Wednesday, 19 October 2011

West Ham United - Upton Park

15th October 2011

West Ham United 4-0 Blackpool

Having procured tickets for a Sunday game at The Emirates, Son and I scanned the capital fixtures for somewhere to go to on the Saturday.  Son gave me a shocked stare when I pressed for Orient or Brentford; his preference being Stamford Bridge.  Reluctant to take out a second mortgage for tickets, I suggested a compromise, and we were just settling for Loftus Rd, when I noted West Ham United were doing one of their “Kids for a Quid” offers.  “Sorted”, as Viz’s Cockney Wanker might say.

Emerging blinking into the Autumn sunlight onto Green Street, having had to queue to leave Upton Park station, I was struck by how busy the place was…..and also by the number of scary looking folks who just seemed to be hanging around watching the crowd filter by.  So much hair and tattoos – and I am not referring to little anchors or hearts on upper arms here, but those extensive all-over jobs, which begin at the wrists, snake up the arms and under T-shirts before emerging unbroken onto necks and spreading out across faces.  For a born wimp like me, this was intimidating stuff.

From a distance, the fa├žade of Upton Park itself, (sorry, folks – it will never be the Boleyn Ground, as far as I am concerned) also looked rather intimidating, with those large castle turret things.  But they looked less so as one got closer to the ground.  

I previously could never work out if they were really impressive or just naff, but after seeing them in the flesh, as it were, I regret to say I came down in the latter camp.  Up close, I could not rid myself of the impression that they were made of Lego.  No, not even Lego, but that stuff for younger kids: Duplo.

The Upton Park Alpari Stand facade.

Inside there was another disappointment waiting - sorry, Hammers’ Fans, I did enjoy my visit, but these wee things did irk.  From TV footage, I had formed the impression the Upton Park touchlines were almost within touching distance of the crowd but, although both end stands encroached impressively, in reality the side stands were miles away from the touchlines.  

Had the pitch itself been trimmed of late, I wondered?  Was this some ploy of Big Sam’s to narrow the playing surface, all the better to take advantage of John Carew’s direct presence up front? 

If so, it certainly worked, as the big Norwegian was the difference between the sides in the first half.  In stark contrast to the visitors’ Kevin Phillips’ timid probings, CAREW thudded around the park, scattering Blackpool defenders like the proverbial ninepins.  He scored once from a glancing header in the 12th minute, and could have had a couple more.

West Ham, having been made to work hard for their half-time lead, could hardly have imagined that Blackpool would collapse so neatly following the break – for collapse they did, conceding a further three within ten minutes of the restart.  Sam BALDOCK picked up the first two – the Hammers’ attack deftly picking the locks on the visitor’s offside trap in each case - before Welsh International Jack COLLISON smash-and-grabbed a fourth.

This calamitous spell pretty much demoralised the Seasiders, particularly Barry Ferguson, who looked a forlorn figure, unrecognisable from the arrogant wee nyaff of his leisurely shooting-fish-in-a-barrel days at Ibrox, and the match sort of just drifted to a conclusion thereafter; dismal viewing for the visiting fans.

There was one piece of light relief however, when John Carew chose to have a pop at goal himself late on, rather than pass to an unmarked Baldock, who would have enjoyed a tap-in for his hat-trick.  When Carew missed, Baldock bounced around in fury tossing toys hither and thither, before stomping back downfield head resolutely bowed, refusing to accept or even acknowledge Carew’s raised hand apology,

But I am sure they later kissed and made up.

I know Martin Peters is a West Ham legend, and I should not really
be nasty, but he either needs to change his hairdresser or his Perruquier

The visiting support, resplendent in tangerine.

A Northerner managing a Southern club, and a
West Country bloke managing a Northern club.

Possibly the worst free-kick I have seen in years -
ths small smudge at the top of the photograph is the ball.

Panorama of Upton Park or The Boleyn Ground, West Ham.

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