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Sunday, 10th November 2002

West Ham United 3
Leeds United 4

by Gordon Thrower

Welcome To Royston Vasey ...

I’m starting to write this on the evening of Remembrance Sunday so I’d just like to take a moment to express my personal gratitude to all those we remember at this time of year. Consider this bit to be a virtual poppy or period of silence. Thanks.

Okay. To The match. This, for me, came at the end of a stag weekend away in Edinburgh so I was particularly keen for an exciting match that would keep me awake, rather than the turgid series of 1-0 defeats to which we were becoming accustomed. As the saying goes “ Be careful what you wish for”.

I was given a copy of the “League of Gentlemen” book before the match. Even that didn’t prepare me for the downright strangeness of the events that were to follow. We had a bright (by recent standards) start so it was against the run of play when the inevitable defensive disaster let Barmby in on 11 minutes, Repka and Dailly failing to deal with a route one clearance from Robinson.

The same old story ensued. Fear crept into our play. Defenders with time to clear rushed clearances into row Z as the confidence visibly drained away. Then something really weird happened. Defoe suddenly remembered what he is good at and, following some good work on the left, drove a 25- yarder narrowly over. This prompted a spell of Hammers pressure culminating in a deserved equaliser. Robinson failed to hold onto Carrick’s shot from outside the box. Paolo was the first to react to the rebound. I will admit it took a few moments for me to remember what to do, not having seen us score a goal at the Boleyn since, well, whenever it actually was.

I felt sure we could move on from this point and, for a little while the players seemed to agree with me. Paolo brought a fine save from Robinson following good work down the right from Lomas. Then it all went pear-shaped again. Repka was beaten in the air by Kewell at a corner to make it 2-1. The confidence disappeared faster than an England batsman. Failure to deal with a further corner led to Kewell getting his second and shortly before half time the wheels fell well and truly off when Pearce’s woefully short backpass sold James short to let in Viduka for a simple tap in.

Frankly, I felt that the first half had been an insult. Every week I’ve had to listen to post-match interviews informing me how things were going to be put right by “hard work on the training ground”. Strangely, as I write this on Monday morning I’ve just heard Roeder on the radio. You guessed it - they’re going to put in some hard work in training this week. I can only presume that this hard work has hitherto involved putting in a new drainage system or something at Chadwell Heath. Whatever the hard work is it certainly doesn’t seem to involve any work on defending corners.

The only person who seemed to be earning his money was the legendary Mr Moon. (I said that it was a weird day). For those of you who don’t get to the ground, they broadcast a coded message to stewards - “Mr Moon is in the ground” - when there is a potential security problem. When the problem is cleared they announce that “Mr Moon has now left the ground”. Mr Moon must have arrived and left half a dozen times during the first half. Perhaps he just couldn’t watch.

So we were 4-1 down at half time and the main question was how many were Leeds going to get, bearing in mind it had taken some excellent saves from James to keep it down to four in the first place. Another weird thing then happened. For the second match running we made a substitution before the 80th minute. Repka, who had earlier been booked during a long-running feud with Viduka (now officially Australia’s fattest “sportsman” now Shane Warne seems to have lost a few lbs), was replaced by Schemmel at half time. Weirder still, we actually started playing. Tackles were being won, passes strung together, heck we were even playing the ball out from the back. Surely a goal would be too much to ask for? Well Paolo didn’t think so. Firstly referee Dunn turned down what appeared to be a blatant penalty as DiCanio went down in the box. However, as if to atone for his earlier decision, Dunn then gave a penalty for which the case looked somewhat less convincing from my (admittedly distant) vantage point. Paolo got up to convert the penalty, wisely deciding that this was not the time for a chip.

We immediately made another substitution, Cisse replacing Lomas and we continued to press forward in numbers with Robinson having to make several saves. The next bizarre incident occurred on 74 minutes. The bloke next to me and I had just been moaning about the fact that a) Archie can’t cross a ball for toffee; and b) we never score from corners. It was therefore entirely in keeping with the tone of the day that we would score from a corner taken by Archie, the masked man Sinclair putting in a superb header from an angled run. This set up a rousing last 15 minutes in which Robinson was kept rather busy. Pearce in particular was unlucky to see his header from Winterburn’s deep cross go wide right at the end as Leeds hung on to the 3 points.

The players left to generous applause from the crowd. I didn’t quite know how to feel at the end. I was obviously gutted at losing again but part of me was glad that, for at least 45 minutes anyway, the team had shown some semblance of pride in their performance. However, I fear that the second-half performance may gloss over the obvious ineptitude, both on and off the pitch that led to us going 4-1 down in the first place.

Finally, a word of thanks to The Very Wonderful Eleanor for picking me up from Stansted to ensure that I could get to the match on time. In response to her request, El’s official KUMB title will henceforth be “The Very Wonderful and Sexy Eleanor.” Happy now babe?

Player ratings

David James (7) Perhaps a little slow off the blocks for the first. Sold very short by Pearce for the fourth. Made some excellent saves in between to keep the total down and was largely unemployed in the second half.

Christian Dailly (6) Memo to Roeder. THIS MAN IS NOT A RIGHT BACK. Looked loads more comfortable in the second half when moved across to the centre alongside Pearce.

Nigel Winterburn (7) Looked a lot fitter than on his previous starts. Got forward well throughout, especially during the second half.

Ian Pearce (6) Culpable in part for two of the goals but recovered to play quite well in the second half and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet at the end.

Tomas Repka (0) Diabolical. Spent the whole of the first half letting the fat Aussie wind him up during a long- running feud for which both players were rightly cautioned. Had he returned for the second half I am convinced he would have seen red sooner rather than later. On this form he is a complete liability.

Steve Lomas (5) another player currently playing out of position. Playing Lomas in front of Dailly gives us a very dodgy right hand side. Having said that, Lomas got into some good positions in the first half. For all his effort, and he did try, bless him, he’s simply not equipped to take people on and get the crosses in on a regular basis.

Trevor Sinclair (7) One moment epitomised his match. A long hopeful ball was played down into left-hand corner. Trev must have run 40 yards to force the Leeds defender into an error turning a lost cause into a potential attacking chance. Deserved his goal.

Michael Carrick (7) A much better second half from Michael. Unlucky not to get on the scoresheet on a couple of occasions.

Joe Cole (6) Not one of Joe’s better days although one sublime turn in the box during the second half deserved a better end result.

Jermain Defoe (5) Doesn’t seem to be thriving on the responsibility forced upon him by Kanoute’s injury at the moment. A lot of hard work off the ball and created one chance for himself which went over in the first half.

Paolo Di Canio (8) Paolo was at the heart of everything that was good for us. During a period where things are going badly for us we are going to end up struggling to keep hold of our more talented players. Here we have somebody of proven talent who actually wants to play for the club. The guy cares. SORT OUT THE CONTRACT NOW!

Sebastien Schemmel for Repka (6) Got forward well. Still needs work on his crossing.

Edouard Cisse for Lomas (6) Solid in midfield. I hope that his spell of “hard work on the training ground” will include a spot of shooting practice.

Referee: Steve Dunn (5) Allowed the spat between Repka and the fat Aussie to go on far too long before taking action. Booked Paolo for an innocuous challenge. Best of all was the Royston Vasey moment when Cisse got booked for a challenge that looked for all the world as if it had been committed by Carrick. I mean separated at birth they weren’t!

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Dailly, Repka (Schemmel 45), Pearce, Winterburn, Sinclair, Lomas (Cisse 51), Cole, Carrick, Defoe, Di Canio

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Minto, Camara

Leeds United: Robinson, Kelly, Radebe, Lucic, Harte, Bowyer, Bakke, Barmby, Wilcox (Milner 84), Kewell (McPhail 90), Viduka (Bridges 77)

Subs not used: Martyn, Duberry

Goals: Barmby (11), Di Canio (21, 50 pen), Kewell (28, 41), Viduka (45), Sinclair (74)

Booked: Cole (16), Bakke (22), Repka (37), Viduka (37), Di Canio (52), Schemmel (60), Cisse (80), Bowyer (87)

Attendance: 33,297

Referee: Steve Dunn

KUMB Man of the Match: Paolo Di Canio

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