Tuesday, 10th May 2016
So here we were. From a personal point of view we were saying goodbye to 48 years of family history, my own tenure at the ground dating back to 1968 when Dad first took me – fittingly enough it was an evening game. 48 years - that’s over 40% of the time the ground has been there. Which is why, on exiting the tube station, my walk down Green Street was completed in tears.
A word about my Dad: As some of you know he recently suffered a heart attack. Thankfully, due to the prompt action of those around him and the magnificent efforts of the wonderful staff at Basingstoke & North Hampshire Hospital he’s on the road to making a full recovery but, as you can imagine it’s been a bit fraught at Gnome Towers of late.
I arrived at the Press Room earlier than usual to discover that the site’s editor, not usually noted for being punctual for, well, anything, had beaten me to it. Milly the tea lady was, as usual, working her socks off and, with her probably calling it a day once we move up the road, cards and presents were delivered – kumb stumped up with a bottle of bubbly whilst some of the regular press guys provided the floral accessories. Which was nice.
Memories were exchanged and, once the team sheets had been sourced I went to make the climb up those back stairs for one last time. At the top I bumped into Upton Girlie, with whom I’ve been sitting for the last 13 years or so. This was the first I got to hear about the shenanigans that had gone on outside.
It does make you wonder whether the Premier League actually bother to enforce their own rules about the timely arrival of players and officials for matches: At least 75 minutes before the time fixed for the kick-off of a League Match, a senior member of the coaching staff and the first team captain of each participating Club shall attend a briefing with the referee and hand to him and their opponents a team sheet…..
The Romford Band came on with a nod to the past – although still a favourite at Leicester, the “Post Horn Gallop” was a regular clarion call at the Boleyn in days of yore then it was Bubbles Time. Or Blubbles Time as it ought to have been renamed as we remembered certain of our number who are no longer with us – RIP Alan.
You may be forgiven for not knowing this but in amongst everything else there was a game on. And it was a game that was well and truly taken by the scruff of the neck. Where, at the weekend, we had looked lethargic and out of sorts against Swansea, we now had pace, desire and intelligence as we set about taking the visitors apart.
There was, of course, always the prospect that Mike Dean might want to make the occasion all about him – as is his habit and there was an early reminder of that strange law that PGMOL officials have where the normal laws of the game don’t apply in the penalty area – particularly the Man Utd penalty area. Reid got bundled over in the box but I fear that we have used up our penalty supply for the next few years.
However, we had settled well and it was no surprise when we took the lead after 10 minutes. In fact it was surprising that it had taken that long. Cresswell picked up the ball in left midfield and his excellent ball into the inside left channel was matched by Lanzini’s equally excellent run into that channel. Lanzini got to the byline and pulled the ball back to the edge of the box for Sakho steer the ball inside the post. If the crowd were hyper before that you can imagine the reaction – though my own celebration was delayed by a second or two lest Dean, as is his wont, decided to do something controversial. He didn’t, for once, and we were 1-0 up.
The first half was so one sided that, had it been a boxing match the ref would have taken the visitors off and put them back down on their stool with a rueful shake of the head. And all the while the England Captain was in the ear of Dean moaning at just about everything he could. I’m sure, to use his own words, his club will be “disappointed” in the way in which he handled himself.
The problem we had in the first half was that chances were going begging, which is not something you can do against a good team. Or even one as poor as Man Utd. A fine flowing move fed Payet who again cut in from the inside left channel but got his bearings wrong with the shot.
Worse still was the miss from Andy Carroll who found himself clean through, with Man Utd having adopted the unusual tactic of playing with just the one at the back at that point – a left back. Carroll bore down on goal but De Gea stood firm and made the save. De Gea had assumed the role of pantomime villain for the evening, his stamping on a stray beach ball was as charmless as it was unnecessary.
All in all it was as breathless a 45 as one might have wanted and the only surprise was that it was only 1-0 at the interval.
Half time West Ham United 1 Manchester United 0
We saw the band again during the interval who gave us a rendering of a few of those old music hall classics from days gone by. One of these was that old favourite “My Old Man (Said Be a Tottenham Fan). A few people near me seemed to have come up with some new lyrics involving the following of vans with instructions not to “dilly-dally on the way”. Interesting but I prefer the original, even if it’s probably not best sung if you have the vicar over for tea.
So out came the teams for the last 45 with the opponents replacing Schneiderlin with Carrick, who must have been looking wistfully at what might have been. A wayward effort from Payet later, those missed chances in the first half started to look a bit costly. The ball from Payet’s effort had gone into the Bobby Moore where it stayed. De Gea – already public enemy no.1 thanks to his murder of an innocent beach ball, remonstrated with the crowd, the missing ball eventually being replaced. Seconds later the scores were, somehow, level. Mata found himself in space on the overlap and his cross gave Martial an easy tap-in.
It was at this point that we realise that the visitors had brought some supporters with them – they waited until they had scored before we heard a peep out of them. However having nicked a goal they started to sing in that hilarious exaggerated “Kevin & Perry” accent that they affect to pretend that they actually have some roots with the club they are following this week.
We ought to have restored normal service shortly after. Payet’s delivery found Sakho in acres at the back post but the ball was at a such height where a positive decision as to whether to kick or head was required. Sakho’s understandable indecisiveness was his downfall and, although he made contact, it wasn’t clean and the chance went begging.
We continued to create. Carroll headed over then saw another header cleared from off the line before earning himself a caution for a late challenge on Blind. The challenge merited the yellow but there was warm applause from the crowd in recognition of the closing down work that had immediately preceded it.
On the visitors’ side of the disciplinary balance sheet, their Valencia then followed Martial into the book giving Payet a chance from a free-kick but the elevation part of the equation proved too testing and the ball went over.
So just as we were getting used to the injustice of not being in the lead, things got worse. Carroll lost the ball on the edge of the box and the ball broke out on their left to Martial who broke into the box and shot home with Randolph having left a gap at his near post of Lampard Junior proportions. De Gea’s antagonistic celebrations in front of the Bobby Moore stand were as unnecessary as they were charmless but, with referees allowing most things as long as shirts aren’t remove (got to look after the sponsors haven’t we), no action was taken against him.
Noble was bossing the show in midfield at the visitors’ attempts to curtail his hard work – in front of Hodgson – were reaching critical proportions as Herrera became the next to have a yellow shown to him for fouling the skipper. The resulting free-kick was to prove decisive, though not quite in the manner originally intended.
Payet’s free-kick came straight back to him. Looking out towards the left wing he saw nobody. However, Cresswell had noted the absence of personnel on that flank and immediately set out on an overlap. Payet cleverly used Cresswell’s run by not using Cresswell’s run (if you see what I mean) and crossed into the box where Antonio’s prodigious leap saw him convert the cross with a towering header to send the home support bonkers.
The score was still an injustice but at least we weren’t losing. However the icing on the cake arrived four minutes later. Cresswell got forward only to be fouled by their Valencia who was walking a second yellow tightrope by this time. No matter. Step forward Dimitri Payet whose free-kick was met by Reid. De Gea got a very big hand to it but couldn’t keep it out and the place erupted once more (apart from the corner containing the visiting support who were being very quiet whilst they were working out how difficult it might be to sing in a Leicester accent.
At this point someone entered the field of play and had a brief chat with De Gea, possibly enquiring as to whether he felt his earlier celebration had been wise considering his side was now 3-2 down and bearing in mind what a mess he had made of the third goal. Well something like that anyway.
As the game drew towards its close Tomkins replaced Sakho, pushing Antonio forward into a more advance role. Obiang came on for Lanzini to give a more robust air to the midfield. As the 90 expired – with 4 minutes of stoppage to get through – our Valencia came on for Payet.
The five minutes of the four added passed uneventfully as the sense of anticipation built up. I’m not sure I actually heard the final whistle – though I saw Dean make the traditional gesture and the place erupted again.
Full Time West Ham United 3 Manchester Unted 2
The match had been a fitting end to the old place. If you had written it as a script you couldn’t have done it any better. “Bubbles” was sung with gusto tears were cried and hugs exchanged. Sadly the late kick-off meant that some of our number were unable to stay for the stuff that followed.
Given the occasion we decided that nothing but champagne would do to give the place the send-off it deserved and a couple of bottles were duly consumed as we waited for the closing ceremony. Now I’ve heard a fair number of moans about the whole thing which, in my opinion, are a bit unfair. Yes the whole thing was cheesier than a complete year’s output of a Dairylea factory but frankly it was never going to be anything else. Some of the interviews didn’t quite work some did but frankly if it had been an all singing all dancing Superbowl-style experience that had gone off with military precision it wouldn’t have really been West Ham would it?!
As it was there were fireworks, ex-players and, of course, 100 year-old Mabel Arnold . I can’t help but feeling Wayne Rooney missed a trick there, preferring to spend his evening whining to the tv and radio companies.
And of course what really rounded it off – as mentioned by m’colleague Preview Percy – they seemed to have dusted off Bill Remfry’s old PA system especially for the event as speaker after speaker cut out. I hadn’t realised Norman Collier had been a Hammer.
I guess that, on the whole, it might have been preferable to have had the Cockney Rejects on a bit earlier in the event which would have left us to finish off with a more traditional “Bubbles” but frankly the whole thing was slightly shambolic – and all the funnier for being so.
Dad’s condition will preclude my attendance at Stoke so, this being my final report of the season, I need to issue the traditional thanks. As ever this is really self-indulgent stuff so I won’t be upset if you skip it and go straight to the player marks…:
To Andrew, Ann and the boys, Trevor and Alan (absent friend) Nan, Dan TG and, especially, Kathryn thanks for the splendid company in the West Upper over the years. See you over the road.
To my dear friends Mr & Mrs Maltese Hammer - thanks for the royal class hospitality during my visit to your wonderful island for the Thursday Night league! Keep an eye on the draw if we are in it next season!
To Chas and the lads in the EHWMC – cheers boys!
To the good people in the Press Room at the Boleyn – thanks for the refreshments and special thanks to everyone there for making such a fuss of Geoff when he comes up to matches.
To Paul Stringer (good luck in the new job) Sophie Bradley and Rob Pritchard thanks for the help, assistance and passes – particularly in foreign climes.
Thanks to Preview Percy – though God knows why.
To Mr & Mrs Howlett – Mr Howlett for indulging me in this habit, not moaning at how long it takes me to do stuff and being a mate in general, to Mrs Howlett for answering her phone when Mr Howlett can’t be bothered to (ie most of the time) and for her unsung work behind the scenes at kumb towers.
Special thanks to two ex-soldiers I genuinely cannot name for security reasons for quite literally saving my Dad’s life on the golf course 5 weeks ago, and to Basingstoke & North Hampshire Hospital for making sure that the work done on the golf course wasn’t wasted.
Finally thanks as ever to Mum Dad Derek Geoff Anne and the boys. Family eh. Not just a prog band!
Have a good summer everyone!
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Rarely tested but the gap he left at the near post for their second was as big as the one between Rooney’s ears.
This is when it works with him at RB. When we are concentrating on pushing forward and dominating matches. Marvellous header for the equaliser.
Got caught out a bit for their first but the value of his decoy run for Antonio’s goal should not be underestimated.
His name will now go down in history!
Another impressive game. He has improved a lot over the course of the season.
Another stormer. Last season he was often left out for Alex Song. How many of us would want that this year?
MOTM – it was like he was taking the whole move thing personally. Rumours that the England squad announcement has been delayed while Hodgson tries to come up with a plausible excuse for leaving him at home this summer are probably quite true. Something to ponder as you watch Danny Drinkwater in an England shirt….
Even when the free-kicks aren’t going in he has a massive influence on proceedings. Ask Antonio and Reid!
Some fine work for the goal but overall a little on the quiet side.
Slight deflection for the goal but he was in the position to get the shot in in the first place. Looked a little more himself than he has done of late.
Kept the visiting defence honest throughout.
A few minutes at the end to back up the win.
Cameo appearance similar to that of Obiang
Not much time to influence things
Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Man of the Match: Mark Noble.
West Ham United
Darren Randolph, Michail Antonio, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Diafra Sakho, Andy Carroll.
Goals: Dimitri Payet 68 .
Booked: Winston Reid 1 Dimitri Payet 54 Cheikhou Kouyate 57 Michail Antonio 78 .
Sent off: None.
De Gea, Varela, Smalling, Rojo, Blind, Carrick, Fellaini, Lingard, Herrera, Martial, Rashford .
Substitutes: Darmian (Varela 87), Schweinsteiger (Fellaini 76), Memphis (Rashford 76).
Subs not used: Romero, Williams, Schneiderlin, Januzaj.
Goals: Martial (83).
Booked: Fellaini, Carrick.
Sent Off: None sent off..