1. Once Upon A Time
Let me tell you a story. There was a blogger - erudite, ruggedly good looking and hopelessly immodest. And his lovely wife decided to take him to Bruges for his birthday weekend.
So as he lived it up for a couple of days, hardening his arteries with fries, beer and chocolate, his hometown football team pulled off yet another mind bendingly magnificent win.
The moral of the story?
All your cards got lost in the mail.
2. How I Got The News
Somewhere around the vicinity of Ghent I received a text from Sister Shark which made up for in content what it lacked in facts:
"We've only gone and won!"
At the time Mrs Shark and I were standing in a cramped compartment trying to determine exactly what that smell was when the news arrived. Mrs Shark thinks that our win can be directly attributed to her unrelenting optimism. I think it can be partly attributed to the juxtaposition of the planets and partly to Ryan Giggs poor finishing.
But mostly the planets.
3. So How Do You Write A Report For A Match You Didn't See Anything Of?
With great difficulty.
4. The Stats
We managed just 40% possession which is by some distance our lowest of the season. Of course given that I have seen barely anything of the game I can't comment at all on the quality of the possession. Given that we forced only one corner and committed 25 fouls I'm guessing that we spent a lot of time battling for the ball.
Here's something to ponder. According to the ESPN log http://soccernet.espn.go.com/match?id=199262&cc=5739 we had 4 shots on target and Edwin van der Saar made only 1 save. Now how exactly does that work?
5. The Opposition
If you believe the newspapers we are now Man United's bogey team, despite this being our first ever home win against them since the start of the Premiership.
Using that logic would make "Dude, Where's My Car?" a work of comic genius.
Finally something bucks the trend at the statistical vacuum that is Upton Park.
Each of our previous 6 permanent managers had started their reigns with either a draw or a defeat. This, despite the commonly held belief that a new manager always inspires his team to new heights.
Pardew 1-1 vs Nottingham Forest (h)
Roeder 1-2 vs Middlesbrough (a)
Redknapp 0-0 vs Leeds (h)
Bonds 1-1 vs Blackburn (h)
Macari 1-1 vs Stoke (a)
Lyall 0-4 vs Man City (a)
Of course we did have the statistical anomaly that was Curbishley's previous record of 15 years without beating Man Utd which had to go at some point. Still - a bit of a shock either way.
Rest assured though - the last 164 times we have played a team where the opposition manager is in charge of his first game, we have lost every time. Hurrah for predictability.
7. And Finally
I couldn't leave without saying something about Nigel Reo-Coker.
I have been a huge critic of him this season. He has mustered three good performances all year against Liverpool, Arsenal and Man Utd. Which is a huge coincidence.
Whilst I would agree that he has been unfairly singled out amongst a group of under performing players, much of this has stemmed from his own insouciant attitude since the summer. The rumours that he demanded a move to either Arsenal or Man Utd won't go away and his subsequent sub par displays have only reinforced the commonly held opinion amongst the fans that he is setting his sights on a move away.
I have heard a lot of comments from the seats suggesting that this would be no bad thing but I would be loathe to see him depart and become the kind of player we hoped he could develop into with us. People seem to forget that Lampard was equally desperate to leave and look at the player he has become. Irrespective of whether you think he is a truly world class player one cannot deny he is twice the footballer he was at West Ham.
Some would point out that this is because he has been properly coached and forced to fight for his place at Chelsea but that is a different point. If we are now saying that Reo-Coker has to leave West Ham in order to progress as Lampard has, then there is something sorely lacking in our coaching staff.
Reo-Coker's athleticism and energy are boundless and if Wenger were to get hold of him and teach him to pass he could become a truly top player. And if you don't believe me, watch the FA Cup Final again. Through your fingers, obviously.
The furore surrounding the alleged hate mail he has received has shocked me only due to the clear manipulation of the media by his agent. If any of you out there are football agents and are currently trying to engineer a move for one of your players, may I suggest the following:
1) Publicly state that your client has received hate mail. Do this after he has scored the winning goal against Man Utd, and definitely not at the time he received it.
2) Go on national radio and television to discuss this. When pressed as to the exact nature of the abuse, say "I don't want to make a big deal out of it". It is crucial that you inore the irony of that comment. If you are an agent, the chances are you're not that bright so this shouldn't be too hard.
3) Produce no actual evidence of the letters. This is important - just say you threw them away because you weren't bothered by them. Then go on national radio and TV to explain this fact.
Smoke and mirrors are important in cases such as these. For it allows people to say "There's no smoke without fire". (See what I did there?)
4) Be Tony Finnegan, Nigel Reo-Coker's agent.
I'm not trying to minimise the insidious nature of these notes. If they exist. then shame on the morons who wrote them.
But come on - who is he trying to kid? Reo-Coker wants to leave and it's much easier if you can demonise the West Ham fans while you do it. Lampard's agent did a similar hatchet job.
The truth is that Premiership footballers must receive notes like this every week from the various nut jobs out there and we don't get to hear about them. I once wrote to Julian Dicks to tell him that I thought it was terrible the club didn't give him an automatic car whilst he recovered from knee surgery, and that barely got me a restraining order.
So I say Nigel - pull up your socks and start playing like a leader. And sack your agent.
Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering
I'm not one for grandiose statements and pointless jibes, as you know, but look what I noticed at the weekend.
tottenham managed their first away win of the season at Man City this Sunday. And Michael Dawson wasn't playing. And his replacement scored.
It would be tough to draw any lasting conclusions from that evidence........