sure they look better than they have done for a long time, but the tide will turn. Evil will never triumph and no team will ever win in such a ridiculous strip. The enormity of the joke that is the Hotspurts kit was brought home to me as I encountered a few of them on the way home. Youíve hired a rentboy for your mateís stag do to turn up as a gay kissogram in the style of Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman. I would get that mothballed Arsenal shirt out of the drawer if I were them.
(player ratings by Gordon Thrower)
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No chance with either goal.
Continues to improve but needs to tighten up defensively.
Kept Lennon very quiet until he fell over.
Another decent showing for the hopefully staying Welshman.
Might have had a clean sheet against Defoe and Keane but for Carltonís aberration.
Quieter than last week. Still got through a fair bit of running.
Outstanding. Cropped up on just about every part of the pitch.
A quiet one.
The run in the first half where he did Corluka gave him a hint he failed to take. Needs to show more anticipation in support of Cole.
Continues to improve as he adapts to the English game but, like Stanislas, needs to take a punt on Cole winning the ball occasionally.
The goal was every bit as good as the backpass wasnít. Appeared as gutted as we were at the end.
(Replaced Jimenez, 78 mins) Kept wasting possession.
(Replaced Parker, 85 mins) Too little too late.
(Replaced Cole, 89 mins) Should have been on earlier.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
Man of the Match: Scott Parker.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Jonathan Spector, James Collins, Matthew Upson, Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Jack Collison, Junior Stanislas, Luis Jimenez, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Carlton Cole 49 .
Booked: Luis Jimenez 30 Julien Faubert 90 .
Sent off: None.
Cudicini, Bassong, Corluka, King, Assou-Ekotto, Huddlestone, Lennon, Palacios, Modric, Keane, Defoe.
Substitutes: Crouch (Keane 81), O'Hara (Modric 86), Naughton (Defoe 90+4).
Subs not used: Button, Hutton, Bentley, Pavlyuchenko.
Goals: Defoe (54), Lennon (79).
Booked: Huddlestone (64).
Sent Off: None.