Be honest: how many of you looked at the fixture list when it was first published and feared we might not have a single point come the start of November – yet were then disappointed when we accrued “only” eight? Yep. Me too.
Of those first seven games the Liverpool defeat was particularly hard to swallow. I’m not saying Mo Salah cheated… just that there’s not a cat in hell’s chance we’d have been awarded a penalty if a West Ham player, screaming like a toddler having a tantrum, had thrown himself to the ground in their penalty area. More likely he’d have been booked for simulation.
The Match of the Day pundits agreed with David Moyes’ assessment that it was a dive although Jamie Carragher, summarising for Sky in its live broadcast, reckoned it was a pen. Can’t think why.
And as for Liverpool’s second goal – don’t get me started on the offside law! How can you be standing on the edge of the six-yard box directly between the goalkeeper and an attacking player bearing down on goal and not be ‘actively involved in play’?
While we’re in the Blowing Bubbles confessional, were you still watching when Fabian Balbuena applied his head to Aaron Cresswell’s pinpoint free kick and pulled the first goal back at Tottenham?
I wouldn’t blame you if you’d turned off the telly at half-time. Those first 45 minutes were a tough watch. Going 3-0 down to Spurs inside a quarter of an hour is bad enough: having to put up with the high-pitched whine of Sky’s Scouse equivalent of a dentist’s drill as he gleefully points out you are being taken apart by a bitter rival is more than any supporter should be asked to put up with.
As I sat on the sofa during the interval and tried to make sense of what we’d all just witnessed it felt very much like I’d just had root canal work without an anaesthetic.
Automatically, I checked my phone. What else do you do when you’re in a state of shock?
The Blowing Bubbles WhatsApp group was surprisingly quiet. Clearly my colleagues were also trying to come to terms with the horror show we’d all just witnessed. I knew that Facebook and Twitter would be a pile-on. I wasn’t in the mood for angry recriminations, so I gave them a swerve and checked my messages instead.
There were a couple, but none from my Tottenham friends. Perhaps they were being generous. More likely they are now fully aware of their club’s ability to snatch disaster from the jaws of triumph and decided not to gloat too soon.
Every year the Oxford English Dictionary incorporates new words to reflect the nation’s ever-changing vocabulary. My money is on “Spursy” being listed as the ultimate definition of this phenomenon the next time the OED is updated.
Fortified by a cup of tea (honest!) I turned to my inner self and tried to summon the spirit of Villa Park 1991 as I settled back for the inevitable hammering. Only we didn’t get hammered, did we?
I won’t lie to you – when Pablo Fornals fluffed his lines with only Hugo Lloris to beat I really did think that was that, although we were by then looking more threatening than Spurs. Even Harry Kane clipping the outside of the post instead of completing a hat-trick wasn’t enough to convince me that we were all about to witness one of the most exhilarating West Ham comebacks in recent history (and not-so recent history as well, come to think of it).
Then came Balbuena’s goal – swiftly followed by an o.g. from Davinson Sanchez.
For days before the game – and indeed for much of it – we heard non-stop that Gareth Bale was destined to be the headline news in this, his much-hyped return to north London.
At 3-2 the pundits’ man-bunned hero, on as a substitute, had his chance to make their clichéd dreams come true – and promptly cocked it up. For those of us who still haven’t quite got over his last-minute goal in the 2-3 defeat at Upton Park on the 20th anniversary of Bobby Moore’s death, this was our moment of redemption.
As it turned out, the final say in this incredible game did go to a sub. Only, happily for everyone with claret and blue in their hearts, the replacement in question was our very own Manuel Lanzini.
You don’t need me to describe his last-kick-of-the-game goal. If you’ve seen it, all you have to do is close your eyes and let the mental image replay itself over and over again while you savour the pure ecstasy of the moment. Just don’t do this if you are driving.
The celebration on the pitch was a joy to behold. It was quite lively in our living room as well, if I’m honest, although I’m pretty sure we weren’t the only West Ham supporters bouncing off the furniture like kangaroos on caffeine. Equally enjoyable was Declan Rice’s gleeful post-match interview – but he really must learn to stop wiping his nose on his shirt if he is to become club captain.
The encounter with Man City the following the week lacked the drama of the Tottenham game. But, on the plus side, it also lacked The Human Drill. Instead we got Glenn Hoddle providing so-called expert analysis.
To be fair to Hoddle (and that’s not a phrase you’ll hear me say very often) he did at least recognise that Michail Antonio’s goal was an absolute stunner – and he praised West Ham for the comeback against his former team the previous week.
He did rather blot his copybook in the second half by suggesting that had there been a crowd in the London Stadium, tension emanating from the supporters would have unnerved the West Ham defence and we’d have caved in like a house of cards.
It’s not as bonkers as some of the theories he’s come up with in the past, of course. However, that said, the back five is starting to appear pretty solid with the addition of Vladimir Coufal – who doesn’t look to me like the sort of man who loses his bottle simply because a few fans at the back of the Billy Bonds stand are starting to get a bit jittery.
Irritating though Hoddle and Carragher are, the paid-for TV channels are unquestionably preferable to Match of the Day and the cut-price commentary that is clearly bolted on to the footage supplied by their commercial rivals. Please BBC, stop pretending that you’ve sent commentators to all the games you show on MOTD in the way you once did. You’re not fooling anyone.
Talking of days gone by, here’s a piece of TV trivia. The first game MOTD showed in colour – in November 1969 – was Liverpool v the Hammers at Anfield. One of the reasons later cited for the choice was the vivid contrast of the team strips: Liverpool in their traditional all-red; us in the classic light blue with two claret hoops on which this season’s away shirt is based. As with this season, the result did not go our way. But it was generally agreed among fashionistas that West Ham were simply gorgeous, darling.
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.