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, April 27, 2009

West Ham 0 - 1 Chelsea (And Other Ramblings)

1. Such Dignity

"Ladies and Gentlemen - your England Captain"

2. And Again

"Ladies and Gentlemen - your England Captain's Bentley parked in a Disabled bay".

3. The Future's Bright

This was a supposed to be a tremendous weekend for the club. We extended the contracts of Zola and Clarke until 2013 - because rewarding our rookie manager with a long extension after a good start has never failed us before - and we were going to be all fired up to give Zola a hand in putting one over on his old club in a feisty local derby.

As it transpired, we were poor, Chelsea were poor and the paper thin squad looked to be suffering from the exertions of recent weeks. Zola's love in with Chelsea continued, but that bothers me much less than the fact that his love in with David di Michele is also continuing.

After the dust has settled, the club look to have been unusually prescient in tying Zola down for an extended period. The key difference between the Italian and, say, Roeder is that he appears to have the players invested in the cause and determined to play well for him. Clarke is a well respected assistant, and the one to whom I attribute the credit for our new found resilience. It is hard to say enough good things about the manager who has taken us to 7th with a squad that has been so decimated with injuries and sales.

I sincerely doubt that the contract will be enough to stave off interest from Chelsea should it arrive, but I wouldn't waste much time worrying about that. If he wants to go he will go - this cannot be a surprise to anyone who has watched professional football ever before in their life. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that if Chelsea want him it will be because he has done a good job for us. At which point he can hopefully "do a Shearer" for Chelsea.

4. The Statistics

Amidst the hubris and caustic posturing there was a (very dull) game of football played on Saturday. Essentially Chelsea beat our reserves, and some people said some nasty things about John Terry. Ho hum.

The ESPN GameCast shows the visitors having the ball for a whopping 65% of the time. In truth this isn't surprising as we surrendered possession as easily as a French General gives up his border towns. The odd thing is that both sides managed just 5 shots on target, although Chelsea had a blunderbuss-like 23 efforts all told. Both Lampard and Malouda were the most guilty with just two efforts troubling Rob Green from a combined 12 shots.

Elsewhere our most promising attacks landed at the feet of Kieron Dyer, who finished them off with all the aplomb that one might expect from a man who has spent the last two years receiving medical attention from Billy Zane circa Memphis Belle ("I lied - I only went to medical school for two weeks!").

In other news, we found it necessary to foul Florent Malouda 3 times, which was more than any other player on the pitch. There are words, but they fail me.

5. The Opposition

I think it would be fair to say that Chelsea were not at their best here. Certainly they were better than us, but that is really not as much of an achievement as it should have been.

With Drogba, Cole and Essien on the bench, it was clear from the outset that Hiddink had one eye on the upcoming trip to Barcelona, and wasn't feeling overly concerned at the prospect of keeping out the mighty Tristan/di Michele combination. And how right he was.

The problem with Chelsea is not really with their style of play, which is pleasing enough if slightly robotic, but instead that their team is filled to the brim with dislikeable bastards. Ashley Cole, Drogba, Terry, Carvalho et al are so thoroughly odious that it's really pretty hard not to hate them. And that's before I even get to Lampard, who inspires far greater opprobrium amongst other Hammers than he does with me.

Look, I'm pretty biased about Chelsea. They are a nouveau club with as many Japanese tourists in their crowd as proper fans. They spend money to achieve success and have gone from a middling club to a player on the World stage. I'm sort of jealous, and sort of disdainful. In truth, I actually don't give them a great deal of thought. They operate in a different stratosphere to us, and if our reserves can lose 1-0 to them whilst missing a penalty and having one cleared off the line then that's probably a pretty decent result, all things considered.

Florent Malouda is pretty bad though. Yes sir. Someone shoot that boy.

6. The Referee

Getting a penalty against a big club is pretty difficult, even at home. This can be attributed to the fact that they have better defenders than other teams, and also to the fact that John Terry doesn't like it very much when referees give decisions against his team and thus tends to lambast them like the overwrought school bully that he so resembles.

So credit Mike Dean for giving us a penalty after Salomon Kalou stowed his cerebrum in the overhead locker and pulled down Herita Ilunga. Some other decisions were on the strange side but that's to be expected

7. Paying The Penalty

Sadly, our fortunes in this game came down to Mark Noble's ability to beat Petr Cech from 12 yards. Although he somewhat telegraphed his intentions, and hit the same side that he always does, I'd put it down as a good save rather than a bad miss. It seemed a foolish decision to go for Cech's left side as he is a natural southpaw but that's second guessing of the worst kind. He hit it well, it was excellently saved, let's all go home.

Of greater concern perhaps is the question of who takes the next one. To my mind a good penalty taker needs two things - a strong temperament and a technique that will stand up to pressure. Noble appears to have both so I wouldn't be in a rush to make a change.

For instance, I sincerely doubt whether Luis Boa Morte has the requisite technique to propel a spherical object 12 yards into an empty net, let alone one guarded by Petr Cech. And the idea of David di Michele taking one actually makes me cry a little. So basically - as long as Noble wants to keep taking them, I'd let him. Because if you think that was a bad penalty then you seriously need to watch Freddie Kanoute's effort against Arsenal again.

8. If It Wasn't For Fish And Chips I Don't Know Why We'd Have Newspapers

Following some nasty booing and less than gentlemanly comments about Frank Lampard and John Terry, we are now playing the part of pantomime villain for the British press once more. I'd link to the articles, but really you're better off not reading them.

Now, I have stated on here a number of times that I don't really see any point in booing or abusing players. Just because I pay £50 to see Waiting for Godot doesn't give me the right to yell things about Patrick Stewart. If I pay £50 to see Neil Young it doesn't allow to scream abuse about his kids. Sure, football is different, but manners and decency still apply, even if you would be hard pressed to believe it sometimes. In particular, I don't really get the fervour that surrounds Lampard, especially, but I realise I'm in the minority there.

But here's the thing. I'm not a moral compass. I think like I do, and lots of people disagree. That's what comes of living in a (sort of) free society. But I'll be buggered if I'm going to be lectured on morality by the unholy trinity of Terry, Lampard and The Sun. I mean seriously - you have to be fucking kidding me.

The Sun's article was written (in crayon, probably) by Ian McGarry, who in his haste to write a balanced, neutral and representative article forgot to mention that he is Frank Lampard's biographer.

So even as he was writing a piece that really should have been stamped "Produced by the authority of Chelsea Football Club", McGarry had forgotten a fundamental rule. The same laws that allow The Sun to run two front page stories exposing Lampard's marital infidelities are the same laws that let West Ham fans sing "Lampard - you let your family down".

And the same laws that let The Sun run a front page headline "John Terry's Mum Caught Shoplifting" are the same laws that allow West Ham fans to sing "John Terry - your mum's a thief".

Is it a bit distasteful? Yes. Is it childish? Yes. Is it "vile and hateful" as McGarry states? Do me a favour, you snivelling, hypocritical little prick.

I would suggest that men who get drunk on September 11th and abuse American tourists are "vile and hateful". I would suggest that men who go on holiday and make home sex videos against the wishes of the women involved are "vile and hateful". So what if they got a bit of verbal on Saturday? They should sit down with David Beckham and ask him what he thinks about crowd abuse. At least neither had effigies hung of them.

In truth, I don't know why it riles me at all. McGarry is no more a journalist than I am. He is little more than a mouthpiece for the Premier League and it's "stars", and he's just writing what he's told to write. Newspapers these days exist purely as a promotional tool for big clubs and subject us to an unending slurry of hyperbolic shite in the process.

However, I can't help but think that someone somewhere should have advised John Terry to avoid the following phrase when he's complaining of people singing about his mother's shoplifting caution.

"We came here and got three points and they walked away with nothing. You can't buy that" .

Careful John, some people might consider that "evidence".

Thursday, April 23, 2009

West Ham United vs Chelsea: Match Preview - 25/04/2009

1. To The Manor Born

Before we start, congratulations to HeadHammer Shark are once again in order on the recent birth of his third daughter.

As he flaunts his virility like a devout Catholic porn star, we can assume that his recent dearth of publication is due to pure animalistic breeding.

My excuse is far less endearing, more closely linked with Guinness, baked goods and the absence of a keyboard sufficiently large to accommodate my chubby digits.

2. The Opposition

Chelsea. *swallows bile*

At the business end of the season Chelsea have managed to find themselves in with a shout of varying degrees in the holy trinity of club football competitions. This may not seem unusual, but appears a little surprising given their unspectacular season.

After the headline grabbing appointment of ‘Big’ Phil Scolari in the summer, Chelsea flattered to deceive and never possessed the imposing inevitability of previous years.

The loss of their unbeaten home record and a series of underwhelming home displays prompted the equally headline grabbing sacking of Scolari, to eventually be replaced by Guus ‘watch-me-turn-this-water-into-wine’ Hiddink as manager.

Hiddink has continually insisted that he will return to his full-time role as manager of the Russian national side at the end of this season.

No bad thing, as any man who can guide South Korea to a World Cup semi-final and produce an Australian national side capable of taking World Champions-elect Italy to the wire, (but for our own cumbersome captain), has talent.

3. Picture Book

The Curly-Wurly's from Lampard's locker just kept coming.

4. From Small Acorns

We find ourselves at a peculiar point in West Ham’s recent history - largely positive and consistent performances on the pitch, turmoil off it.

Are we on the brink of a new era of successful, traditionally pleasing football, or teetering on the precipice?

We get more than enough doom and gloom from Headhammer Shark, so let’s align ourselves with positivity.

Ever-positive cheeky monkey Gianfranco Zola said recently: “Please stop it, Mr Duxbury. You’re hurting me.”

But that’s beside the point. He followed up with:

“I believe we are building up a reputation because we try to play good football and there is a good atmosphere. That could be an attractive thing for good players to come. I wouldn't be surprised to see a good player come to play for West Ham in the summer.”

While it is Zola’s job to accentuate the positive, his presence at the helm no doubt makes us a more attractive proposition to potential recruits.

Should we be able to steer our way out of these choppy off-field waters and tie down Zola and Steve Clarke on long term deals, then there is every reason for optimism.

Not the kind of optimism that followed our promotion, or 9th place under Pardew, or our FA Cup Final appearance, or the news that we finally had money to spend, or the propspect of big signings returning from injury - but optimism built on a sound foundation and garnered step by step.

5. History

This same fixture last season constitutes a particularly ugly scar on my psyche. On a glorious Saturday afternoon, with supporters in fine voice and fettle, West Ham conspired to concede three times within the opening 20-minutes.

A scuffed penalty from the Pillsbury Dough Boy and a low angled drive from Joe Cole were followed by a fine half-volley from Michael Ballack after some good approach play, to thoroughly douse any hopes of a famous victory.

And all this prior to Nicolas Anelka incorrectly having a goal ruled out for offside. Not even the dismissal of Lampard, (thanks to yet more Boa Morte genius), could negate the deflation.

Ashley Cole added a fourth before the sweet release of the final whistle to make it the third time in five games that we had conceded four against Chelsea.

A massive anti-climax all round, and what did tactical supremo Alan Curbishley have to say in response?

"My players have done fantastically well this season. We have had major injury problems. I'm not going to criticise them."

Grrr, indeed. This was justifiably the beginning of the end for Curbishley, not to mention the first of our three consecutive 4-0 drubbings.

A rosier view of history would tell you that our overall record against Chelsea remains a positive one with 52 wins to 47 losses.

A Machiavellian use of statistics, no doubt, but at this blog we choose to spurn painful realism. It is this same approach that informs you that both Headhammer Shark and I are fine figures of men.

6. Picture Book

The shame of that penalty miss eventually proved too much. John Terry decided to start a new life elsewhere...

7. Makeshift Make-Up

Injuries continue to affect our season and that is not going to change between now and mid-May.

While Kieron Dyer makes ever-increasing steps to a starting berth and therefore the treatment room, we remain without Cole, Collins, Collison, Behrami and Parker. Not to mention the more regular patrons of our shaman’s tepee.

Chelsea have leaked their fair share of goals in recent games, but it is hard to see us giving them too much trouble at the back.

Last weekend’s equaliser against Villa does not excuse Diego Tristan’s lamentable contribution since his loan signing and he is yet to appreciate that a lack of work-rate will not wash, particularly when compounded by a lack of attacking threat.

David DiMichele does have that work-rate, but the writing would appear to be on the wall. The club were only too keen to make Herita Ilunga’s loan deal a permanent one, but no such move has been touted for the Italian forward.

Our biggest omission will be Scott Parker, particularly with the recent return of Michael Essien to the Chelsea midfield. For all the plaudits hurled at Lampard, it is Essien who adds strength and resilience to the centre of the park for The Blues and makes the difference.

Mark Noble is too slight to combat the Nigerian and while an out-of-position Lucas Neill has the requisite bulk in abundance, Essien has the added advantage of mobility, allowing him to pogo around Lucas at will.

8. The Big Picture

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I think we can all be satisfied with this season, all things considered.

Back in October, had we been offered a guarantee of Premiership survival, we would’ve jumped at it. Anything above and beyond that has been a bonus in another tumultuous term at Upton Park.

Our tentative grasp on 7th spot and a place in next season’s inaugural Europa League (read ‘UEFA Cup with more money-spinning sideshows'), looks increasingly insecure given our threadbare squad and tricky run-in.

Guus ‘The Alchemist’ Hiddink has confessed that Chelsea’s quest for the League title is at an end and that they must now focus on the FA Cup Final against Everton and Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.

We can expect some big names to be rested on Saturday as a result, although Chelsea have enough depth to beat our current transient line-up with little trouble.

Still, this is supposed to be a cheerful post, so 4-2 to West Ham with Boa Morte scoring the perfect hat-trick.

9. Picture Book

"Think about it - with your teeth and my appetite, we can become destroyers of men..."

Aston Villa 1 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Hello, I Think I Remember You

Eagle eyed readers will note that the H List has been updated much less frequently of late. The non observant types will hardly have seen any discernible difference to the normal output, as we have been producing articles with Halleys Comet like regularity since the turn of the year.

There are two reasons for our lethargy. Firstly, The Boleyn Beluga has been celebrating his 30th birthday. I use the past tense as the big day was actually in March. He has therefore been "celebrating" like a Roman Emperor with a month long parade of orgies, games and grapes.

Secondly, Mrs Shark delivered Miss Shark Junior Mk III a week ago. In the lead up to this momentous event she did what all expectant mothers do - she had me dig up and relay our back lawn. She was even kind enough to lay on 10 cubic metres of soil for me to shovel and wheelbarrow from the front of my house to the back. All of which took a piffling four days.

Why am I telling you this, you ask? Mostly because I need to explain to you why there was no report for the 90 minute shitefest that was our performance at tottenham. And there you have it - I was shovelling dirt. And it was better than watching the game.

Short version - this will be a truncated H List.

2. When Finishing 7th Was Suddenly Like Winning

Due to the strange machinations of the English league and Cup system, we could finish 7th this year and qualify for the newly created Europa League. This will replace the much maligned UEFA Cup, although not in any way that could be considered "good". It has more games, no prize money and exists solely to add comfort to those clubs who bow out of the Champions League early in the piece. (I swear to God that I write stuff like this and wonder why on earth we accept the ridiculous structure of European football, simply so that we can maintain the status quo for the odious G14. There is a revolution coming my friends...).

Anyway, we have been clinging on grimly to 7th spot for a while, although our mounting injury list is making this a task of great difficulty. There has been quite some debate around whether our pursuit of a European adventure is even a worthwhile activity given that we are now operating with a squad of 8 plus the children of the coaching staff, and are therefore unlikely to be able to muster any kind of European run without seriously compromising our league position. A sound example of this would be Villa themselves who sacrificed the UEFA Cup in pursuit of the Champions League this year, only to find themselves shunted aside by the bigger boys at the end of the season. Still, if you will concede goals to Diego Tristan you can't complain too much.

3. Diego Tristan Sighting!

With only a few minutes remaining of this match Kieron Dyer attempted a volley from the edge of the box. Perhaps stunned by the sight of a non incubated Dyer, the Villa defence didn't mark the remains of Diego Tristan who was able to cleverly redirect the shot into the net using just his head and a Faustian pact.

I have no doubt that prolonged exposure to Diego Tristan is likely to be curtains for my respiratory system, and the death knell for our European ambitions, but I suppose that in the context of our current injury crisis he's doing a fairly passable job in the circumstances. That said, I'm still pretty sure that he only exists to make me think that David di Michele isn't that bad.

4. Formation Blues

I see we're still persisting with the notion of playing all of our players totally out of position. Intriguingly, I would say that Lucas Neill turned in his best performance of the year here, combining a barnstorming captains display with a prolonged bout of kicking the odious Ashley Young as well. He did all of this from central midfield, although he was switched to right back when Collins hobbled off. As far as central midfielders go Lucas Neill makes a decent full back but anyway - Bravo!

5. Them Kids

Good to see Junior Stanislas burst straight through the middle of Villa's defence early on. Less good to see him channel the spirit of Franz Carr and blaze it wide when all Newtonian Laws seemed to suggest that was fairly impossible. I like the look of Stanislas - with some seasoning and a bit more bulk I can see him as an impactful sort.

Elsewhere James Tomkins denied John Carew late in the game by scooping the ball away with his hands. My immediate thought is that the beginning of that action had to have been accidental because, frankly, what professional footballer sees a striker run through and thinks to himself "I'll just grab the ball with my hands". ? No matter how partisan you are, that would have to be a strange thought process.

Still - he definitely handled and it certainly should have been a penalty. Hurray for brazenness and poor refereeing sightlines, and don't do it again.

6. The Case For The Defence

I'd love to be able to dissect for you the Aston Villa goal, but frankly I cannot comment on a defensive alignment that I have never seen before. Namely - a set up that allowed Heskey to meander unmolested through our penalty area to score from all of 5 yards out. We resembled less a professional football team and more a random collection of electrons at that point.

Kudos to Robert Green for a marvellous save from Heskey in the second half. Of course, he might very well be of the same opinion as me, which is that if you allow Emile Heskey to score twice past you in the same game then you should kill yourself. So he would have had strong motivation.

7. I See Your Smoke, But Where Are The Mirrors?

Really and truly, what more is left to say about our management team that hasn't already been articulated elsewhere? Consider the paper thin nature of this team, and yet by the end of the game I was disappointed that we hadn't won. And this against a Villa side who have been excellent, if lucky, for much of the season.

I see that strike force and wonder how on earth we ever score a goal, I see the midfield and wonder how we don't get prosecuted under the Trades Description Act, and I look at the defence and frequently think "You're going to be busy today chaps". And yet there we are in 7th.

Look, it's not even one full season, and it's easy to be suckered in by a good start (see Roeder, G) but I can't help but admire Zola's persistence in his belief about the way we should play, and I love the discipline that is so evident in our game since Clarke's arrival. Sure, they might disappear off to Chelsea in a couple of years, but in order to get there they will have to achieve success here first. One cannot happen without the other, so I suggest ditching the petty refusal to accept Zola, and instead savour a West Ham side playing attractive football. It's been quite some time folks ...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

tottenham hotspur vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 11/04/2009

1. Opposition

tottenham hotspur have once again fulfilled their vast potential and justified massive financial outlay by hovering around the upper portions of the bottom half of the table.

This is obviously a temporary blip on their inevitable road to domination and next year will almost certainly be the year they break into the top 10.

They have ethically conducted their own transfer business this year whilst wielding the banner of financial scruples in their principled hounding of those who fall below their own high standards.

In reality, they remain an affront to all decency.

2. Form And Function

It took the dross of Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers to put an end to tottenham’s good run of recent results.

A drubbing of Middlesbrough, a win at Villa Park and a surprise defeat of Chelsea helped Spurs claim 13 points from a possible 15 prior to last weekend and claw their way out of the relegation quagmire.

We have had a peculiar time of it, pottering along with only two defeats in thirteen, doing well enough, but with the faint, curious but undeniable whiff of missed opportunity hanging in the air - like a slice of pizza you'd been keeping under the sofa but forgot was there.

We took just six points from games against Bolton, Wigan, West Brom, Blackburn and Sunderland where a more respectable return would see us chasing Everton for 6th spot.

Given our increasing list of walking wounded and long-term absentees, Zola has done a good job, but somehow it doesn't feel as if we have been in the kind of form you would associate with our league position.

This I suppose is a good thing. If we can get a bit more solidity and confidence through our makeshift starting line-up, then our tricky run-in could still bear the fruit of European football next season.

3. Note To Self - Do More Drugs

I bloody knew it. There has been method behind Luis Boa Morte’s drug-hazed madness.

A frenetic work-rate has been born of his insatiable appetite for opioids and shrewdly scheduled hallucinogen regimen.

This happy accident coupled with Luis's belief that the round white sphere on the pitch is in fact an eightball of crack, has provided us with a mobile pharmacy that refuses to remain still for a second.

His performance against Sunderland was probably the best of his West Ham career and I'd still love to see him go ballistic if he scored. A more regular run in the side is likely what with all our injuries and if he could only remember to wear boots instead of rollerblades, he'd be even better.

4. Picture Book

GZ: 'What do you mean you've got my kids?
SD: 'Just keep the results coming, Frankie and no-one gets hurt.'

5. Over Keane

Despite what tottenham fans, Redknapp or the majority of Irish sports writers will tell you, Robbie Keane is a slightly above average player. He had his shot at the big time with Liverpool and came up embarrassingly short.

Many a Spurs fan will tell you what a quality player Keane is. I can only assume that this is the common perception as he is frequently viewed alongside Darren Bent.

6. History

It was around the time of this fixture last season that I was running out of pins to stick into my Alan Curbishley doll, the 4-0 defeat coming as it did on the back of identical drubbings at home to Chelsea and away to Liverpool.

Nothing could excuse the outcome of last season’s corresponding game, not even the sending off of Boa Morte just prior to halftime. Indeed, that could be considered an advantage, but by that stage we were already 2-0 down.

The derby at Upton Park this term was equally galling, surprisingly producing the most lacklustre performance of Zola’s reign thus far against our big local rivals, ending in a galling 2-0 defeat.

It is now fully 10 years since we left White Hart Lane with all three points. This is shameful.

In the intervening decade George W Bush has come and gone, I’ve had approximately 4,000 different jobs and reality TV has spread like the cancer which is steadily picking off its dim-witted protagonists.

(Too soon? Nah, thought not.)

It is not untrue to say that we are long overdue a performance and positive result at tottenham.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

West Ham 2 - 0 Sunderland (And Other Ramblings)

1. I'm All For Zola Power

Serious question : who gets the most credit for this win? Tony Carr or Gianfranco Zola?

2. Magnet Power!

Our formation for this match was devised thusly : Steve Clarke wrote down the names of the nine fit players we had available at the beginning of the day, and the two Japanese tourists who were going to play up front. He then attached these names individually to magnets. Gianfranco Zola then drew a picture of a football pitch on his fridge, and they took turns in throwing said magnets at the door.

If you believe that I am making this up, then I would like to hear from you exactly how we ended up with the players deployed in the manner they were.

To begin with, we put our right back Lucas Neill - fresh from a revitalising 3 day round trip to Australia - in a central midfield role, where his total lack of mobility wouldn't be a factor. We followed this up by playing uber utility man Jonathan Spector at, wait for it ... right back.

Not content with this, the magnet theory decreed that debutant right winger, Junior Stanislas, would be played wide on the left, whilst all round lunatic, the very left footed Luis Boa Morte was naturally set loose on the right side of midfield.

I cannot possibly complain at the result of this game, nor can I grumble too much about how we got it, but I would have to say that we seemed to get there in spite of our formation rather than because of it.

3. The Statistics

Even as I watched this game I turned to Papa Shark with the observation that Sunderland seemed to be having a high number of attempts on our goal, but without looking remotely like scoring. This proved true as the visitors managed 8 goalbound efforts to our 6, although we did manage two more goal attempts overall (18 to their 16).

Strangely, up until the opening goal, Sunderland were well on top as our paper mache midfield was repeatedly sliced open. After Stanislas had scored, however, that was the end of it and the visitors never threatened again. Although possession was split evenly enough, with a 51% share for us, there was no incisiveness about their play, and incredibly they looked less threatening than a team with di Michele and Tristan leading the line. This is inconceivable to most English football fans.

Amusingly, Tristan drew more fouls than any other player in this match despite the fact that he possesses the fluidic movement of a lampost.

4. The Opposition

Like West Brom before them, Sunderland were hoisted on their own, utterly unambitious, petard. Facing a side who aspire to be our 2nd string, they played one up front (Djibril Cisse - who may not even count as one whole striker), and waited for us to make a mistake.

Stupidly, they had ignored both the fact that the strongest part of our team at present is our defence(*) and that Kenwyne Jones is generally a one man wrecking ball against us.

Had they shown even the slightest desire to win this game they probably would have done. Led by 9 year old Grant Leadbitter, they created a number of decent situations in the first half without truly committing themselves to attacking us. When they did break through they were generally repelled by the excellent Robert Green or the even more excellent James Tomkins.

Not that I care much for Sunderland fans, but I felt pretty sorry for them in the second half as their team capitulated like an Icelandic bank. They had it coming mind - Daryl Murphy plays for them fer' crying out loud.

(*) No. 23: Sentences I thought I'd never write.

5. The Referee

I have pondered this section for some time, and the truth is that I cannot recall a single refereeing decision of any note during this game. This in itself is probably a triumph for the official who was none other than, erm, hang on, wait a minute, it's round here somewhere ... Michael Jones.

I've never heard of him. Good stuff - keep it up.

6. Youth Is Wasted On The Young

In the week the club announced that the aforementioned Tony Carr would be granted a testimonial, it was apt that two of his latest proteges were on the scoresheet here. The first goal, however, was crafted in the Mediterranean as di Michele, Tristan and Boa Morte combined beautifully to allow Stanislas a straightforward tap in for his debut goal.

I could point out that Boa Morte was breaking down his natural left side, whilst Stanislas was rushing in from his natural right side - but that would be churlish and beneath me.

Later in the second half, Tomkins rose like a condor on the breeze and headed in an unusually accurate corner from Mark Noble. At this juncture I should point out that £9m goalkeeper Craig Gordon would have saved this if he had any talent, which he doesn't. So he didn't.

7. My Youth Policy

Hey, it's not just Tony Carr who can keep producing kids. Mrs Shark gave birth to Miss Shark Junior Mk III this week which had the doubly satisfying effect of providing me with another healthy daughter as well as distracting me from our typically insipid defeat at tottenham.

I might write a review of that game if I get some time, but frankly ... would you?