Sunday, 21st February 2010
If there is a Priory Clinic that helps overcome destructive obsessions with seeing yourself on screen, then I reckon our co-owners should have a weekend there. You can imagine the treatment, “Mr Sullivan we are taking your mobile ‘phone away”.....”Mr Gold, we have no Sky subscription here, so you are wasting your time looking for a television.”
The latest hit was of course the spectacle of Mr Gold (or ‘8 Carat’ as I call him) offering ‘for the sake of football’ to help out Portsmouth with their showdown in the courts with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Nothing to do with the fact that West Ham would lose 4 points if Pompey goes under, of course. Is a quiet week in the media too much to ask for?
At least the embarrassing medley of pre-kick off songs – a sort of ‘Cringe on 45’ - had been removed from the preparation. If the Spunk Daddies want to ramp up the atmosphere the answer is simple: bring back the Hammerettes. After all, you would have thought that the previous owner of ‘Hardcore Housewives’ and ‘Butt Babes’ might know how to put on a bit of decent titillation. Sort ‘em out Karren.
We have a run of home games against the lower table clubs and today was the start of the escape campaign. This escape, I reckon, will be achieved without any substantial contribution from the January signings, although I have to admit that I have got a lot of time for Mido. A grand a week is a bargain for the Egyptian who looks good to me with his back to goal, laying off passes. By the way, I worked out the other day that if you divide Kieron Dyer’s salary this season with the amount of minutes he has actually played on the pitch, you discover that it would take Mido six weeks to earn just a minute of chalky legs’ earnings.
Anyway, I reckon the lineup we had out today is the one that will lead to salvation, and let’s hope that everybody stays fit. We look like a transformed side with momentum, confidence and creativity. We lost that game up at Burnley – unjustly – but from where I was standing, that game was really the beginning of the turning point and not Birmingham (as much as Mr Sullivan might argue that his ‘too nice’ jibe was the spark).
Out the blocks straight away, Diamanti nearly got a first minute opener with a superb free kick which Myhill did well to turn behind at the bottom of his left hand post. With a start like that, it was then no surprise just a minute later when a poor pass out of an unsettled home defence saw Kovac nick a ball and pass to Franco. He darted in, looked to lose control of the ball, but there was Behrami to nab the ball and pass it into the net.
While we’re on the subject of Kovac, I am beginning to feel that at last he is coming to terms with the pace of the Premier League. It’s almost that Behrami’s amazing work ethic has rubbed off on him. From a time where you could easily distinguish between Kovac and Behrami, that is now not so easy. I’m sorry to say it, but we look a totally different outfit without Mark Noble on the pitch.
13 minutes in and Hull get their first sniff after Kovac heads poorly and ends up giving away a free kick about 30 yards out. This is where Hull look dangerous with the height of their team, but Green was alert to snatch the floated cross in. The same again a couple of minutes later, with Green this time grabbing the ball after it had been headed in to the six yard box.
As befitted a lower part of the table scrap, there was a current of aggression in the game and this was underlined by Franco and McShane having a tussle on the touchline. Forehead went up against forehead and was handbags really, but good to see Franco up for the battle.
Talking about players that have transformed themselves, Julien Faubert is nothing short of a revelation. Real Madrid must be looking on wondering how they let him come back. He’s had a tough time lately with bereavement as well, so I take my hat off to him. The crossing from him down the right is so much better and one of those to find Diamanti at the far post came close to a spectacular volley by the Italian.
Franco, back from injury was also looking good. He has a great touch and passes the ball really well. A move on 21 minutes saw him set up Diamanti for a long range shot which sailed over the bar when perhaps a further pass would have been a better option. The Italian can be a bit greedy sometimes, but there were times today when he was reminiscent of the legendary Di Canio, so I am going to forgive him for that.
The machine that is Behrami nearly got a second just after this, when his determination to surge into the box led to a fine save of his stinging shot.
A run forward by another vastly improved player, Jonathan Spector ended in a free kick near the halfway line on 27 minutes. This was quickly taken and Diamanti went on a run down the left to the deadball line which resulted in a quality cross over to the right hand post where Behrami headed almost perfectly back against the keeper. It looked a certain goal, but somehow it was palmed away from almost inside the goal.
Unsettled by a cheat
As the half ended, Zaki was diving around all over the place much to the outrage of the East Stand who were berating the cheating tactics. We looked unsettled though and were not dealing with the ball down our right side. First a combo of Faubert and Behrami failed to clear and then Cole tried to be too clever trying to beat a man when he should have shielded the ball out for a throw in.
The result of this lack of concentration was a dangerous cross in that was only partially cleared. Boateng was lurking near the D and was allowed to unleash a fine shot arrowing towards the top left hand corner. Green made a superb save to deny a goal that would not have been deserved but brought on ourselves by poor decision-making.
The next British World Champion
Half time saw someone arrive who I hope will be entertaining me for some time to come, 31 fight unbeaten Kevin Mitchell from Dagenham. I reckon he is one of the most exciting prospects in British boxing and we really need to see him fight at his beloved Boleyn Ground. I have already been in touch with my Man City pals to tee them up for a trip in the not too distant future to Vegas. I joined them for Hatton, this time they will be with me for Mitchell.
I like to think that we West Ham fans are fashion leaders, although my confidence has been undermined lately by Mr Sullivan’s embarrassing claret crushed velvet ‘smoking jacket’. I can always rely on Eastanders to put things right with something retro as a geezer came back after half time in what can only be described as a ‘Jason King’ style sheepskin. This had a belt and a rabbit fur lined hood. Quality 1970’s clobber.
The first incident of note saw Fagan getting sent off for a professional foul on Diamanti inside our half. It was an act of crass stupidity and followed a yellow for a late tackle on Parker by the Hull winger in the first half. No doubt the manager (Centenary Stand Lower: “Phil Brown is an ugly c*nt”) will haul him over the coals for that ridiculous indiscretion.
Before too long, the second goal arrived just short of the hour. A sublime slide rule pass by Faubert on the halfway line to beat Gardiner’s outstretched leg, sending Cole into the right side of the box. The keeper came out and Carlton was very cool as he slotted a precision ball post the keeper into the empty net. A classy take and more evidence on which Capello can base his forthcoming selection.
It was about everybody doing their bit in an accomplished team performance and Parker was yet again masterful in the centre of the park. If anyone has inspired us to drag ourselves out of the mire it has been him. A true leader.
Brown tried a triple substitution, but it looked like an act of desperation, trying to shut the stable door after Shergar had bolted.
Audacity Back in Fashion
West Ham were oozing confidence and the passing was as good as I’ve seen all season. Ilan, who had come on for the useful Franco, linked up well with Cole to set up Diamanti, but his shot cum pass went well wide. However, the Italian pulled off the stunt of the season just after this with a Beckhamesque attempt at goal from inside his own half. That was some left foot shot which left Myhill sprawling backwards to tip over. That audacity typifies his play and how it raises your spirits.
More skill from Diamanti followed as he played an awesome volley pass out of defence inch perfect to Cole. Great stuff to watch.
Mido came on for the industrious Cole on 78 minutes and immediately got involved to win a corner. Just after this, Gardiner looked to have hurt himself badly, leading to a call for the stretcher. A bloke came running on to assist that would make Mr Blobby look skinny – “Are you Lampard in disguise?” sang the Bobby Moore Lower while some wag behind me shouted “Stick him in goal”.
Faubert the Star
The final say in the game was from the excellent Faubert in added time. Diamanti had entertained and got the nod over the PA for ‘Man of the Match’ (which seems to have now been introduced by the new owners, and which I find irritating), but the real star was Faubert. He picked up a pass down the right, ran forward and spanked a peach of a shot from the edge of the box. It rocketed into the net to complete a brilliant all-round team performance.
The real difference has got to be that we look like we have a settled 11 again. This is actually what happened during that unlikely survival run under Curbishley. Avoid injuries and stick with this broad lineup and I think that we will be fine. No time to get complacent though on the back of a couple of good performances, but the signs are good for the key home games coming up. Win those and we should end up somewhere near mid table.
(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)
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Always difficult to judge a ‘keeper when he’s had so little to do. However, during that short spell in the first half when Hull did their spot of threatening he looked confident on crosses and pulled off that marvellous save from Boateng.
A fine game. The ball through for Cole’s goal was perfection and the goal wasn’t bad either. MOTM.
Following on from the decent half he had against Birmingham he had another good 90.
The better of the centre backs on the day.
Appears to have gone “back to basics” – opting for safety first on every occasion. There are occasions when he is capable of doing more with the ball – suggesting a lack of confidence at the moment maybe?
Yet another good performance from somebody who is captain in all but name. One worry was the ludicrous yellow card issued by the inconsistent Atkinson, which leaves Parker one card short of a two-match ban just ahead of a period when we are likely to need him most.
Possibly the one weak spot on the day. Although his tenacity led to the first goal his distribution through the rest of the match was dreadful.
Took the goal well and put in a decent shift in midfield – unlucky not to have got a first-half hat-trick.
The sort of player who gets you off your seat. Comparisons with another Italian are quite apt – even if he isn’t quite as bonkers. Got the sponsors’ MOTM award and I’ll admit he came very close to getting mine.
Controlled the ball well and brought others into the game. Unsurprisingly, he faded a bit in the second half after his month or two on the injury list but it was good to see him back and, in amongst all the new arrivals up front, he laid down a marker to suggest that he won’t be ousted easily.
On his own admission, his overall performance was not the greatest – however, the finish for his goal was excellent. Hopefully the groin niggle that saw his early departure is nothing too serious.
(Replaced Franco, 63 mins) A couple of touches but didn’t really get into the game much.
(Replaced Cole, 79 mins) His appearance was more about clocking up game time and match fitness.
(Replaced Diamanti, 85 mins) The game was effectively over by the time he arrived.
Did not play.
Manuel Da Costa
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Man of the Match: Julien Faubert.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Jonathan Spector, Matthew Upson, James Tomkins, Scott Parker, Radoslav Kovac, Valon Behrami, Alessandro Diamanti, Guillermo Franco, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Valon Behrami 3 Carlton Cole 59 Julien Faubert 90 .
Booked: Scott Parker 55 .
Sent Off: None sent off .
Myhill, Gardner, McShane, Dawson, Mouyokolo, Fagan, Boateng, Hunt, Cairney, Zaki, Vennegoor of Hesselink.
Substitutes: Barmby (Hunt 65), Altidore (Cairney 65), Olofinjana (Zaki 66).
Subs not used: Duke, Kilbane, Zayatte, Garcia.
Booked: Fagan (26).
Sent Off: Fagan (51).