Let the good times roll

It’s just not going to happen: I refuse to allow the Liverpool Lip to steal this magical moment from me and every other West Ham fan.

It would be so easy now to go off on a rant aimed at Klipperty Klopp’s clap-trap nonsense after our amazing and fully deserved victory over Liverpool, so I will try very hard not to.

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To be honest I am struggling to come to terms with just how good we are. This is certainly the best West Ham team in the Premier League era and up there with the Boys of '86, '80, '75, '64 and '65.

And I can’ t quite recall when we changed from being just brave, plucky, well organised set- piece experts to title contenders but hey, I’ll take it.

My serious head (shut up at the back) says we don’t have the experience, squad depth or title quality just yet, but the West Ham nutcase (again, shut up at the back) in me can already envisage the open-top bus journey through our heartlands of err, Hackney and Stratford.

Frankly, if we ever get that far it should start at Canning Town, go along the Barking Road, stop at the Bobby Moore statue, and travel to Stratford via Green Street. Sorry, I got a little carried away there for a moment.

I always reckon statistics can prove almost anything you want them to, so here’s one just worth a moment of your time. When Leicester City won the Premier League title in 2016, they took 22 points from their first 11 matches that season.

This term we have collected 23 points from our first 11 games, and scored 27 goals compared to Leicester’s 23.

Now it’s pretty much accepted that a few of the regular top four were asleep at the wheel that season, and Leicester did not have a European campaign or a cup run to speak of. We have the Europa League and a cup campaign.

What Leicester had was consistency, as their next 11 also produced 22 points, losing only once to Liverpool. Our next 11 included Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, plus our League Cup tie with Spurs and two more Europa League fixtures.

It’s tough, but not impossible. And here is where the real test will come from. But with David Moyes and Tomas Soucek, plus Michail Antonio giving it the ‘why can’t we dream’ message, I’ll go along with that.

It seems like it's only when you beat one of the chosen few do you get any recognition, even if so much of the TV and media coverage is dominated by Jurgen Klopp’s moaning. But this position has been a long while in the making.

Where do you start? Maybe just this calendar year so far. We have lost just nine matches in 11 months. Our points tally in that time is beaten only by Chelsea and Manchester City. Since the turn of the year, we have won 27 of 42 matches overall and 20 of 33 league games, claiming 65 points. And we have only lost three away league games in 2021.

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Currently we have lost one of our last 11, including nine wins. It’s two defeats in 20 back to May, and five defeats in 27. And we are unbeaten in 10 away from home. And folk have only just noticed?

So why is our current position such a shock for the Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea obsessed media? And why are the most used words to describe us now "disciplined", "organised", "compact", "well-drilled" and "set-piece specialists"? We are far more than that.

We have genuinely brilliant players, several if not all having been improved under the stewardship of Moyes and his coaching staff. Jarrod Bowen must wonder what more he has to do to get into the England squad and how on earth do the England Under 21 coaches not see that Ben Johnson is the best young full back in the country right now?

The form of Kurt Zouma and Pablo Fornals has seen them selected for France and Spain respectively while our Czech trio are fixtures for their country.

Aaron Cresswell and Angelo Ogbonna are in the form of their lives, as is Antonio while Lukasz Fabianski has reclaimed his best form of a year or so ago. Manuel Lanzini now provides outstanding support from the bench.

And Declan Rice? Well he’s the best midfielder in the country by some distance at the moment. And then there’s the enigma that is Said Benrahma, who has divided opinion. But in these last two games in Genk and against Liverpool he has had his best two games for the club.

The skill was always there, but he has grafted, run, pressed, tackled and not conceded possession.

There is talk that Alan Irvine spent much time last season working one-to-one with the Algerian, getting him to understand the requirements of the top flight. At last we are seeing the fruits of that work.

Now, with far more decisive and with clinical use of the ball, we are seeing a young man who can terrorise defenders.

But still the talk is all about Jurgen Klopp. It’s classic Alex Ferguson deflection tactics. Back in the day, whenever Manchester United lost a match, Fergie would always deliberately find something to moan about. The referee, opposing manager, a foul here or a disputed penalty there, even the football authorities. Klopp is just the same.

Mo Selah’s awful dive to win the free kick that gave Liverpool their goal and Diogo Jota’s sly elbow into the face of Ogbonna to put him out of the game seemed to be overlooked as Klopp banged on about his goalkeeper Alisson being fouled and Aaron Cresswell’s tackle.

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Ogbonna jumped for the ball, Alisson - behind him - did the same and, with a three-foot arm advantage, should have done much better than flap the ball into his own net. As for Cresswell, his tackle was no worse than a catalogue of such challenges that littered Jamie Carragher’s career, something Jack Wilshere comically called him out for.

Pep Guardiola was gracious and dignified in defeat a week or so back in the League Cup. Even with a regular five-man protest committee aimed at referee Craig Pawson after every decision, Liverpool didn’t get everything their way for a change.

So Klopp, you will not deny me these moments. I keep returning home to tell the missus, “I can’t believe what I am watching.” And there’s no doubt the fans at the OS are playing a part in all this.

Carragher even called the atmosphere "just like Upton Park". And he’s not far wrong. I stop short of accepting the theory that we have embraced the new ground. It’s more that we have reluctantly accepted the situation.

There’s never been a chance of going back; it is the team that is more important now and deserves our support. The fact that we have turned this unsatisfactory athletics stadium into this thunderous level of support is the real miracle. As fans groups have always said, the team comes first.

The noise is astonishing now, you can feel the rolling waves of sound soaring around the bowl. The place was bouncing, the volume really intimidating. Most of our team now have no memories of the Boleyn, probably a third of the crowd now the same.

We are making the best of a bad job, frankly. And there in the stadium on Sunday was our potential new major investor, Daniel Kretinsky watching as we beat Liverpool at the OS for the first time - our first victory over the Anfield men in five years.

That we have lost 67 of our matches with Liverpool overall since they gained promotion back in the mid 1960s says it all about how important the win was for our fans and club as we seek to establish ourselves at a higher level. We have just 12 wins over Liverpool in our last 80 matches in all competitions. That says it all, really.

It looks like the Czech is going to be on board soon and capable - we are told - of driving the club forward in a way the current ownership cannot in terms of money, to boost the squad and develop the stadium.

This really is a special time to be a West Ham fan. Just keep it going, everyone!

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