Dan Coker's Match Preview

Preview: Stoke City

Blast from the past

Just over 30 years ago, on the 20th October 1984, English football was introduced to its first ever big screen – it was at Highbury as Arsenal defeated Sunderland 3-2 to retain top spot in Division One. On the same day, Everton recorded their first win at Anfield in 14 years, Sheffield Wednesday beat Leicester 5-0 and West Ham United triumphed 4-2 at The Victoria Ground, the former home of Stoke City, in front of 9,945 spectators.

Paul Allen, a product of the West Ham Academy and a player who would later turn out 17 times for Stoke in a loan spell from Southampton some 11 years later, gave the Hammers a half-time lead before a goal feast in the second half. Mark Chamberlain (father of Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) and Ian Painter netted for the Potters, but strikes from Tony Cottee and Paul Goddard, along with an own goal by City’s George Berry, ensured maximum points headed safely back to East London.

West Ham would finish the season two points clear of the drop in 16th place, while Stoke would be relegated in bottom position, picking up only 17 points and conceding 91 goals along the way.

Stoke City: Peter Fox, Wayne Ebanks, Steve Bould, Paul Dyson, George Berry, Chris Hemming, Sammy McIlroy (Steve Parkin), Mark Chamberlain, Phil Heath, Brendan O’Callaghan, Ian Painter.

West Ham United: Tom McAlister, Ray Stewart, Tony Gale, Alvin Martin, Steve Walford, Billy Bonds, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike (Neil Orr), Paul Goddard, Tony Cottee, Steve Whitton.

Club Connections

A reasonable number of players have worn the shirts of both Stoke City and West Ham United. These include: Lee Chapman, Sir Geoff Hurst, Steve Banks, Abdoulaye Faye, Clive Clarke, Matthew Etherington, Kevin Keen, John Carew, Henri Camara, Paul Allen, Danny Collins, Frank Richardson, Lawrie Leslie, Bob Dixon, Matthew Upson and Nicky Morgan. Lou Macari has also managed both clubs, with two spells in charge of the Potters.

Today’s focus, though, falls on a player who enjoyed spells at both clubs in the middle part of the last decade. Luke Chadwick began his career at Manchester United, scoring two goals in 25 appearances for the Red Devils, while also spending loan periods with Antwerp, Reading and Burnley. Chadwick signed for Alan Pardew’s West Ham at the start of the 2004/05 season and played the majority of games before Christmas on the right wing. He scored his only goal for the club in a 1-1 draw with Leeds United in a televised Friday night match, opening the scoring by bundling home after a Marlon Harewood header had been blocked. Leeds ruined Chadwick’s night however, equalising through an injury-time penalty by David Healy after the Northern Ireland striker had blatantly dived to win the spot-kick. Injury disrupted the rest of Chadwick’s season as the Hammers won promotion back to the top flight by beating Preston in the play-off final in Cardiff.

After 32 appearances for West Ham, Chadwick joined Stoke, initially on loan at the start of the 2005/06 season. Following impressive performances, this move was made permanent the following January for a fee of £100,000. Chadwick won many admirers amongst the Stoke faithful but fitness issues again caught up with him, fainting due to dehydration against Southend on the opening day of the 2006/07 season. Chadwick’s former assistant manager at Upton Park, Peter Grant, took the winger to Norwich as Stoke more than doubled their money on the England Under-21 international. He scored 5 goals in 51 matches for the Potters.

After leaving Norwich in 2008, Chadwick made 210 appearances for MK Dons, scoring 17 goals, before getting his dream move to boyhood club Cambridge United last spring. Discussing his debut for Cambridge against Welling in March this year, Chadwick told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire: “I remember coming on in a Champions League quarter-final against Munich. That was quite a nerve-wracking and an incredible experience. But this is the biggest one now. The missus buys me the Cambridge kit every Christmas or my birthday. I’ve had it the last 10 to 15 years, so to wear one in a proper game was a great feeling. I still think I’ve got years left in me. My body will tell me when it is time to stop. Ideally, I’ve got three, four, five or six years left. You never know in this game, I just want to be successful here.” Chadwick helped Cambridge win promotion back into the Football League in May after a nine-year exile for the club and has scored one goal in ten league matches so far for them this season.


Saturday’s referee will be Chris Foy; the Liverpool-based official has been taking charge of Premier League fixtures since 2001. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Foy has refereed five of our league matches with the Hammers yet to win – he has officiated in two draws and three defeats. Foy was the man in the middle on the opening day of the season against Tottenham at Upton Park, awarding the Hammers a first half penalty and sending off Kyle Naughton, only for us to lose the match 1-0. James Collins was also shown a red card in that game.

Possible line-ups

Stoke will be without Peter Odemwingie and Glenn Whelan through long-term injuries, while Robert Huth is also sidelined. Phil Bardsley and Peter Crouch picked up suspensions in the League Cup tie in midweek, depleting Mark Hughes’ resources still further.

Sam Allardyce will give Diafra Sakho until Saturday morning to prove he is fit enough to play after suffering heavy bruising to his shoulder in last week’s stunning victory over champions Manchester City. Sakho has reportedly progressed from a 30% chance of playing earlier this week to 50-50 as of Thursday. Should Big Sam decide to start the striker, who is brimming with confidence and self-belief, it is unlikely he will last anywhere near 90 minutes. It will be expected that Carlton Cole will certainly see action at some stage in Saturday’s match. James Tomkins and Matt Jarvis should return to the matchday 18. Winston Reid is one yellow card away from accumulating five bookings and therefore a one-match suspension.

Possible Stoke City XI: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; N’Zonzi, Adam; Walters, Arnautovic, Moses; Diouf.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Jenkinson, Collins, Reid, Cresswell; Noble, Amalfitano, Song; Downing; Sakho, Valencia.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Preview: Manchester City

Blast from the past

Saturday 25th September 1982 was an astonishing day for goalscoring in English football’s First Division. Fifty goals were scored, including an 8-0 victory for Watford over Sunderland (probably a scoreline the Wearsiders have seen enough of this week!), a 6-0 away win for Ipswich at Notts County and a 4-4 draw between Stoke and Luton. With Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ at the top of the charts, it was Manchester City who endured a ‘Rocky’ time at Upton Park, in front of 23,883.

Scottish striker Sandy Clark packed the biggest punch, bagging a brace in a match which was to prove his finest hour in claret and blue after signing from Airdrie for £200,000 that summer. Paul Goddard and Francois van der Elst were also on the scoresheet in a game which saw the Hammers tie down fourth place in the top flight (something Hammers fans have loved seeing over the last seven days!). Phil Boyer managed a consolation effort for City, who were managed that day by ex-Hammer John Bond.

In a season that would see a goalscoring debut for Tony Cottee on New Year’s Day against Tottenham, West Ham would finish in eighth position, while Manchester City would be relegated.

West Ham United: Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart (Neil Orr), Billy Bonds, Alvin Martin, Frank Lampard, Alan Devonshire, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike, Francois van der Elst, Sandy Clark, Paul Goddard.

Manchester City: Alexander Williams, Bobby McDonald (Dennis Tueart), Paul Power, Ray Ranson, Kevin Bond, Tommy Caton, Graham Baker, Age Hareide, Asa Hartford, Kevin Reeves, Phil Boyer.

Club Connections

A large group of players have turned out for West Ham United and Manchester City. They include Marc-Vivien Foe, Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy, David Cross, Phil Woosnam, Justin Fashanu, Stuart Pearce, Trevor Sinclair, David James, Kevin Horlock, Tal Ben Haim, Mark Ward, Steve Lomas, Trevor Morley, Paulo Wanchope, Michael Hughes, Ian Bishop and Tyrone Mears. Ex-Hammers Frank Lampard and Richard Wright are currently on the Citizens’ playing staff. Malcolm Allison and John Bond join Pearce as West Ham players who have gone on to manage City.

Today’s focus though falls on a player who played an ill-fated eighteen matches in all competitions for West Ham in 2011, having joined on loan from this weekend’s visitors – Wayne Bridge.

Bridge started his career at Southampton before joining Chelsea in a deal worth just over £7m in 2003. The left-back moved on to Manchester City in the January transfer window of 2009 for a reported fee of £10m. He is perhaps most remembered for an episode which culminated in his much-publicised refusal of a handshake from John Terry, which was interlinked with Bridge’s self-imposed termination of his England career – he won 36 caps for his country, scoring one goal. Bridge’s first-team opportunities at City faded with the arrival of Aleksandar Kolarov and, later, Gael Clichy. He made 58 appearances for the club, without scoring.

Bridge was offered an escape route in January 2011 by the relegation-haunted Hammers. He played in both the semi-final of the League Cup and the quarter-final of the FA Cup during his brief West Ham career but these Cup successes were not supplemented by points in the Premier League and the club was relegated as the division’s bottom side. Bridge would return to his parent club but was shipped out on loan again, this time to Sunderland.

Bridge would later have to drop a division for regular football, joining Brighton for a successful 2012/13 campaign. He turned down the chance of an extension to his time with the Seagulls, opting instead to join newly-relegated Reading. The ex-England left-back announced his retirement from the game in May this year.


Saturday’s referee will be Martin Atkinson; 2014/15 is Atkinson’s tenth as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Atkinson has refereed six of our league matches, officiating in two wins for the Hammers, one draw and three defeats. Atkinson was the man in the middle for an away victory for Manchester City at Newcastle on the opening day of this season and the Hammers’ 2-2 draw at Hull in September.

Possible line-ups

West Ham United’s squad is set to be boosted by the return of James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyate for this clash between two of the top four (!). James Collins was fantastic last week at Burnley but the extra mobility offered by Tomkins may see him earn an immediate recall to the starting XI. Kouyate could replace Morgan Amalfitano, joining Mark Noble and Alex Song in midfield, with Stewart Downing at the tip of the diamond.

Manchester City’s line-up is difficult to predict following the long and arduous journey to and from Moscow this week, coupled with the fact they return to Premier League action swiftly with this Saturday lunchtime kick-off. They travel to Upton Park knowing, however, that a win will close the gap to Chelsea at the Premier League summit to just two points, with Mourinho’s men facing a trip to Old Trafford on Sunday. The Manchester press seem to suggest that Edin Dzeko’s poor recent Premier League form could see Manuel Pellegrini start with Sergio Aguero as a lone striker with Yaya Toure pushed into an advanced role off the Argentinian striker and David Silva and Jesus Navas wide.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Kouyate, Song, Noble; Downing; Sakho, Valencia.

Possible Manchester City XI: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Fernando; Navas, Toure, Silva; Aguero.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Burnley

Blast from the past

28th September 1974: Ceefax was five days old, the football world was reeling from the ending of the short but turbulent tenure of Brian Clough at Elland Road, Carl Douglas was ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ at the top of the charts and the country was twelve days from its second General Election of the year. And West Ham United scored five goals in one match away from home. Heady times indeed.

Being West Ham, we didn’t make it easy – we let three in at this weekend’s destination, Turf Moor, that day in front of 17,613. But legends Brooking and Bonds were on target, supplemented by a Billy Jennings strike and a double from Keith Robson. The 5-3 victory was one of only three on the road in 1974/75. Burnley would close the season in tenth position, while the Hammers would finish in thirteenth place and as FA Cup winners.

West Ham United: Mervyn Day, John McDowell, Kevin Lock, Tommy Taylor, Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Graham Paddon, Billy Jennings, Keith Robson, Bobby Gould.

Club Connections

A small collection of players have turned out for the Hammers and the Clarets. They include Tyrone Mears, Frank Birchenough, Matt Taylor, Jack Tresadern, Walter Pollard, Junior Stanislas, Herman Conway, Reg Attwell and Zavon Hines.

Today’s focus though falls on a player who had just a short stint at West Ham before finishing his career with Burnley – Joe Gallagher.

Gallagher was born in Liverpool in 1955 but signed for Birmingham City as a 15-year-old trainee. After 335 appearances for the Blues (and one England B cap), the central defender moved to Wolves in 1981 for £350,000. Within months, the Molineux outfit were declared bankrupt and Gallagher’s contract was cancelled by the club.

The Hammers were suffering a defensive crisis in late 1982 – Alvin Martin was injured, Ray Stewart was suspended and Billy Bonds had a broken toe. Gallagher himself took up the story in an interview with the official club site in 2011:

“My move to West Ham came out of the blue. It was a Sunday evening and I was putting my daughter in the bath as usual when my phone rang. It was about 7.30pm and on the other end of the phone was John. I couldn’t believe it was John Lyall, but he asked if he could come up and speak to me about signing for West Ham.

“I said ‘Yes’ and within two hours there was a knock at my door and there was John on my doorstep. John explained that West Ham had a few defenders out.

“John told me that night he really needed me to come to West Ham, which I said was fine, but he said there was one problem. I thought ‘Oh no, here we go, there’s a problem’. He said ‘You have to come with us now’.

“I said ’That’s not a problem, give me two minutes to pack a bag’. So I packed a bag and within a couple hours me, John and Eddie Bailey, who’d come up with John, were back down in London and they put me up in a hotel in Essex.”

“John took me down to West Ham on that Sunday night and although I was only there for about nine months, I had a fantastic time. It was a dream come true for me to be playing and getting changed alongside the likes of Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Alvin Martin, Phil Parkes and Ray Stewart.”

“It was an absolute joy being at West Ham. We’d go into training and every day it would be different. John took a lot of the training but there was also a lot of input from Ronnie Boyce.

“It was amazing because every training session was different. If you ask most players from the ‘70s and ‘80s, training was pretty boring and it was the same thing every day. At West Ham it was different every day. I’d come off the training pitch and say ’I’d never done that before’ and all the lads would say they never did the same session twice. Every day was an absolute joy.”

“The first thing that struck me about John was how down to earth he was. He told me not to call him ‘Boss’ but to call him ‘John’. I thought for someone so high ranking it was amazing that he didn’t want to be called ‘Boss’ but ‘John’.

“Also, everyone at the club was treated the same – Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, Francois Van der Elst, or the youngsters coming through, the likes of Tony Cottee and Alan Dickens. John was not only a top football manager but a thorough 100 per cent English gentleman.

“I couldn’t believe the way I was looked after at the club. On the first and second days that I was at the club, I was treated like I had been there for 15 years – everyone took me under their wing. I would go back to my hotel and think ‘This can’t be true. I can’t believe I’m being treated like this’.

“The lads couldn’t do enough to help me, the likes of Alvin Martin and Ray Stewart would even take me round the local area to look for houses to buy.”

After nine league appearances for the Hammers, and a couple in the cup, Gallagher signed for Burnley in 1983, appearing 47 times and scoring three goals. After playing, Gallagher managed non-league Midlands outfits Coleshill Town, Atherstone United and Kings Heath before opening a hotel and subsequently losing all the money he made from the game. Now 59, Gallagher upholds his football links through his work with the Press Association at Birmingham home games and the hospitality work he does at St Andrews, while his full-time occupation as of three years ago was as a shift manager at Land Rover. In 2012, Gallagher was one of seven former players elected to Birmingham City’s Hall of Fame.


Saturday’s referee is Kevin Friend. The Leicester-based official has been involved in top-flight matches since 2009 and last took charge of the Hammers in our 3-1 defeat at The Emirates in April. He is probably more renowned for the soft penalty he gifted Hull City in our 1-0 defeat at The KC Stadium last September when Joey O’Brien was adjudged to have shoved Robbie Brady. Friend compounded the error by later denying the Irons a clear penalty when Jake Livermore handled in the area.

Possible line-ups

Burnley are set to be buoyed by the return of several first-team regulars: defender Michael Keane and midfielders Nathaniel Chalobah, Dean Marney and David Jones could all make the starting line-up, along with striker Danny Ings. Right-back Kieran Trippier faces a late fitness test, while Steven Reid, Matt Taylor and Sam Vokes look set to miss out.

West Ham United’s squad is set to be boosted by the return of Mark Noble, James Collins and Ricardo Vaz Te. Carl Jenkinson was released from England Under-21 duty but should be fit, while Guy Demel faces a late fitness test. Sam Allardyce faces the tough decision of whether to stick with a winning side or restore vice-captain Noble to the starting XI. Mauro Zarate is the man most likely to make way for Noble should Big Sam opt to twist.

Possible Burnley XI: Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Ward; Arfield, Chalobah, Marney, Kightly; Barnes, Ings.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Song, Amalfitano, Downing, Zarate; Sakho, Valencia.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Queens Park Rangers

Blast from the past

Today’s blast from the past features our biggest post-war league victory at home against this weekend’s opponents, Queens Park Rangers. It arrived on the 21st of April 1981, a 3-0 win in front of 24,599 spectators.

The Hammers went into the game on the back of a fourteen-match unbeaten run and sitting pretty at the summit of the Second Division table. This unbeaten league run was not affected by participating in three Cup competitions, as the Hammers made the League Cup Final against Liverpool but bowed out of the FA Cup to Wrexham and the European Cup Winners’ Cup to Dynamo Tbilisi.

Paul Goddard had signed for West Ham United the previous summer in a club record £800,000 deal from QPR. He scored twenty-three goals in all competitions in his debut season in claret and blue, grabbing a hat-trick to defeat his old club in this Tuesday evening fixture. The Hammers went on to finish the season with two wins and a draw, winning the Second Division title by thirteen points from runners-up Notts County.

West Ham United: Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Billy Bonds, Alvin Martin, Frank Lampard, Geoff Pike, Trevor Brooking (Bobby Barnes), Alan Devonshire, Jimmy Neighbour, David Cross, Paul Goddard.

Club Connections

A long list of players have turned out for both West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers over the years. These include Tim Breacker, Modibo Maiga, Rufus Brevett, Iain Dowie, Leroy Rosenior, Gary O’Neil, Clive Allen, Neil Ruddock, Andy Impey, Bobby Zamora, Martin Allen, Nigel Quashie, Rio Ferdinand, Anton Ferdinand, Les Ferdinand, Steve Lomas, Danny Gabbidon, Ravel Morrison, Kieron Dyer, Ludek Miklosko, Phil Parkes, Yossi Benayoun, Keith Rowland, Trevor Sinclair, Tal Ben Haim, Paul Goddard and Hogan Ephraim. In addition, ex-Hammers Dave Sexton and Harry Redknapp have managed QPR, while former Hoops defender Glenn Roeder has managed the Hammers.

Today’s focus though falls on one of my all-time favourite Hammers – Robert Green.

Green started his career at Norwich before signing for West Ham United in the summer of 2006 for a bargain £2m. He spent six years at Upton Park, playing a key role in The Great Escape in his first season. Green produced an astonishing performance at the Emirates in a 1-0 win over Arsenal in that campaign to become a firm crowd favourite.

He was voted Hammer of the Year in 2007/08, saving three successive penalties early on in that season. The first, from Kevin Doyle, preserved the Hammers’ 2-0 lead in an eventual 3-0 win at Reading; the second earned a point with a last-minute stop from Benjani at Fratton Park in a 0-0 draw with Portsmouth; while the third denied Jermain Defoe in the 93rd minute of a 1-1 draw with Tottenham at Upton Park. He saved five more penalties in his time with the Hammers. Green was runner-up for the Hammer of the Year prize in both 2009 and 2011 and helped the club to two top-half finishes in 2008 and 2009. His final act was to help the club secure promotion back to the Premier League at Wembley in May 2012.

While at West Ham United, Green became the club’s second-highest capped England goalkeeper: he won eleven caps for his country while playing for the Hammers, behind David James who won seventeen and ahead of Ted Hufton who won six.

In the summer of 2012, after 241 appearances for West Ham United, Green signed for Queens Park Rangers. His first season at the club was disrupted by the arrival of Julio Cesar. In October 2013, Green broke a 46-year club record for consecutive clean sheets. In May this year, for the second time in three seasons, Green won promotion to the Premier League at Wembley via the Play-Offs. He has made 65 appearances for QPR to date.

I personally hope Rob Green gets the fantastic reception he deserves from the Boleyn crowd on Sunday. He was a great goalkeeper for us and a fantastic servant – he enjoyed a special relationship with the Hammers fans both home and away. The mixed response given to Scott Parker on his return was disappointing considering what he gave to the club – I really hope this is not repeated for Robert Green and that the best reaction to the four returning Hammers on Sunday is reserved for him.


Sunday’s referee will be arguably the Premier League’s worst referee, Anthony Taylor. The Cheshire-based official was the referee who had not one, but two red cards rescinded from the same game after he had ridiculously sent off Carlton Cole and Darron Gibson in the Hammers’ 2-1 home defeat to Everton in December 2012. He was also in charge when awarding Liverpool a controversial, and ultimately match-winning penalty, against the Irons in April this year. There was also controversy surrounding Guy Demel’s equaliser for West Ham in that game.

Possible line-ups

West Ham United are again without long-serving midfielder Mark Noble. Diego Poyet could continue in the holding midfield role but Sam Allardyce may look to restore Kevin Nolan to the starting line-up, given the absence of the vice-captain Noble. Alex Song could play at the base of the diamond, with Nolan at the top and Morgan Amalfitano and Stewart Downing wide. Guy Demel has missed training this week and may not be fit, with Carl Jenkinson the obvious replacement.

Queens Park Rangers should have Sandro fit but late fitness tests for hamstring victims Jordan Mutch and Joey Barton could weaken their midfield. Rangers have lost all three of their away matches so far, scoring one goal and conceding ten on the road.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Amalfitano, Song, Nolan, Downing; Sakho, Valencia.

Possible Queens Park Rangers XI: Green; Isla, Ferdinand, Caulker, Traore; Phillips, Sandro, Fer, Kranjcar; Austin, Vargas.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

Talking Point

The Farce That Is The West Ham United Ticket Office

The Ticket Office at West Ham United has made two monumental blunders in the space of a matter of days. The first affected nearly 150 travelling supporters who headed for Old Trafford last Saturday, while the latest error is glaring and affects season-ticket holders who intend to apply for Priority Post tickets for the Stoke away game.

Before I continue, let me inform you of my own personal issues with the Ticket Office over the last ten months. The first error was made in the summer of 2013 when the Ticket Office decided to re-allocate my season ticket seat which I had held for the previous eight seasons, since 2005. My main concern with this re-allocation was that I was not consulted regarding the move at any point. The only way I found out was because my dad tried to book the seat next to me for the opening game of last season against Cardiff, only to find that my seat was available for sale also! I telephoned the Ticket Office and the situation was resolved satisfactorily and I was moved back to my original seat. The lack of communication over the intended change of seat was unacceptable though – I should not have had to find out that the Ticket Office was looking to change my seat through my seat being available for sale.

The second and third errors came with Season Ticket Holder Priority Point Applications for away tickets to Norwich and Liverpool. Both of these applications clearly carried a request for coach travel but coach tickets were not issued. With no coach ticket for Norwich arriving 48 hours before the game, I contacted the Ticket Office and they confirmed a coach ticket had been requested on my form, but had not been allocated by their staff. This situation was replicated days later for my Liverpool application – I had requested a coach ticket but, again, this had been overlooked.

The fourth error occurred in the aftermath of this telephone conversation in attempting to sort out my travel to Norwich and Liverpool. The travel was confirmed and I was charged accordingly. Upon checking my email, however, the travel was again confirmed but at a price for non-members/season-ticket-holders for both games resulting in me being over-charged and having to contact the ticket office on their premium rate number again to get the extra money refunded.

I complained and, to be fair to the club, they offered me a complimentary ticket for the next home Cup match – I guess it wasn’t the club’s fault that this turned out to be the ill-fated semi-final second leg of the Capital One Cup against Manchester City! Their gesture was appreciated nonetheless.

But then the errors made with the coach travel for Norwich and Liverpool were replicated for the Man Utd away game last week. I failed to see why I should have to phone the club, regularly and on a premium rate number, to chase errors, especially when I had already flagged these errors up to the club. An apology was offered, but that was only the beginning of the dissatisfaction regarding the trip to Old Trafford.

Regular coach travellers with West Ham will be aware that trips to Manchester and Liverpool depart at 8am for a 3pm kick-off. The club made the decision that the coach for Old Trafford would depart at 9am, an hour later than usual. Unsurprisingly, this led to the coaches arriving at Manchester United at 2.57pm, seeing 150 Hammers fans having to run straight into the ground with no opportunity to savour the pre-match atmosphere, the stadium in general or to enjoy a pre-match pint or pie. More importantly, we weren’t there to help counter the 70,000-odd Man Utd fans and offer our support to the players during the warm-up and when the teams came out for kick-off.

On the way to the ground, the coaches stopped for their usual 30-minute stop at a services on the M6. We left Corley Services, near Coventry, at 12.10. Even with perfect traffic, this would have seen us arrive at the ground at 2.30 – tensions continued to rise on the coach as kick-off time approached and we were still miles from the ground. The drivers informed us that six hours should be allowed for a journey to Manchester and that the club had made a grave error in timing. I know from my own trips to Manchester that, considering potential difficulties on the M1 and M6, the exact time suggested by the drivers should be allowed, not the four hours (including stops) that the club had allowed to get us there by 2pm.

Some will say “at least you were there for kick-off”. That’s fair enough, but when you pay £34 for a coach ticket (vastly over-priced according to the drivers themselves, which was very interesting in itself) and £47.50 for a match ticket, you expect an away day experience, not just the football.

And now for the Stoke error. The club revealed late on Tuesday 30th September that Priority Post applications for the Stoke game must be received by 5pm on Wednesday 1st October. This is, literally, impossible for fans to post applications and ensure they get to the ground on time. What are they thinking?!

West Ham United have, in my perhaps biased opinion, the greatest away fans in the country. I myself attend the vast majority of away games and find these increasingly regular errors unacceptable for a supposedly upwardly-mobile Premier League outfit. I have complained to the club but the events of this week have led me to write this post in the hope that experiences such as Manchester United and the Stoke application process do not happen again. The Claret and Blue Army deserve much better…

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