Mark Noble was born on 8th May 1987 in Canning Town and played for Barking Colts before moving to Arsenal’s academy at 11 years of age. Known as Mr West Ham, Mark has played almost all of his youth and senior playing career at West Ham United, apart from two short loan spells at Hull City and Ipswich Town in 2006.
Noble made his senior team debut aged just 17 in the League Cup against Southend United in August 2004, helping the Hammers to a 2-0 victory. But Noble had to wait until January 2005 before making his first appearance in the league in a 4-2 defeat away to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Championship.
Mark has played for England at U16, U17, U18, U19 and U21 levels but has not been capped for the full international side in his career so far. Noble rejected a call up to the Republic of Ireland squad, qualifying due to his grandparents being both Cork born. Mark said “There are young Irish kids playing well that deserve and would appreciate an Irish cap more than I would.” He went on to explain that he has played for England throughout the age groups and although he hasn’t secured a senior place, he just couldn’t turn up to play for Ireland without it having been a dream of his.
Noble has won Hammer of The Year Award twice and promotion to the Premier League twice putting in over 470 first team appearances for the Hammers as well as being the first West Ham player to play in 300 Premier League games. Noble scored in his 300th game from the penalty spot against Stoke City. In our final year at the Boleyn, Mark had a testimonial in March 2016 and was the last player to captain the side at the Boleyn ground in a 3-2 win against Manchester United.
There have been calls for Noble to be dropped from the team and he describes the 2016-17 season as his most difficult period playing for West Ham. HIs season finished early in 2017 when he needed to have an abdominal operation. But not before he had played 35 games in all competitions and scoring 5 goals. Noble has scored some important goals for the team, in particular a volley from the edge of the area against Leicester City on 5th May in a 2-0 to secure Premier League survival. This was the same season Mark grabbed a protester who ran onto the London Stadium pitch in the 0-3 defeat against Burnley.
Noble began this season missing the first two matches with injury, returning to score a penalty against Watford in a 3-1 win and some have said that he was playing some of the best football of his career. It was said at a time when the Hammers sat 5th in the league under Pellegrini having lost just 1 match in the first seven games. Noble is a firm favourite with many fans and previous managers have spoken about the qualities that Mark brings to the team with his professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication to the team on and off the field. A stand out moment was Noble’s pass to Anderson for the first goal against Manchester United at London Stadium on 22nd September that set Yarmolenko up to score. Noble’s awareness to pause, draw defenders with a feinted turn and pass the ball inside instead of wide. Since then the season imploded with the injury to Fabianski and defeat against Oxford United in the EFL Cup.
What does Noble bring to the team? How many more seasons can he offer West Ham at this level and what role can he play, particularly with younger players, as his career inevitably draws to a close? Noble is one of my favourite players, you can see how much he wears his pride of playing for the club and his connection with the fans and key role within the team, especially when the season as difficult as this one that has yet to be completed, cannot be denied.
Born on this day, 13th May 1939: Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne was born in West Horsley, Surrey, exactly 81 years ago today, on 13th May 1939, to Irish immigrants. He played youth football for Epsom Town and Guildford City while working as an apprentice toolmaker before his schoolteacher and ex-Crystal Palace and West Ham goalkeeper Vincent Blore alerted Palace manager Cyril Spiers to the teenage Byrne’s talents.
Byrne signed a professional contract on his 17th birthday in 1956 and made his debut against Swindon while still on National Service – he played in the same Army XI as Alan Hodgkinson (Sheffield United), Bill Foulkes and Duncan Edwards (both Manchester United). Byrne went on to score seven times in 28 matches in the 1957/58 season as Palace finished in 14th place in the Third Division South. He scored 17 goals in 45 matches in the 1958/59 season as the club became founder members of the Fourth Division, new manager George Smith leading the ‘Glaziers’, as they were known, to a seventh-place finish. In 1959/60 Byrne scored 16 times in 42 matches as Palace finished eighth in Division Four. Byrne became a first team regular, and was popular with the Palace fans. A new breed of striker, standing only 5’8 but weighing 11.5 stone, Byrne was adept at dropping off his marker and finding space before either assisting a team-mate with an inspired pass or using his own skill, speed and powerful right foot to create opportunities for himself. In the 1960/61 season, Byrne scored 30 of Palace’s 110 goals as the club reached the Third Division. He left Crystal Palace in 1962 for West Ham United having scored 85 league goals in 203 appearances.
Ron Greenwood paid a fee of £65,000 to take the 22-year-old ‘Budgie’ to West Ham United, a record fee between two British clubs – a jovial character, the nickname ‘Budgie’ was the result of Byrne’s incessant, cheerful chattering. The fee was made up of £58,000 plus ex-Palace striker Ron Brett who was valued at £7,000. Brett was tragically killed five months after the move at the age of 24, when his car hit a lorry. Greenwood would later compare Byrne with Argentine footballer Alfredo Di Stefano. Byrne’s Hammers debut came on 17th March 1962 in a 0-0 draw at Sheffield Wednesday. He played 11 games in his first season, scoring a single goal, in a 4–1 home win against Cardiff in April 1962.
The 1962/63 season saw him score a hat-trick in a 6-0 League Cup win over Plymouth and end the season with 14 goals in all competitions, only one behind leading scorer Geoff Hurst. Byrne beat runner-up Bobby Moore in the Hammer of the Year voting in 1963/64 as the Hammers won the FA Cup. Byrne had amassed 33 goals from 45 games in all competitions for this season, overtaking Hurst as top goalscorer. This included a league hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Sheffield Wednesday and FA Cup goals in the fourth round against Leyton Orient, the fifth round against Swindon and two in the quarter-final against Burnley.
Byrne played for England at both youth and Under-23 levels, becoming the first Fourth Division player to win an Under-23 cap while with Crystal Palace. Byrne, however, might be described as a talented nearly man, missing out as he did on places in both the 1962 and 1966 England World Cup squads. First capped for the senior England team in 1961, for a game against Northern Ireland and while still at Crystal Palace, Byrne seemed likely to figure in the 1962 World Cup in Chile having been transferred across London for a sizeable fee in the months before the tournament. However, Byrne was involved in a post-match fracas with West Brom and former England right-back Don Howe in the tunnel at The Hawthorns on 31st March 1962. The story goes that influential figures at the Football Association – where a selection committee still carried great influence when picking the team – were unimpressed by this and consequently excluded him. Byrne notched his first England goals in June 1963 in an 8-1 away win over Switzerland but perhaps his finest Three Lions moment arrived in May 1964 when he scored three goals in Lisbon as England beat Eusebio’s Portugal 4-3, Byrne clinching his hat-trick with an 88th-minute winner.
Byrne helped England beat Wales at Wembley the following season while playing at inside-left and started in the same position at Wembley again in April 1965 for a 2-2 draw against Scotland, in a season he comfortably ended as West Ham’s top goalscorer with 25 goals. For Byrne, a man with the world at his feet, one of the First Division’s top forwards, on the verge of a European final and now having the chance to re-establish himself in the England team a year before the World Cup finals, this proved to be the last of his 11 international caps. England were reduced to ten men against the Scots when Ray Wilson was forced off by injury. With no substitutes allowed, Byrne slotted in as emergency full back – however, Byrne himself then suffered an injury to his knee but gamely battled on with the Three Lions effectively down to nine men. Byrne’s injury, however, was serious with ligament damage to the knee and he had done himself no favours by playing on. He not only had to sit out the rest of the Hammers’ triumphant European campaign, but he was still not fit come the start of the following season. Byrne returned but could only show glimpses of his previous form and was hindered by injury throughout the 1965/66 campaign. His exceptional talents were never in doubt but, although he scored eight goals for England in his 11 appearances, he never fully established himself at international level.
Three of Byrne’s eight England goals can be viewed in my video below – the first two are against Uruguay in a 2-1 win at Wembley on 6th May 1964, while the other was scored against the Republic of Ireland in a 3-1 win in Dublin on 24th May 1964.
The 1964/65 season had opened with Byrne scoring as West Ham and champions Liverpool shared the Charity Shield having drawn the game 2–2. He also scored a hat-trick as the Hammers beat Tottenham 3-2 at Upton Park (his treble can be viewed in my video below). Byrne scored in the first round of the European Cup Winners’ Cup against La Gantoise, the third round against Lausanne and in the semi-final against Real Zaragoza. In the 1965/66 season West Ham were again involved in Europe as holders of the Cup Winners’ Cup and also reached the 1966 League Cup Final. Byrne was on the scoresheet in the Cup Winners’ Cup, in the second round against Olympiakos, the third round against Magedeburg and in the semi-final against Borussia Dortmund as the Hammers exited the competition. He scored five goals in six games in the League Cup including one in the first-leg of the final against West Brom which West Ham won 2–1. Albion won the second leg 4-1 at The Hawthorns though to take the trophy with a 5-3 aggregate win. Byrne finished the season with 17 goals in all competitions behind Geoff Hurst who, on the verge of his 1966 World Cup success, scored 40 goals in 59 games.
Byrne’s last appearance for the Irons came against Sunderland on 11th February 1967 – in a fitting farewell, he scored alongside Hurst in a 2-2 draw. The 27-year-old Budgie returned to Crystal Palace, by now in the Second Division, in February 1967 in a deal worth £45,000 – his five years of service to the Hammers, consisting of 206 appearances and 108 goals, had ended up costing the club just £13,000. He scored one goal from 14 appearances in his first season back at Palace and four goals in 22 appearances in 1967/68. Byrne was proving to be past his peak as a player and, only a year after rejoining the club, he was transferred to Fulham for £25,000 in March 1968. Byrne would eventually go to play in South Africa, where he also went into management at Durban City, who he led to South African League and Cup titles in the 1970s. Byrne would go on to manage Greek side Hellenic and was voted Coach of the Year in 1993, winning a trip back to England to watch Arsenal play Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup Final that year.
Bobby Moore was a close friend of Byrne’s – according to acclaimed sports writer Brian Glanville, the two men once sat together on a warm South African night when Moore said, envisaging a partnership in management: “You and me, Budgie, you and me!” It was never to be. Moore passed away in February 1993 and Byrne died, aged 60, of a heart attack in Cape Town, South Africa on 27th October 1999. A minute’s silence was held for Byrne and his former team-mate Dave Bickles, who had died five days after ‘Budgie’, at the 0-0 UEFA Cup draw against Steaua Bucharest at Upton Park.
My video below contains six of Byrne’s 108 goals for West Ham United – his hat-trick against Tottenham on 12th September 1964, an FA Cup strike against Birmingham on 9th January 1965, a match-winning penalty against Arsenal on 27th March 1965 and a goal from the European Cup Winners’ Cup Semi-Final second leg against Borussia Dortmund on 13th April 1966.
Man Utd 0-1 West Ham, 13th May 2007
13th May 2007, exactly 13 years ago today: West Ham met Manchester United at Old Trafford, McFly were number one with ‘Baby’s Coming Back/Transylvania’ and Spider-Man 3 topped the UK box office.
Future Hammers defender Patrice Evra lined up for the hosts, as did former Hammer Michael Carrick. Jonathan Spector would make an appearance from the bench for the visitors to face his former club, while Carlos Tevez was playing his final game for the Irons before joining the Red Devils that summer.
A weakened Manchester United side were without Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand while Nemanja Vidic, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo were all named on the bench ahead of the FA Cup Final against Chelsea. The hosts were celebrating their 16th English league title against a Hammers team who needed a point to guarantee their top flight status. The visitors suffered a blow when left-back George McCartney succumbed to injury and had to be replaced by Spector. The American substitute blocked well from Alan Smith before Yossi Benayoun cleared an effort from the same player off the line and blocked the rebound from Kieran Richardson. Hanging on against the new champions, the Hammers then stunned Old Trafford with a goal right on half-time; Robert Green’s long kick upfield was won in the air by Bobby Zamora and brought down by Carlos Tevez. The Argentine played a short pass to his strike partner and went for the return; Zamora’s pass was slightly overhit and as Tevez attempted to control it, the ball spun into the air from the challenge of Wes Brown. With Edwin van der Sar rushing out, Tevez sent a superbly-executed finish under the goalkeeper’s body and into the corner to give the Irons a priceless lead. Tevez is pictured below, celebrating his goal.
By the hour mark, Sir Alex Ferguson had seen enough with Scholes, Ronaldo and Giggs all entering the fray. Green saved superbly with his feet from a pointblank Ronaldo header and stood up well to save a left-foot strike from the Portuguese superstar with his chest. In a frantic sequence, John O’Shea was denied by Green, with Spector blocking Solskjaer’s follow-up; the ball fell to Giggs who curled wide. Green later tipped a fierce long-range effort from Scholes over the bar. Martin Atkinson’s final whistle confirmed the Hammers had secured their survival following one of the greatest of escapes. The action from this game can be viewed on the WHTID social media pages.
Alan Curbishley’s Hammers finished the 2006/07 season in 15th place, while Manchester United had already won the Premier League title. Bobby Zamora ended the campaign as the Irons’ top goalscorer with 11 goals from 37 appearances. Tevez had already been voted Hammer of the Year with Zamora runner-up. Chelsea won the FA Cup.
Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Gabriel Heinze, Patrice Evra (Ryan Giggs), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Michael Carrick (Paul Scholes), Darren Fletcher, Kieran Richardson, Alan Smith (Cristiano Ronaldo), Wayne Rooney.
West Ham United: Robert Green, Lucas Neill, James Collins, Anton Ferdinand, George McCartney (Jonathan Spector), Yossi Benayoun, Nigel Reo-Coker, Mark Noble, Luis Boa Morte, Carlos Tevez (Hayden Mullins), Bobby Zamora (Marlon Harewood).
I have had several complaints in recent days about various commenters who are hijacking the comment threads for political purposes. This is a football site, not a political or Coronavirus site. Yes, I allowed Gary to post two articles on Coronavirus but I do not expect the Comment threads on football matters to be used to accuse a cabinet minister or being a holocaust denier or a snorter of cocaine. I do not expect to see people wishing the Prime Minister dead. This is an email I had from a reader earlier this morning.
I’ve been frequenting this website for 12 years and I and another few posters are absolutely fed up with some characters constantly posting unrelated heavy political messages, and they’re even spamming the thread now. (photos attached). I know a couple of people who have decided to leave the site because of some of these guys – we could try and ignore it but it fills up the whole thread and when you post a normal football message it gets derailed into politics by these angry members. Dazthehammer and HH specifically, talking about * being a cocaine snorter and holocaust denier, some saying they wish Boris died etc… I understand the current situation and football talk is limited but I as well think it’s not healthy for the site in general, now and in the future.
Just behave. It’s not too much to ask, is it? Any future transgressions will result in me withdrawing commenting rights. If you want to talk politics or Coronavirus go and find a political site.
Alvin Martin scores a hat-trick against 3 different goalkeepers in a memorable match at Upton Park in the chase for the Division 1 title during the 1985/86 season.
In April 1986, West Ham United, managed by John Lyall, were still in the race for the 1st Division league title and their season had been one of the best so far in the top flight. With a strike force of McAvennie and Cottee who scored 26 and 20 goals each throughout the season, also included a run of 9 consecutive wins. Frank McAvennie had signed in the summer from St Mirren and Mark Ward from Oldham, the Hammers were pushing both Liverpool and Everton down to the wire for the top stop. Martin himself says that “We were always accused of being too nice. Those signings of McAvennie and Ward made us a little angry.”
But the final run in for the end of the season had been impacted by the severe weather over the Winter months, restricting the Hammers to playing just 4 league games between Boxing Day and March. Due to the fixture congestion, the Hammers were faced with 9 games in 29 days throughout April, winning seven of them including the unique match against Newcastle United on 21st April 1986.
It wasn’t just the scoreline that made this such a memorable game, but the fact that Martin achieved his hat-trick against 3 different goalkeepers is something that won’t happen too often in a lifetime! The Magpies regular keeper Mark Thomas had suffered an injury during the season and loan signing David McKeller joined from Hibernian to cover, but he had also sustained an injury. Thomas had returned to the side for their trip to Upton Park which Martin says “Of the 586 games I played for West Ham, this is the one people always come back to, and they all say they were there.”
Newcastle were tenth in the league at the time but as underdogs, surely they would not have expected to be torn apart by a team playing some of the most breathtakingly free flowing attacking football that has been witnessed at Upton Park. The Hammers came out of the blocks like a team possessed pushing the Magpies back and forcing errors in defence. Hedworth brought down Orr and Devonshire’s free kick found Martin who volleyed the ball home on the 3rd minute of the game, setting the tone for the rest of the match.
By half time the Hammers were racing away with a 4-0 lead and the pick of the goals came from Orr’s 30 yard drive that flew into the net. As if it could not get worse for Newcastle, Thomas’ injured shoulder was sore and he did not return to the pitch after half time, instead Hedworth came on to go between the sticks in only his fourth first team appearance. Powerless to stop Martin’s headed second goal from Ward’s right wing corner in the 64th minute, Hedworth was lead off the field with a broken collar bone after a challenge from Cottee.
In comes Peter Beardsley to put on the keepers gloves and see out the rest of what proved to be a thorough thrashing from the Hammers. Despite being in line to earn his fourth cap for England in the upcoming match against Scotland at Wembley as a forward, Beardsley’s short comings in goal were cruelly exposed. Martin’s final goal for his hat-trick was from the penalty sport after Roeder had handled the ball. Magpies managed a consolation goal from Billy Whitehurst, but goals from Ray Stewart, Glenn Roeder – own goal, Frank McAvennie and Paul Goddard secured an 8-1 victory that took the Hammers above Manchester United on goal difference and 3 games in hand.
In the end, West Ham missed out on 2nd place in the final game of the campaign losing 3-1 to Everton after Liverpool had won the title on the previous final Saturday of the season. At West Ham, Martin says there were no regrets. ‘We didn’t throw it away, we were just behind a brilliant Liverpool team.’ West Ham won the next four matches after beating the Magpies at Upton Park, but so did Liverpool. In the previous season the Hammers had finished 16th so coming third was quite a marked improvement.
As all English clubs were excluded from European football after the Heysel Stadium disaster, there was to be no European tour and the following season the Hammers slipped to 15th in the league. This remains a cherished season for Hammers fans as the Boys of ’86 pushed an outstanding Liverpool side to the end of the campaign and this match will live long in the memory of those who were there, both on the pitch and in the stands.
Up to the end of 1980 my away day record for West Ham games was P7 W0 D2 L5 F4 A15. On the law of averages I would have expected (or hoped for) a win sooner rather than later. The second and final Triumph TR7 trip on my Irons away trips was to see if the Hammers could go home with all the points from Meadow Lane, home of the Football Leagues oldest club, Notts County on 17th January 1981. As usual our fans were in good voice. Even more so after Pat Holland gave us the lead and we should have gone in at the break well ahead but Don Masson’s midfield performance inspired the midlands club to draw the Division 2 clash 1-1. Unfortunately Holland got injured whilst scoring and never played in the first team again. The only triumph I saw was written on the front of my car. Team; Parkes, Stewart, Brush, Bonds, Martin, Devonshire, Holland, Goddard, Cross, Brooking and Pike. Sub; Allen. No wins from eight.
After selling the TR7, I bought what was to be my favourite car. I ventured into the Vorsprung Durch Technik world, a first generation silver VW Scirocco 1.6 GLS. Like Parkes it handled well most of the time. Like Brooking it went smoothly along. Like Cottee it went up the gears nicely. Like Repka it managed a few ‘mishaps’. It was a while before it ventured out to see the Irons on the road though. And what a debut! February 18th 1984, I drove my highway star to St Andrews for an FA Cup 5th round match against Birmingham City. I was feeling quite confident for our progress to the sixth round, standing in the away end and full of hope. Lots of noise from the travelling fans as you would expect.
Great atmosphere from kick off and through the game. Until the hosts scored the first goal. Then the second. Then the third. A couple of pitch invasions didn’t help either even though the fences around the edge was to keep fans off the pitch. Another 3-0 defeat, not even a consolation goal. Bit of Groundhog Day creeping in. We had to stay where we were well after the finish, bottles being heard smashing behind our stand. Not such a great atmosphere at full time. Another below par day out on and off the pitch. For my ninth game on the trot winless the team was Parkes, Stewart, Lampard, Brush, Orr, Walford, Dickens, Barnes, Cottee, Swindlehurst and Allen. Sub; Bonds.
That was to be the only Hammers game for the Scirocco. It was very reluctantly sold as it went to get our first house deposit for a mortgage of which I remind my wife frequently. So finances dictated a smaller motor, the piggy bank was raided and the odd bit of change that fell out went on a British Leyland Mini mark 3 1000cc which (sort of) graced the drive. No West Ham games home or away for my little tin box on wheels. If I bought a Dinky car that might have had more style to it. The big elastic band to make the car go would only turn enough rotations to get me to the shop at the top of the road let alone east London. The Mini was very Marco Boogers, erratic, a bit rusty and as reliable as Joey Beauchamp. I think it reached 57mph once but that was downhill. Eventually a newer vehicular monster arrived and but not the ZZ Top car, The Eliminator, as I had once hoped for. But it was still black, a Fiat Uno 1.1 model with red go-faster stripes but as with the stripes on the TR7 I wasn’t going to get fooled with that one again. The Fiat wasn’t exactly life in the fast lane but it took me for a journey up the A1 to Sheffield again for the FA Cup quarter final tie at Hillsborough on March 12th 1986. West Ham didn’t really get into gear until we were 2-0 down and Tony Cottee’s very well taken goal after good team work pulled one back. As much as we battled well, the Owls put the brakes on and parked the bus. All the ‘torque’ afterwards was what might have been. Ten attempts, no Churchill V-sign for the home journey. Team; Parkes, Stewart, Parris, Gale, Martin, Devonshire, Ward, Dickens, McAvennie, Cottee and Pike. Sub; Orr.
Saturday, May 3rd 1986 and it’s the boys of ’86 at The Hawthorns playing West Brom in an attempt to win our first Division 1 league title. A very significant away day for all of us but slightly different for me. McAvennie, Cottee and Stewart making the visiting support very proud in a great 3-2 away victory. In the build up to the afternoon I was very excited, nervous, trying to keep calm, looking smart, clean shaven and dressed for the occasion as best I could. But no, I wasn’t in the west midlands. And I wasn’t driving any car. I was about to enter a fine old Bentley with my wife to head for our wedding reception when a guest approached me and said ‘West Ham won 3-2’ and in almost the same breath ’ but Liverpool won 1-0’. The Reds took the title. Gutted doesn’t even come close. The Bentleys journey was of mixed emotions. We won away on my wedding day but lost out on a chance of history as well. That 10 minute ride left me a bit deflated. Even an away win ended in disappointment, whatever type of car I was travelling in at the time.
I really fancied a white car next up, the idea was to put two subtle thin looking stripes along it, one each of claret and blue similar to our away strip a few seasons back. ‘Don’t like them. White cars always get dirtier quicker’ replied my better half/boss. That’s not always true I thought. Phil Parkes talked off an away game where the boys played in a white strip at Leicester and lost on a muddy pitch but Tony Cottee’s kit stayed pristine clean for the whole game.’ He came off cleaner than he went on’ laughed our £565,000 goalkeeping giant. The rest of the team who had put in a shift and a half and got back to the dressing room covered in dirt, weren’t very impressed with Tone and told him so afterwards but not quite using the Queen’s English. But it proved white doesn’t always get dirty!
So the Fiat Uno was exchanged for another Italian, a metallic light blue Fiat Tipo. The flip up glass sunroof though couldn’t always hold out the rain, leaking quite often thus reminding me of some previous dodgy defensive displays. Preparing for my longest drive yet, I thought my James May/Captain Slow approach which I had used until then had to end so I got into a Damon Hill mental mode and it was Go-Go-Go from the green traffic light as our latest travel beast went up to Liverpool in 1993. For a weekend birthday treat, I had managed to get tickets for a first visit to Anfield for our Premier League encounter on 6th November. The Hammers who had only won four league games from the previous thirteen since season start, played well enough but second half goals from Nigel Clough and an Alvin Martin own goal ensured my record of not seeing a Hammers away win for the eleventh consecutive game carried on. Team; Miklosko, Breacker, Martin, Potts, Burrows, Marsh, Butler, Bishop, Holmes, Morley and Chapman.
After an extended sojourn from away trips whilst bringing up our little juniors, I still managed a few Upton Park clashes. I finally found my away day wheels on fire again, with a Chelsea workmate of mine (Pete, my manager) who had tickets for the Premier League game at Stamford Bridge on April 23rd, 2011. Although a staunch Blues fan, Pete always said he felt like the Hammers were his and many others second team which surprised me. Partly from the 1966 World Cup win connections but also from the playing style that had built up through the Greenwood/Lyall years. We may not win as much as some so called ‘bigger’ clubs but generally the football has been enjoyable to watch with exception to any Lou Macari game. (In my mind he was never a West Ham manager). Stamford Bridge had changed vastly since my previous visit 32 years back when to be honest it was a bit of a dump bar a large stand. Maybe, just maybe, I might get that first win on the road. Our latest family car a Vauxhall Zafira did the honours. As it turned out my seat was a few yards from our supporters so that help pep me up before kick off. Young Frank put Chelsea one up by half time then sub Robbie Keane missed a sitter early in the second half for an equaliser. Up until then Fernando Torres hadn’t scored for the Blues after his mega money transfer from Liverpool three months earlier. So it had to be against us. After 13 games and no goals, he duly obliged in our 3-0 defeat. Team; Green, Jacobsen, Gabbidon, Da Costa, Bridge, Spector, Noble, Hitzelsperger, Sears, Ba, Cole. Subs; Keane, Piquionne and Obinna. Felt like I was running on empty.
One final chance for the Zafira and currently my most ‘recent’ trip away was a second visit to Norwich on September 15th 2012 in the Premier League. A Norwich fan I know couldn’t make the game so I got offered the seats. Only problem was they were in the Barclays End Stand in the middle of the home support. I took my youngest son with me, hoping it may change my luck. Anything to get the monkey off my back. Norwich fans are generally better than most so I didn’t get too much stick. Norwich had Robert Snodgrass playing for them and loanee striker and future England captain Harry Kane who came on for them and caused a few problems. Kane could have wrapped it up for the canaries in the last minute but Jussi Jaaskelainen made the save. In a decent game Carlton Cole had a goal bound header cleared off the line but Jussi was the busier of the two keepers. We could have won it but surprise surprise we didn’t.
A 0-0 draw. A bakers’ dozen on my Hammers travels and still no away win to take home, savour or watch on Match of the Day. Team; Jaaskelainen, Demel, Collins, Reid, O’Brien, Noble, Diame, Nolan, Vaz Te, Taylor, Cole. Subs; Henderson, Tomkins, McCartney, Diarra, Benayoun, Jarvis,and Maiga.
No more away excursions since then but my latest Dagenham Dustbin may yet be the lucky one. On the road following West Ham United is rarely a smooth one but can be very enjoyable as columns written on this site in recent times have shown. Some of you have seen many, many more away games than me so you know what it’s like, good, bad or complete disaster. My current magical (tragical?) mystery tour of competitive away match day statistics are; Played 13 Won 0 Drew 4 Lost 9 Goals; For 6 Against 26. That digit after the ‘Won’ has been niggling away at me whilst writing this piece. Looking at those statistics, it doesn’t make great reading. The equivalent of a third of a season’s games spread just over three decades but somewhere along the line I will get to see the boys win on the road before the wheels finally fall off. Happy travels all.