1. The Good Will Out
At last! A triumph for the forces of good. If ever a team deserved to be beaten by a crappy, last minute, accidental, possibly offside goal then Stoke were it.
In my many years of watching West Ham flatter to deceive, I have seen things you people couldn't imagine. I have seen Bolton, I have seen Preston, I have seen every team ever managed by Neil Warnock and this mob were the worst of the lot.
Relegation is simply not enough for a side as egregious as this shower of shit.
2. Tradition Takes A Hike
In many ways, it is incredible that we won this game. Not because Stoke were better then us, in fact I'm not even sure they were playing the same sport as us, but because we never win games like this one.
A big brawny side, desperate to make things awkward and difficult for our lightweight lads, will typically always beat us (See "Wanderers, Bolton : 2000 - 2008"), especially coming two days after a great away win that had given rise to some cautious optimism in the stands.
Credit then to the players and management for coming through a stiff test, and grinding out a win against a team who had clearly targeted this fixture for their first away victory of the year, and were determined to get it no matter how many of their own kind they had to slap on the way.
3. The Statistics
Per the ever reliable ESPN Gamecast, we fairly crucified Stoke, although unfortunately not literally. We had the ball for 66% of the time, which as far as I can tell means that Thomas Sorensen had it for the remaining 34%.
All of this was transformed into 22 attempts on goal. Somewhat sadly we managed just a lowly 5 on target. If you want to get some idea as to exactly how we could be so crap then look no further than Carlton Cole who had no fewer than 9 (nine!) goal efforts mustering a solitary one on target, albeit one that went in. Add this to Scott Parkers 4 efforts all ending up in the stand and I have a suggestion at this point.
The visitors had just one goal effort from inside the box, which they naturally scored from. Our marking at this juncture resembled nothing so much as the movement of random electrons in a Hadron Collider.
4. The Opposition
To paraphrase John Lennon, "If you're a Stoke player then football is just the stuff that happens whilst you dream of set pieces".
To tell the truth, Stoke are less of a football team and more a legion of marauding Orcs. They are quite possibly unique in the sense that they have absolutely no interest in engaging the opposition in any kind of footballing contest, but instead simply try to manipulate the play to create set pieces. On one level I suppose this is to be admired. Manager Tony Pulis has presumably looked at the players available to him and decided that the only way he can stay in the league is to remove any requirement for his players to demonstrate footballing technique.
That said, to label Stoke as one dimensional would be to dramatically overstate matters. Does the ability to hurl the ball for 30 metres, and be simultaneously very tall, really constitute an attacking dimension? No. It does not. For this is not football.
This. Is. Not. Football.
I'm well aware that the current West Ham team do not represent the second coming of Ajax '95, but this crap is beyond the pail. We pay a lot of money to watch Premiership football and we deserve better than to be forced to spend half of the game watching Stoke waste time.
They are the bastard lovechild of Allardyce, Warnock, Bassett and every other two bit manager who decided that entertaining fans was no longer a priority in the brave new world of the Premiership. Their relegation should be cheered from here to Newcastle.
4a. The Opposition Manager
Great passage of play in the very first minute. Stoke won a corner deep in our half and sent all of their Orcs forward into our box. With Rory Delap lining up a long throw, he inexplicably changed his mind and took a short one to Danny Higginbotham.
Sadly, he found the task of controlling the ball without simultaneously punching someone to be too difficult and he lost possession to none other than Luis Boa Morte.
For a brief moment it looked as though Tony Pulis's head was going to explode.
5. The Referee
I have never heard of Michael Jones, who refereed this game. Possibly because he is a postman who happened to be wandering by when the real referee rang in sick. He was maddeningly inconsistent with his decision making, but to be fair this affected both teams equally so the net effect was probably nil.
Where he was badly exposed was in his failure to do anything about the 86 minute exercise in timewasting that the visitors undertook after their early goal. Maddeningly, the moment that we equalised he ran 35 yards to tell Carlton Cole to stop celebrating, but promptly fell over, which was presumably God's way of telling him to shut the hell up.
Also decided not to give a penalty for a head high tackle on Scott Parker, presumably using the old "No Decapitation = No Foul" rule.
6. Stoke's Corner Routines
In some ways, I suppose it's no wonder that James Collins lost his man.
7. The Fight
I suppose I cannot go much further without commenting on the real story of this game. Stoke skipper Andy Griffin joined the very select band of Premiership defenders to have been mugged off by Carlton Cole, who promptly curled a really rather excellent shot into the far corner of the Stoke net.
At this point, Ricardo Fuller helpfully pointed out that Griffin was now a fully paid up member of "The Carlton Club", who meet regularly in London to discuss exactly how their careers have come to this. Other members include the Newcastle "defenders", Younes Kaboul and Life President Michael Dawson.
Griffin was a bit unhappy about this and called Fuller a "cur", who in turn bit his thumb at Griffin. Thereafter followed an exchange of other witty Shakespearean banter that ended with Fuller taking out his gloves and whacking Griffin in the face. This apparently is a grievous insult if you are an Orc and led to a lot of shouting as the other Orcs ran over. Whilst all this was happening, Freddie Sears was able to steal the One Ring and destroy it in Mount Doom. I think.
As Fuller trudged off you could see that Tony Pulis was absolutely busting to run up to him and shout "Oi, if you're going to get sent off for fighting you should at least knock one of their players out", but instead had to settle for an after match quote of "We'll settle this in house as a football club", which is just as well for Ricardo because if they had decided to settle it in house as a Mafia gang then he'd presumably be picking up his teeth with a broken arm.
8. Cole Patrol
This should have been Carlton's finest hour. Here he was, faced with defenders who were less talented than him, and in a match where having a poor first touch hardly made you a rarity. Instead, it was fairly excruciating up until his fine goal, as chance after chance was squandered with all the gay abandon of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I have given up being vexed by Cole. He is what he is, a low rent Emile Heskey, and we will just have to live with it.
9. Go Diego Go
Nice moment for Diego Tristan as he finally achieved his lifelong ambition of scoring the winner for West Ham against Stoke and celebrated by weeping into the arms of David di Michele whilst shouting - "My glittering career, have you seen it anywhere?".
Despite the fact that he has now scored for us, I have still yet to see him touch the ball enough times to make any kind of judgement about his talents. I won't complain about a player who can score a goal off the bench, but I also won't get too excited about it considering that the actual act of scoring the goal came as a surprise to him.
10. Zola Power
A brief word then for Gianfranco, who has masterminded back to back wins, and successfully navigated the first "must win" game of the season. In truth, we now embark upon a defining run of fixtures as we face Newcastle, Fulham and Hull City in a run of games that will determine whether we finish 10th or 14th this season.
Much will depend on the issue of who will be sold in January, with early favourites seeming to be Davenport and Bellamy. Elsewhere, Julien Faubert has threatened to return to France which, to borrow an old joke, would mean we were going to war without our accordion.
I don't trust our board, but I have to imagine that someone somewhere understands that relegation does not add a great deal to the value of a club, and as such I guess only a few fringe players will depart with the real asset stripping likely to be in the Summer. Ho hum, 'twas ever thus.
11. Luis Boa Morte Footwear Update
Good old Luis managed to get himself booked inside of 25 minutes for three very hefty tackles. "Boa Morte should have been sent off inside of twenty minutes" said Tony Pulis after the game, admiringly.
Perhaps he was also enamoured of the full size clown shoes that Luis was sporting as he stumbled about the place kicking anything that moved and noticeably failing to score when clean through on goal....