Post season thoughts

Now that two debacles in a row are out the way, one in Cardiff, one in Lisbon, it's time for a little closure on the disappointing 2003/04 season. I hope you'll enjoy some things that came back to me in a little retrospective through some of the notable points of my season.

Farewell Uncle Colin

The first game of the season finds me in the blistering heat at Enfield's Registry Office. Now this is a place which raises one or two memories for me as this is where I pledged my troth (or whatever). Naturally that all ended in tears some time ago, but there we were gathered for the nuptials of my mate Mick who happens to be a Derby fan.

Yours truly has got fingered to do the photography as I happen to fancy myself a bit at that and I'm happily snapping away on a digital camera so that I can show the pictures at the reception. Mick is getting married to Ali, who is about as Scottish as you can get. Half the gathered company is trussed up in kilts and for those of you who know Enfield, the registry office is right next door to a pub. Needless to say our Caledonian friends are putting the lager away like it's going to be the subject of a nationwide ban the day after.

I get introduced to Uncle Colin, a big Rangers fan and walking proof of why Scotland is at the top of the unhealthy league table in Europe. Anyway, just as I start snapping, I hear that Preston have put one away against the mighty Irons. Much abuse follows, particularly from Mick's best man, who happens to be the Director of Communications at the FA and a Tottenham fan of long-standing.

I, of course have the last laugh as we turn the game around and win 2-1. This has set me up for a long night's celebration, when Uncle Colin's wife is seen walking round the reception asking if anybody has seen him lately as he's gone missing. "Maybe he's in the toilet", says somebody, and off they go to see if he's in there.

He is in there alright. Stone dead Elvis-style in the disabled toilet. I kid you not. Kilt round his ankles and brown bread. Taken by Scotland's biggest killer, a heart attack. That's why I will never forget the first game of the season after we took the drop.

Roeder gets his P45

Long after we had all been asking him to do something about the manager, our illustrious chairman finally gives him the bullet or tells him he is "released" as the club's press release euphemistically put it.

This actually makes me angrier than the failure to deal with the situation back on December 3rd 2002 (I am quite precise about this, it was when we lost 1-0 at home in the 90th minute to Southampton).

Here's what I said at the time:

It defies belief what has been going on here. Correct me if I'm wrong but this looks like Brown allowing Roeder to continue in his job during the fire sale of our best players. "Don't worry Glenn, although we're going to sell some of our best players, your job is safe. We have to stick together for the good of the club".

No wonder Roeder's angry. He's been strung along and sold a lie just like the rest of us and then given the bullet after just three games. As much as I wanted Roeder to go, who can say that there is any logic in the timing now? In fact, it drags my confidence in the Board of the club to a new nadir.

If someone could make a case for not sacking Roeder in December 2002 (what I have previously called the Mr Micawber strategy - 'something will turn up'), what possible justification was there for not dispensing with Roeder's services at the end of last season? OK, you might argue that this may not have been the most sensitive move given Roeder's illness. But are you seriously telling me that Roeder feels any better now?

No, what has happened here is that the club has been dragged down into the depths by the loss of 16 professional players. Morale is at an all time low. And now the dirty work has been done, let's dispense the coup de grace to Roeder. This is yellow-livered cowardice of the worst kind. I don't like it and it compounds the incompetence that led to his appointment in the first place and the failure to dispense with his services at the most appropriate time.

As it turned out the one thing that I said at the time that I got badly wrong was my advice to Terry Brown not to hire Iain Dowie. I've thought about that a lot, particularly after two games I attended: one at Selhurst Park and one....well you know where the other one was. The reason I was against Dowie was not so much his ability, but a desire to see the club move on from appointing an ex-player or somebody who happened to spend part of their youth in DM's in the North Bank.

Maybe it was because Dowie had been rejected by us that he became even more determined to succeed. I reckon he turned up in Cardiff with more desire and a real will to prove that Mr Brown had got it wrong once again. Tell us something we didn't already know, Iain.

Chicken sh*t

Returning from Vegas in November where I thankfully miss the home defeat to West Brom, West Ham United plc publishes its annual accounts to May 2003.

Adopting a popular American phrase, I conclude that Brown's claim that everything is rosy in the West Garden is chicken sh*t. According to him he seems very content with an operating profit of ?2.9m, record season-ticket sales, average attendances of 34,200 at Upton Park and a profitable hospitality wing.

I begged to differ at the time:

We took the drop;

Probably ?25 million + has gone down the drain - 50% of our turnover;

We sack our manager at an inexplicable time early in the season;

We sell our prize assets and get left with a depleted squad which has a large number of loan signings;

We consistently deliver poor financial results;

The man at the top acts like a parasite - taking money out rather than putting money in;

As a result of this chaos, we will do well to make the Nationwide play offs.

In the event, we did do well to make the play-offs and then it goes tits up.

Farewell Defoe

I was saying it back in December that Brown was getting ready to sell. The little "not right in the head" quip was all part of the plan. This was the single most stupid thing that was done during the season. I know that there are those that still do not see this, but here are a few things that I said at the time of the sale:

Because Brown is risk averse and puts self-preservation at the top of his list, I always believed that the Defoe deal was likely to be done. You may disagree with me, but an entrepreneur would have looked at the situation and decided that there was more logic in holding on to our most potent striker to see if we could still claim the ultimate prize of promotion.

For me, I think that the downside on holding onto Jermain, until the summer was probably no more than ?2 million. The prize was ?25 to ?30 million. Brown's bottle went some time ago. The club's creditors know that the only way they are going to get paid is through player trading. I believe he has already calculated that we are going to stay down and simply wasn't prepared to take the risk. He also faced pressure from creditors. His contingency planning is now in place for us to stay down, and with him still at the helm.

My main argument, which I still hold, is that Jermain the Defoe is a special footballing talent and the only player of true international class we had left at our disposal. I wanted to see him on the pitch, adding the extra crucial element in the latter part of this season. I hope to see us in the play offs and I still maintain that the difference between success and failure could well hinge on the extra quality of a player like Jermain.

I'm not going to mention Defoe again. I've moved on. The funny thing is that Both Pardew and Ericsson did not have his services and I happen to think that it was to the detriment of both. Of course, we will never know, but one thing we do know is that we will be playing Plymouth Argyle next season.

Things that made me smile

In their wisdom, someone decided that it would be good to come up with a song for Zamora that suggested that he might be better than Defoe. Never has a song been so far wide of the mark. Will we ever hear it again - I doubt it.

I once travelled from Lebanon into Syria by road, trying to dodge a few Syrian tanks on the way. Now I'm no Biblical scholar but I do know that there is a religious reference here about changing your mind "on the road to Damascus". This is what happened to my neighbour and friend Andy in the East Stand Upper. To start with Matty Etherington was a "useless Yiddo twat." Then Andy travelled down that road: "He's quality, the best thing I've seen down here this season."

The introduction by our friend Jenny the Wolves fan to a mate of hers after the FA Cup match up there. This is a man that has a hatred so deep of West Brom that even when his financial adviser told him the cheapest mortgage was on offer from the West Bromwich Building Society, he simply said "I'd rather pay more than give any of my hard earned cash to those c***s."

This leads me to suggest to everyone I know that a boycott of the world's scummiest company should now be put into effect. What company is this? McDonald's? Esso? Jarvis. No, we are talking about Ryman the stationer. You know why.

Those two blokes who turned up one match day at Upton Park dressed as clowns and then unfurled a banner: "Brown, stop treating us like clowns."

The biggest gathering of stretch limos ever away at Wigan and then in Cardiff. Broken down limos and West Ham fans pissing up the side of them along the motorway.

The fans that turned up at Portman Road in the play-off semi final with a giant 'Norwich' banner.

Listening to Sp*rs fans whining on Talk Sport most Saturday afternoons.

The last minute goal by Hutch away at Derby and the free Thai meal that followed from my Derby-supporting mates. The perfectly good Derby goal disallowed at Upton Park in the return game, which saved me buying them a Thai meal. The same bet applies this season unfortunately.

Mascots that actually are worse than 'Herbie the Hammer' and 'Bubbles the Bear': that mutant computer at Fulham and the fat northern b*stard that walks around as the 'City Gent' at Bradford.

Getting penned in at Stoke in the car park and someone saying, "F*ck me, it's Camp X-Ray".

Being in a pub in Enfield amongst a bunch of Sp*rs fans when Citeh came back from the dead.

Matty scoring a hat trick when I had his goal minutes in a spread bet - ?400 profit.

Seeing all the travelling Irons in Barbados at the cricket.

Ending up in a gay bar in Cardiff and seeing Oxford Fred looking most perplexed visiting the facilities.

Things that pissed me off

The catering in the East Stand.

Trying to find a car parking space.

Those rubbish mascots of ours. Did you see what those mental mascot horses did at Ipswich to wind up their fans? Do you think it might be a good idea to get a mascot doing something similar at West Ham?

The pitch still being too far away from the East Stand.

The Hammerettes. Tired old format. They do nothing for me. Yawn.

Sp*rs fans. Just about every day of every week.

Terry Brown. Just about every hour of every day.

Graham f*cking Poll. Not once. But twice. Fulham and Cardiff. That mincing Swiss tosser has nothing on him. Oxford Fred hates him so much he nearly totally lost it when the Chelscum c**t emerged on the pitch at Cardiff.

Having to spend another year outside the Premiership....but I'll see you all there again next season.

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