Overly long writings about West Ham United FC. This is the kind of thing you might like, if you like this kind of thing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Blackburn Rovers 1 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Getting My Excuses In First

You may have noticed that The H List has been getting updated even less frequently than normal recently. We were never the hardest working writers in the galaxy, to be sure, but lately we've taken on a Titi Camaran work ethic.

I can't speak for The Beluga, who is AWOL, but I lay the blame at the feet of Mrs Shark, who is currently suffering from a severe case of pregnancy and can't quite understand my insistence on writing these columns at the expense of more pressing tasks such as scrubbing the roof tiles with a toothbrush or clearing out the loft.

By pure coincidence, I can confirm that either of these last two activities are infinitely more preferable to watching a Sam Allardyce team "play" football.

2. You Put Your Elbows In...

If there is a worse "style" of play in the known universe than that advocated by Allardyce then I am glad I have not come across it. We had to stomach years of it from Bolton, and doubtless it will be replicated at Blackburn for some time to come.

I can't quibble with the success - it took Bolton into Europe in fact, but there is such a thing as entertainment to be considered. On Saturday we outplayed Rovers for much of the first half, snatching a lead and looking reasonably secure at the back in a "minor heart surgery only" kind of way.

However, after a half time boost from Allardyce we were battered into submission during the second half literally and figuratively. As ever, Rovers were throwing themselves forward, elbows first, and it was only the courage and skill of Lucas Neill and James Tomkins that really repelled them. There was no great artistry to their attacks, but a steady stream of crosses and throw ins were dumped on our penalty area and whilst we didn't look tremendously comfortable in defence, we survived anyway.

It was during this late bombardment that I began to resurrect my opinion that David di Michele is largely theoretical in nature.

3. The Statistics

Despite the second half Blackburn resurgence, the possession was split fairly evenly at 51%: 49% in favour of the home side. This is quite probably because any time the ball spends in the air is not allocated to either side.

At this point in the review we move serenely into a literary Wonderland. Blackburn had no less than 21 shots on goal during this game but did so with all the accuracy of an Imperial Stormtrooper as they mustered just 3 on target. Between them Morten Gamst Pedersen and Jason Roberts had no fewer than 12 efforts at goal and managed not a single one on target. This is impossible. I do not know how you can be so utterly inaccurate and a professional footballer, and not be Darren Bent at the same time.

On the other hand we were positively ruthless as we managed a whopping 6 shots at goal with a whole 2 being on target. Although one did go in, so I suppose we should be lauding that 33% accuracy rate which rather dwarfs the 14% managed by the home side. Weirdly, with all this ineptitude on display, Luis Boa Morte wasn't really culpable.

4. The Opposition

I have always quite enjoyed playing Blackburn, largely because we usually tend to beat them. But then Allardyce arrived, and they reverted to playing football by numbers, percentage type crap that has its' roots in the John Beck school of management.

In an ideal world of course, one would like to see tottenham and Newcastle go down purely out of hubris, but then when you get prolonged exposure to Bolton, Stoke, Hull and Blackburn it becomes a more difficult argument.

Football in England is dull enough. A league where only 3 teams can ever win, 5 teams battle it out for the right to qualify for, and then refuse to take seriously the UEFA Cup, and the rest spend the season squirming to get to 40 points and relative "safety". Sky might tell you is the best league in the world, but watch Blackburn play Stoke and tell me you honestly think the same, before gouging out your eyes.

I suppose in these dull times we should be grateful that Neil Warnock isn't in the league. In fact, at any time I'm always grateful that Neil Warnock isn't in the league.

5. The Referee

There isn't a huge amount of refereeing that needs to be done when the ball is 20 feet up in the air. There were two major decisions to be made during this game and both had a bearing on the final result. In the first half El Hadji Diouf had a goal disallowed on the not unreasonable grounds that he was 3 yards offside. It could also have been disallowed on the equally reasonable grounds that he is a total tosspot.

Latterly, after the corpse of Kieron Dyer was exhumed and sent on for a late limp around, he was bundled to the ground by Christopher Samba in the box. It looked like a penalty to me, although it's entirely possible that referee Chris Foy simply felt that the sight of Dyer falling over in pain wasn't an especially noteworthy event.

Luis Boa Morte was marginally offside in the build up to our goal and Allardyce felt this was evidence of yet another global conspiracy against him. I, on the other hand, see it as irrefutable proof of the existence of God.

6. The Opposition Manager

"Big" Sam Allardyce. What beef dripping would look like if it took human form.

7. Diamonds In The Sewer

When watching tripe like this, it is always gratifying to stumble across the odd moment of excellence. Our goal when it arrived was the only such moment of luminescence in this match.

The demise of Mark Noble has been much lamented in these quarters recently, but he was excellent here and it was his determination that led to the goal. Winning the ball on the edge of our box he broke nearly 60 yards downfield before feeding the strangely positioned Boa Morte. He in turn found Tristan, who took a brief break from being utterly ineffective and fed the onrushing Noble, who bent the ball in to the far corner with the outside of his foot.

It was a beautifully fashioned goal, and symptomatic of the type of stuff that Zola has been encouraging us to play. Noble, particularly, should have blossomed much more under Zola than he has done up to this point and a goal like this could well be the turning point in his development. Although, it could also be evidence that Paul Robinson is a gelatinous slug with no lateral movement - you can never tell.

8. Whither Carlton

Blimey, we missed Carlton Cole. It's pretty miraculous that we are doing as well as we are with our squad currently constructed to account for 15 fit professionals and 5 competition winning supporters who can go on the bench if they get to the ground early enough and have their own boots.

With Cole absent we took the unusual step of playing no strikers at all and instead sent di Michele and Tristan out to perform very passable impersonations of potted plants. Ordinarily I'd be wishing Cole could return post haste, but of course in the meantime he has disappeared off to play for England and is now out for the rest of the season.

No. Good. Can . Ever. Come. Of . Our. Players. Playing. For. England. Repeat ad infinitum until someone, anyone, listens.

9. Neill Down

A further word for Lucas Neill who was immense in this game. He has come under fire for his performances lately, largely because he's been sporting the type of svelte physique that one normally associates with a darts player, but against his old side he was a man reborn.

Perhaps he's flourishing away from the full back position where he is asked to bomb forward in a way that he clearly cannot do without some sort of cardiac event taking place shortly afterward, or perhaps he was simply invigorated by the sight of Jason Roberts magic elbows. Either way - keep it up.

10. No Payne, No Gain

Josh Payne came on to make his first team debut, and had just enough time to ponder whether in fact David di Michele does exist before the full time whistle went. According to the official site he is Academy graduate number 8 to play in the first team this year - the others being Noble, Collison, Tomkins, Sears, Junior Stanislas, Zavon Hines and good ol' Kyel Reid.

Bondz N'Gala could make it 9 before the season is out, and to be honest with a name like that I doubt he will be denied.

I could argue here that the fact we are having to revert to teenagers just highlights the stupidity of stripping our squad in January, especially given the current injury bug, but actually I have decided that watching the likes of Stanislas and Payne is infinitely more preferable to Bowyer and Etherington, and substantially less likely to corrode the walls of my aorta. So hurrah for our youth movement. (Buy some more players in the summer Gianluca..)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

West Ham 0 - 0 West Bromwich Albion (And Other Ramblings)

1. Nicely Put

I asked Mrs Shark how she enjoyed this game. She replied:

"Well it was hardly a great advertisement for the Beautiful Game was it? I was bored out of my tree".


In fact I would say that as far as football games go, this was a splendid advertisement for anyothersporteverexceptformotorracingwhichisn'treallyasportanyway.

2. A Diversion

So dull was this game that this review will be littered with references to the ludicrous Sheffield United settlement over the "Carlos Tevez affair", forced by the marvellous ability of Henry Winter and Lord Griffiths to peer into alternate realities. If only to try and keep life interesting for us all.

First of the ambulance chasers is Neil Warnock, the man who ordered his players to break opponents legs when the mood took him, and memorably tried to get a game abandoned by having his Sheffield United players feign injury after 3 had already been dismissed. Warnock is quoted today as saying "As far as I'm concerned, I should still be a Premier League manager. And I think the players have a case, too."

Number of Premiership managerial vacancies since Sheffield United's relegation: 18
Number of vacancies offered to Neil Warnock: 0

Amount Neil Warnock knows about the law: Fuck all

3. The Statistics

Meanwhile, back at the worst game in Premiership history, it behooves us to look more closely at the statistics for this game. Between them the two sides shared 20 goal attempts with just a single effort on target for each team.

This wounds me grievously because West Brom were fielding none other than Scott Carson in goal, which pretty much equates to shoving a bag of charcoal bricks between the sticks and hoping for the best.

In fact, I know what you're thinking. You're wondering just how hard it is not to score when you're playing West Brom at home. Well, we are now in a pretty select group containing just Bolton, Middlesbrough and ourselves. And anytime you're in a group with those two teams, someone somewhere is failing at their job. Dismally.

3a. Whoa, Whoa, Whoa

Seriously. We couldn't score past this guy?

4. The Opposition

I have found much to admire about West Brom over the course of this season. Not their ability or results, obviously, but more their adherence to a policy of trying to play good football and not resorting to Allardycian methods purely for the sake of survival.

There wasn't any actual "good football" on display here, as they found themselves sucked into the all encompassing black hole of shittiness that we were creating, but at the very least they showed more adventure than Stoke City did. Of course, you could put 11 llamas on the pitch and they would play better football than Stoke but that's irrelevant. West Brom aren't cloggers - good for them.

In fact, the only decent chance of the game came when James Morrison (quite possibly the crappy singer - I'm still unsure) went unencumbered through our midfield and into the box, only to be thwarted by Rob Green. Yup - in 90 minutes that was the best anyone managed. Netherlands/Czech Republic '04 this was not.

West Brom did hit the bar, but as it came as a direct result of one of their players assaulting our goalkeeper I shall choose to ignore it.

5. A Diversion Again

Even better than Warnock's assertion that he should "still" (*) be a Premiership manager is the notion that Sheffield United players should now be compensated for their loss of earnings. Quite apart from the fact that our settlement with Sheffield should mean that they direct their claims at them rather than us, it does also ignore the pertinent fact that only two of that squad are currently plying their trade in the Premiership (**).

Surely if you are good enough to play Premiership football then you will be playing Premiership football. Good footballers are too hard to find to simply allow them to wallow in the Championship, and there are more Premiership squad roles than there are good footballers in England, as is evidenced by the fact that Michael Dawson has a job playing professional football.

I remain astonished at the level of avarice on display in this case. Perhaps the most incredible of all is Matthew Kilgallon (ex Hammer, ironically) who is keen to ensure that he receives his bonus for keeping the Blades in the Premiership.

Number of Sheffield Utd's 38 league games started by Matt Kilgallon: 7
Number of these to result in a win: 1

Yessir - give that man a bonus.

(*) You know, this is the logic that says if I live in a stable then I am a horse.
(**) Well, one plays in the Premiership and the other isn't good enough to play for Stoke. Make of that what you will.

6. The Young Ones

It was nice to see Junior Stanislas finally getting the chance to perform the role of the traditional number 46. Which is to say wide on the left and taking appalling corners.

All stupidity aside, this was an encouraging debut from the youngster, even he was curiously deployed in a left wing role when he is so obviously right footed. I remain unconvinced as to the validity of a squad system that appears to view unproven youngsters as adequate replacements for first team players, but given the emergence of Collison and Tomkins over this season then I guess I cannot be too critical.

Elsewhere, Freddie Sears was probably as effective as I've seen him since our trip to Middlesbrough last year. Sadly, this still didn't equate to a huge deal of effectiveness in the grand scheme of things, although it has to be said that having di Michele alongside didn't help much.

I am slightly bemused that Sears hasn't been sent on loan to a lower league side to better determine exactly what we have with him. Our history is littered with the likes of Danny Shipp and Gary Alexander who scored shedloads of goals for the reserves and ended up never playing a game of note for the first team. I can't really say that I think Sears is the next Jermain Defoe, but I would like to see him spend a couple of months getting kicked about in Scunthorpe to make a decision one way or the other.

7. Splutter

My favourite Neil Warnock quote ever. When asked if he had a vendetta against West Ham:

"Not at all. I'd love the chance to manage them one day"

If you managed to read that without blaspheming then you are a better person than me.

8. Au Revoir

Seriously, this game is not worthy of further analysis. Against an opponent with even a modicum of ambition then we would have lost. Be gone from my memory...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wigan Athletic 0 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)

The title of this section really relates to Carlton Cole and the rest of the team.

It could also be about the upper and lower halves of Scott Parker's body after Lee Cattermole kindly attempted to separate them from one another.

2. Not Dark Yet

I'm not going to begin this review anywhere other than with our goal. Because we don't score goals like that very often. In fact not many teams score goals like that too often.

The move began deep in our half with Tomkins and Ilunga combining to find Parker, who was taking a brief break from kicking the shit out of Michael Brown. His resultant pass was beautifully worked by Noble and di Michele to free Cole, who in turn swept it past Kirkland from a tight angle, with all the panache that befits an England centre forward. (Phrases I never thought I'd type - Vol 23)

The goal featured a precision of pass, and fluidity of movement that was so obviously lacking under Curbishley, but has been joyously restored under Zola. Had Arsenal put together a move like this, I'm pretty sure that we'd be forced to watch it endlessly whilst various BBC pundits tripped over themselves to hail it as The Greatest Goal. Ever.

Of course, if Arsenal had put that move together it would have featured two more superfluous passes, and Nicklas Bendtner hitting the post from 3 yards out.

Anyway, enough mocking the defenceless. We haven't passed the ball this well since, ooh, we did this to Chelsea (you should zero in on 5:11 if you want instant gratification).

3. Simple Twist Of Fate

This was another in a curious series of games where the statistics don't quite tell the whole story, or indeed even give you much insight at all into proceedings. At half time we had had 58% of the ball, and were absolutely hammering Wigan. Cole had got himself sent off, but mercifully Cattermole attempted a revolutionary "Shearing" procedure on Parker's abdomen and the game subsequently drifted into a vast void of nothingness.

By the end, we had possession for 48%, and managed just 3 shots on goal. By contrast Wigan mustered 5 but none of any particular note. And no, the game was not more exciting than it sounded. I mean, don't get me wrong, it wasn't as bad as having to sit through an episode of Mistresses on BBC1, but it wasn't exactly enjoyable.

Elsewhere, we committed only 11 fouls all game but somehow managed to pick up 6 yellow cards, which suggests that we were either producing a higher class of foul or that the refereeing was on the questionable side of peculiar. This is a subject we'll be touching on later, so pay attention at the back.

4. Going, Going Gone

If you are playing for a team that is getting beaten, is being outplayed and then gets a chance to get back into the game when the opposition have a man sent off, I'm pretty sure that the one thing you absolutely should not do is get a red card yourself.

I shudder to think of the earful Lee Cattermole got from Steve Bruce after his dismissal, but if I could judge it based on the look he gave him it might very well have consisted of a .22 bullet and a baseball bat. Cattermole, who seems to be a cage fighter trapped in a footballers body, was clearly incensed at having been on the end of a nasty shoeing from Lucas Neill but it doesn't excuse his ludicrous lunge at Parker.

With him went Wigan's numerical advantage and thus their chance of getting back into the game. As far as footballing skills go, Cattermole makes a pretty good bouncer, but he was a warm body and when it reverted back to ten apiece the game drifted to an inevitable conclusion.

5. North Country Blues

On the face of it, there isn't a huge amount to like about Wigan. Their stadium is situated in the seventh circle of Hell, they are owned by a convicted price fixer, their fans have rigor mortis, they pay Michael Brown actual legal tender to play football and once upon a time they sided with Sheffield United on "principle". It's a Mos Eisley for football fans (and a mental high five for anyone who gets that reference - meet me at Bespin for a beer).

All that being said, they have been a pleasant surprise in Premiership terms this year as their random collection of exotic imports and thugs have greatly out performed more celebrated (and more expensively assembled) competitors, to establish themselves as a top ten outfit. They have done so whilst playing a semi reasonable brand of football, even if they descended right along with us into a shit kicking fest during this game.

6. My Back Pages

The focus of the media coverage of this game was referee Stuart Atwell, who is 26 and incompetent according to several sage observers. "He lacks experience" they scream, because the older referees in the Premier League are so stunningly good that this point cannot be argued.
Of course, there is no denying that Atwell was appalling in this game. Cole barely deserved a single booking for his two challenges, whilst Parker and Neill both could have gone for questionable fouls themselves. He was clearly influenced by Michael Brown in sending off Cole, which is ludicrous because everyone knows that Brown was an apprentice at Sheffield United under Colin Wanker and is therefore Evil Incarnate.

But really was Atwell really that much worse than what we usually see? If he was 43 nobody would have batted an eyelid at his performance. Indeed it is ironic that football managers who so readily repeat platitudes like "if he's good enough he is old enough" in respect of their own players, are so keen to lambast a younger referee when he is inept.

Look, I'm not suggesting that a referee who awards a goal when the ball goes out for a corner is the brightest star in the officiating galaxy, but the people who were primarily to blame for the descent into madness during this game were Messrs Parker, Cattermole, Neill and Brown, and not the poor sap in the middle left to try and sort it all out.

7. The Times They Are A Changin'

Jack Collison was the latest addition to the West Ham wing at Queens Hospital as he managed to dislocate his kneecap whilst chesting the ball down. This feat of injury japery was greatly admired by Kieron Dyer and Dean Ashton who are busy working on their own retorts.

He joins Valon Behrami on the longish term injury list, and will be sorely missed over the next few weeks, especially by my fathers cardiac specialist given that his replacement is likely to be Luis Boa Morte.

No need to worry though. Remember that January fire sale when we got rid of loads of players so we had a nice small squad to work with? Well that's paying dividends now as we were able to put a substitutes bench together here with an average age of 20 amongst the outfield players.

Now I'm not against a youth movement, but our squad looks woefully thin for a run in where we are trying to secure a 7th place finish that would likely give us entry into the UEFA Europa Money Spinning But Not Like The Champions League League.

8. Tears Of Rage

Apropos of not very much at all, but Scott Parker got really angry as Cole was being sent off and his shaven head could be seen screaming at Michael Brown immediately after.

The news here is not that Michael Brown is a tosspot, or that Parker gets angry, but more that Parker now has a shaven head rather than the sensible side parting he has been boasting for the last few months.

9. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

A word then for Zola and Clarke who continue to mastermind our ascent up the league despite a playing squad that has gotten smaller with each passing week. The goal scored in this game was a timely reminder of the different way that we are now playing under the new management team, and the aforementioned boy scout bench was a timely reminder of the different way in which they are now being asked to operate.

I have no idea what will happen at Chelsea this summer or if Guus Hiddink will find a way to double his roubles, but it would seem safe to say that should we continue in the same vein then it won't be long before someone comes calling for Zola and Clarke.

With the prospect of a new owner on the horizon and the Sheffield United case now apparently resolved, these are potentially exciting times ahead. Which usually means only bad things for us...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Wigan Athletic vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 04/03/2009

1. How Long Has This Been Going on?

Having served a 3-match ban for jinxing our FA Cup run, The H List previews return just in time to pull HeadHammer Shark back from the brink of an ill-conceived war with the Netherlands.

A chronic lack of preparation and generally slapdash approach are hallmarks of this blog, so I am well equipped to leap straight back into the fray.

2. Call To Arms

My self-imposed hiatus has been partially due to the despondency at seeing ourselves revert to type and come unstuck against the likes of Bolton and ‘Boro.

Sunday’s victory and general display against Man City coupled with Craig Bellamy’s ineffectual performance and injury have reignited my appetite, though not to the extent that I am willing to do any research.

The flirtation of a return to action was sealed with a glance at the fixture list, showing that our next game is against Wigan Athletic, one of the most loathsome teams in the League and one guided by a geometrist’s nightmare with an outrageous nasal defiance of gravity.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that the forces of evil must always be met head-on by average men with ill-prepared commentary.

3. Marvels Of Medicine

Valon Behrami felt great after his oxygen treatment.

4. Opposition

Wigan Athletic.

Bank-rolled by a convicted price-fixer.

Managed by a rhinal contortionist.

Formerly willing to pay Kevin Kilbane money (actual money) as a professional footballer.

Consider it reasonable to expect visiting sides to clamber through the cratered morass of Flanders fields in the pursuit of a football.

Sold their two most effective players in Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey during the transfer window.

Brought in Charles N’Zogbia, who graciously headed for the JJB Stadium despite self-claimed interest from AC Milan, Real Madrid and Barack Obama’s inaugural administration.

Continually praised for having an outstanding season, while we are lambasted as an affront to civility who repeatedly flout the Geneva Convention, despite being above Wigan in the league.

Have of late displayed such wastefulness in front of goal as to rival our own David Di Michele.

Their manager recently accused of war crimes (by me) having been linked with blueprints (again, by me) detailing his eerie powers as the precursor to the Death Star’s tractor beam.

Have established themselves as regular Premiership participants, in flagrant contravention of karma and the teachings of all the major religions.

Mido returns to contention after injury and is a man who ranks behind only Kevin Davies and Michael Owen in his cloying habit of scoring against us.

5. Narcoleptic News

Friday provides the latest chapter in the unending saga of our financial malaise.

Chairman Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson’s holding company, Hansa, are due in the Icelandic courts in a bid to delay the appointment of creditors and the potential administration of BG’s assets.

The Board are likely to point to our recent ascent of the League table as evidence of the need for stability for the remainder of the season.

I'm thinking of putting together a bid myself just to end the tedium. I've scraped together €4.60, half a Bounty and a dog-eared copy of Charlotte's Web.

6. History

Our record at the JJB Stadium is very good, having lost just once in six visits and emerging victorious on four occasions.

Our singular defeat came last season when none other than genetic aberration Kevin Kilbane beat Rob Green with a looping header just before halftime.

In the first game of this season, we laboured to a 2-1 win at Upton Park. Dean Ashton was briefly revived from his Malted Milk-induced coma to score twice in the first ten minutes.

We then did our utmost to throw the game away, but despite our best efforts, managed to claim all three points.

Physics-meddling fantasist, Steve Bruce said:

"Their fans will go away thinking that Wigan are a decent side."


7. Hope On The Horizon

As has been customary through the ages, we have once again stuttered when confronted with one-dimensional and lesser sides, having failed to capitalise on recent encounters with Bolton and Middlesbrough.

The next clutch of fixtures are similarly fraught with danger: Wigan, West Brom, Blackburn and Sunderland turning what is conceivably a stroll in the park into a mined ravine.

Were we to play to our potential in these games, we could finally banish the not-quite-exorcised-spectre of relegation and look forward to the potential of European competition next season.

8. The Battle For Middle Earth

Valon Behrami was worryingly stretchered off against City with what looked like a very nasty injury. He was due to miss this game through suspension anyway and Mark Noble returns from the sin-bin to stake a claim in midfield.

In the absence of the commendably committed Behrami, I will be interested to see whether Savio gets the nod ahead of Noble, who has been out of sorts recently.

Zola has spoken of his desire to relieve any pressure from the shoulders of the Ugandan-born German international as he is only 19, but if he's good enough, he's old enough and the youngster could be in line for his debut start.

A midfield of Parker, Noble, Collison and Kovac would be unlikely to maintain any threat or incisive supply and so I would like to see our record signing get at least the first 60 minutes.

7. Picture Book

Mark Hughes looks on agog as Steve Bruce marshals the mighty forces of his Angular Hooter™, compelling the flight of the ball to fulfil his evil bidding.

Monday, March 02, 2009

West Ham 1 - 0 Manchester City (And Other Ramblings)

Apologies for the delay in the arrival of this weeks report. This was caused by a delay on the reports previous journey. Hey, if it's alright for National Rail then why not me?

1. Join My Club

The common phrase around Manchester City is "Blimey, aren't they crap considering they've spent all that money?".

Well, who wants to join me in just getting rid of those last 6 words?

2. Welcome Back!

Not sure if you noticed, but Craig Bellamy returned to just about the most tepid booing ever at Upton Park. Syd King will be turning his grave. Paul Ince and Frank Lampard hear worse when they get up in the morning.

The truth is that I really don't think people cared all that much about Bellamy. Why bother getting any kind of emotional attachment to a player who is so frequently injured, and tremendously likely to be leaving you very soon anyway? Seriously, is there a human being anywhere in the cosmos who was surprised that Bellamy acted as he did? If so, can I interest you in a friend of mine who is a Nigerian prince and wants to stick £30m in your bank account for a couple of days - I just need your account details.

It helped quite a lot that Bellamy was so peripheral, with only one moment of danger when he created a chance for Robinho that was squandered with all the alacrity of Iain Dowie in his pomp (I'm fairly certain that this is the first recorded instance of a writer comparing those two players).

I also liked the way that he positioned himself 8 inches from the touchline when he was substituted, in order to minimise the levels of vitriol coming his way. Nice - it takes a total pro to do that, and all those years of being booed at every ground in the country proved invaluable there.

3. The Statistics

This was a strange affair, and one that highlights the dangers of using statistics as anything more than a loose guide. Despite their dire performance City still dominated possession to the tune of 56%, but converted that into a solitary shot at goal.

I must confess to being slightly stunned that the visitors had so much of the ball considering that it rather felt as though they coughed it up regularly enough. I suppose that by the end they were hammering away pretty heavily, but even so it was fairly inept stuff. We managed 12 goal attempts to their 14 but 6 of ours were on target, and precisely none were taken by the Dowie clone, Robinho.

4. The Opposition

I must confess that I was quite looking forward to seeing the new shiny Man City in the flesh. For all the innate evils of the Premier League it is undeniably true that you get to see some marvellous players through the season. As such Robinho was a nice addition to the list, but the overall impression was less than favourable. As far as circus sideshows go, he was mildly diverting, but for a £30m footballer he made a pretty good clown.

Mark Hughes, a man staring down the barrel of a very large gun, was nowhere close to magnanimous in his post match interview, stating that we were defensive in our approach and blah blah blah. One, ONE, 1! shot on goal in 90 minutes? And you've got the cheek to label us as lucky?

I'm going to let him off - it can't be easy when you know you're getting sacked at seasons end, and all the while having to say nice things about your boss.

5. The Referee

I refuse to believe that football is bent. Sure, the game is morally bankrupt and those who run the professional game are self serving leeches, whose only interest is the fattening of their own wallets and those of the odious G14 who pull their strings. But all that being true, I don't think that English top flight football is rigged - why bother, in fact, when the system is already so skewed in favour of the big clubs.

All of the above being true, however, Mike Dean was woeful in this game. Not because he was paid to be, or because of a grand conspiracy against us, but because he is not a very good referee. We all have to live with it from time to time, and his incompetence was evenly spread across both teams.

There were a series of first half decisions that I believe were made using a horoscope and a coin toss. Scott Parker was booked for his first tackle, whilst Vincent Kompany was allowed to kick everything that moved for 70 minutes before finally seeing yellow.

It wasn't all one way, as there were a series of mind warping decisions that went our way in the first half too, but all in all this was a game that was officiated in an utterly strange way.

6. Cole Patrol

Our goal, when it eventually arrived, owed much to a lovely pass from Carlton Cole. The move was started by Savio, who carried on with his run, surged on to Cole's pass and struck a decent effort which Given could only parry to the onrushing Collison who finished very adroitly, all things considered.

Up against the muscular duo of Dunne and Onuha, Cole toiled manfully, even staying on at the end when he was clearly carrying an injury. A quick stint in the West Ham witch doctors tent should see him right, but it's a sign of the times that Cole's fitness now seems directly interlinked to the success of the team.

7. Green Fingers

Robert Green, buoyed by being the least worst goalkeeper on display when he turned out for England last month, continues to make some excellent saves when the need arises. As mentioned above the need arose just the once in this game, as Manchester City's free flowing revolutionary samba football didn't actually extend to anything so grand as getting any shots on target, but he did all that was required.

It will be interesting to see if he keeps his England squad place or if Capello follows his usual method of giving it to a reserve keeper at a bigger club (Ben Foster - I'm looking at you).

8. Nice To See You

Craig Bellamy signs autographs after the game. Who knew he could write?