When even Smith says Arsenal were lucky you know it’s true..

Brian Williams on life after his season ticket and getting to grips with his TV...

There was me thinking this was going to be the year of the armchair supporter. Then it turns out the king of the couch potatoes is actually our very own David Moyes, who was forced to manage the team from his settee after testing positive for Covid-19. 

The Moyesiah, you will recall, had to self-isolate shortly before we played Hull in the Carabao Cup – a game we won comfortably much to the anguish of David Sullivan, who was far from happy that he had to fork out 50 grand to send a team to Everton in the following round.

As it turned out he could have saved his money and not bothered as we crashed out 4-1. Ah, the injustices of owning a football club. 

Unlike Mr Sullivan, my personal finances have improved considerably as a result of the ban on supporters going to games.  No train fares; no pre-match beer; no half-time beer; no post-match beer – the savings are considerable. I never realised just how much I spent on train fares.

Not that I would have been exercising my Senior Railcard for the Betway Cup final that is always billed as a high-profile curtain raiser to the season but is, in truth, nothing more than a glorified kickabout.

I did go to the game against Juve in our first season at the new stadium, but I haven’t bothered since.

The Betway Cup and its guarantee of a place in the final reminds me of the time when, as a schoolboy, I realised that having your own ball wasn’t always enough to get to be a captain in playground matches because other kids had the same idea and came similarly equipped. 

So I made my own cup out of an upturned saucer, cotton reels for the stem and a teacup minus its handle, all glued together with my dad’s Araldite and covered in silver foil. There’s no argument about who will skipper one of the sides when you’re supplying the trophy.

Despite being perennial finalists, the Betway Cup is not a tournament in which West Ham have had a great deal of success. This year proved no different as Bournemouth handed us our shorts on a silver tray – scoring five in the process. 

I watched the game on a live stream. At least the stream was live. Half our side looked like the living dead. 

But, hey, why worry? This was merely a pre-season warm-up game: they’d surely appear more interested when the season started in earnest. Wouldn’t they?

The Premier League kicked off a week later. And we were terrible. West Ham 0, Newcastle (complete with Andy Carroll) 2 rather tells its own story.

Despite Sky pundit Alan Smith repeatedly telling us how good our opponents were, the Geordies looked pretty ordinary from where I was sitting – which was on the sofa in my living room rather than block 138 of the Billy Bonds Stand. 

This alteration to my usual seating arrangements turned out to have a distinct advantage come the final whistle. 

Rather than face a miserable trudge from the London Stadium to Stratford International, punctuated by infuriating stop-go boards that would be better stored in a place where the sun don’t shine, I merely had to reach for the remote control, switch channels and settle back knowing that getting home wasn’t going to involve a two-hour trek.

Earlier that day, in keeping with my new life as an armchair fan, I had watched the West Ham Women’s XI making a rare televised appearance. 

They played Arsenal at Dagenham in a game that was part of the initiative to get fans back into stadiums – hence the TV interest.

For half an hour it was a cracking game. The Gooners went one up, but Kenza Dali equalised soon after. With West Ham’s Australian goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold in outstanding form there was just a hint of an upset in the air. Then the whole thing was ruined by VAR – Very Average Refereeing.

The second Arsenal goal should have been ruled out for offside – and West Ham captain Gilly Flaherty left the ref and her assistant in no doubt what she thought about the decision in what my old Mum would have described as unladylike language. Unfortunately, Flaherty had already been booked and her tirade earned a second yellow and first use of the plumbing.

Without their skipper and most influential defender West Ham promptly fell apart, conceding two more before the interval and a further five in the second half. 

There can be no denying that 9-1 is a proper thumping, and I’m not suggesting that West Ham would have definitely beaten Arsenal if Flaherty had stayed on the pitch. But it certainly would have been a better game. 

With the TV cameras there, this was a huge advert for the women’s game – and the ref killed it as a spectacle with the sending off. 

Of course officials shouldn’t have to take a broadside of abuse every time they make an unpopular decision, but sometimes the greater good is served by the application of a little common sense rather than a strict interpretation of the law.

A stern warning rather than a red card would have been enough. One Mike Dean is bad enough. We don’t need a Michaela as well.

The following week saw the men’s version of West Ham v Arsenal. This was at the Emirates – one ground where the lack of home fans makes no difference to the atmosphere.  

There was a considerable improvement in West Ham’s performance from the previous week and we were genuinely unlucky not to get something from the game. Even Alan Smith, once an Arsenal player himself and again on duty as Sky’s expert analyst in the commentary box, had some sympathy for us.

This was three days before Moyes tested positive for coronavirus. At the Emirates it would have been interesting if he’d had a blood pressure test – it must have been sky-high given the frustrations he had to endure during the 2-1 defeat.  

Conceding a goal against the run of play; being denied a penalty that most pundits saw as a clear handball; an Antonio header that came back off the woodwork; an offside trap that failed to do its job – it was enough to push anyone’s stress levels to danger point.

Wolves, in our next Premier League game, were predicted to provide West Ham with a stiff examination at the London Stadium. 

We were told that Moyes, despite having to work from home, was still in charge of team affairs. Certainly, every time the TV cameras honed in on Stuart Pearce he was talking animatedly on the phone. 

Assuming he was speaking with the manager rather than Deliveroo, the gaffer’s instructions clearly did the trick.

Scoring four was a joy. Even more pleasing was the overall performance, with a system that clearly suited the players Moyes selected. 

In particular, a back three protected by Declan Rice and the excellent Tomas Soucek looked more comfortable than a DFS sofa.

Oh, sorry about that. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned a furniture store that is famed for its regular sales. 

With the deadline involving domestic transfers extended until the middle of October this is really not the time to be giving David Sullivan any ideas about how he can recoup his losses. 

If you enjoy Brian Williams’ Blowing Bubbles column look out for his two brilliant books, Nearly Reach The Sky and Home From Home. Both are available on Amazon.

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