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".

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