‘The games have come thick and fast and we’ve struggled’

Covering the highs and lows of our campaign so far with plenty of forgettable games has made for a compelling diary

Pablo Fornals (WHU) celebrates scoring the West Ham goal (0-1) at the Aston Villa v West Ham United EPL match, at Villa Park, Birmingham, UK on August 28, 2022.

At the start of this season, just for my own amusement, I decided to keep a diary. I didn’t want it to be too elaborate, just random thoughts with entries after every game.

And with the Premier League pausing for the World Cup, I thought now was a good time to share my thoughts of the season so far, kicking off way back in August and the visit of Manchester City.

7 Aug: A new season means a new dream to replace the old one; everyone’s equal and anything’s possible. The London Stadium is bathed in sunshine as I negotiate the NFC ticketing system with surprising ease. We huffed, puffed and didn’t blow the house down. In fact we barely got near the garden shed let alone the house. Manchester City were always in control and a 2-0 victory belied their dominance. 

14 Aug: Our second game away at Nottingham Forest seemed charged on many levels. Forest are back in the Premier League after a 23 year absence. They must surely be riding on a wave of emotional energy. And so it came to pass. A 1-0 defeat wasn’t what we deserved; but to hit the woodwork twice, have a goal disallowed and miss a penalty; it just wasn’t our day.

17 Aug: The indignity of a play-off for the Europa Conference League is upon us. Viborg of Denmark are the opponents and I have a ticket. But everything conspires against me. There is a massive signal failure on the Central Line; and alternative routes on national rail are denied courtesy of an RMT strike. A 3-1 victory seems like a satisfactory result. Good to see Scamacca get off the mark, and Maxwel Cornet appears to be a wise acquisition.

21 Aug: Brighton at home, oh hell that’s all we need in our current pointless state. A team we’ve never beaten in the Premier League. Four defeats and six draws, and they stopped us qualifying for the Europa League last season. 

Thilo Kehrer brings down Welbeck for a penalty in the 20th minute. 1-0 down and fans booing Zouma. Brighton time wasting in the 33rd minute. People already heading off for a drink, frankly I don’t blame them. Being bullied off the ball too easily. Brighton are the classic long ball side, pumping balls out to Welbeck, but it works as we lose 2-0. A Premier League start from hell.  No goals, no points, no good. 

25 Aug: Second leg against Viborg in the Europa Conference League. Didn’t bother looking for an online stream. Instead followed via the BBC website. Scamacca starts and scores in the 22nd minute. Whilst we have to take into account the quality of opposition – playing upfront with Cornet seems to be working. Two starts and two goals, hasn’t Moyes got the message yet?

28 Aug: Pleasing signs that Hammers are raiding the piggy bank. Emerson and Paqueta look to be decent signings. And it’s a miracle away at Villa. One goal, three points: luxury! Just about earned it on the strength of our second half performance.

31 Aug: Feels far too early in the season for our ‘Cup Final’ but here it is. Spurs in the Champions League and West Ham scratching around in the Conference? A rich seam of derision lies in wait. Feels like they’re booked the Dorchester and we’re at the local Premier Inn. 

Pre-match touchline interview with England striker Ellen White; a lifelong Hammers fan (god bless her), makes all the right noises and is duly anointed as a ‘celebrity fan’. Match announcer cranks up the atmosphere promising a carnival atmosphere, hinting that Paqueta won’t get away with a simple ‘hello’. Someone’s waving a Brazilian flag, that’s about as ‘carnival’ as it got.

The lights dim and flood lights flash intermittently. Budget obviously didn’t stretch to a proper laser show. All to unveil record signing Lucas Paqueta, very nice but would love to see him play first. It might be the new rock ‘n’ roll but it’s still football to me – blood, sweat and guts. I could just do without the frills and hard sell. 

VAR takes an age to decide whether the handball by Cresswell was in fact handball. Ref finally looks and decides not. Spurs walk the ball into the net shortly afterwards. First half lasts for the best part of an hour. A seemingly shorter second half brings a well-deserved equaliser. 1-1 was a fair result in the end.

3 Sept: An increasingly rare bird at Chelsea; a 3pm kick-off on a Saturday afternoon. Yet again VAR dominates the game. Cornet scores a perfectly good goal but is disallowed for a foul on the goalie. Mendy built like a brick house rolling around after moderate contact with Bowen. I’ve seen better acting in provincial panto.

8 Sept: The Queen’s death cast a shadow over the first group game in the Conference League. Those giants of Romanian football FCSB are the opponents. A poor first half performance left us a goal behind. Horrific visions of Astra Georgiu. Turned out ok in the end with respectable 3-1 victory.

15 Sept: Newcastle game was postponed as a mark of respect for the Queen. A scrappy 3-2 win in the Conference League against Silkeborg is gratefully received, an oasis in a desert called the Premier League.

18 Sept: A turgid 1-0 defeat to Everton with Fat Frank at the helm is not what I had in mind. In the bottom 3 going into the international break. Hello darkness my old friend?

2 Oct: The Hammers are hosting fellow strugglers Wolves. Inevitable talk of Moyes being under pressure; from messiah to pariah quicker than you can say ‘Watford have a new manager’. But that’s the way of the world. A fairly non-descript game distinguished by the result and a peach of a goal scored by Scamacca.

6 Oct: Anderlecht away in the Conference League; the only real glamour fixture in our group, isn’t it nice when other clubs are the make weights and not us? A hard fought game, but three substitutions are pivotal in a 1-0 victory. It’s now official David Moyes is a genius. 

9 Oct: Fulham at home in the crisp autumn sunshine. Chilled premonitions about the afternoon ahead. We are unbeaten in 11 home Premier League games against Fulham; tell me that’s not a record just begging to be broken? We go behind but parity restored when Bowen converts a penalty; the result of a foul by Pereira on Dawson. Looked like they were rehearsing for ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. More VAR hysteria in the second half as Scamacca and Antonio both score with apparent use of the hands. The former is debatable but the latter was clearly handball. A 3-1 victory, so I was wrong, hurrah! Undeniable proof this diary is written in real time.

13 Oct:  The return fixture against Anderlecht on a surprisingly mild October evening. We comfortably knock the ball around and soon go into the lead as Benrahma smartly converts a free kick. The result never seemed in doubt as Bowen finished a sublime move in the second half. We leak a consolation goal near the end but with no real consequence. 

16 Oct: Southampton had score draw written all over it and so it came to pass. A cracker by Declan Rice is a candidate for goal of the season.

19 Oct: Liverpool away. One of my least favourite fixtures as we’ve only been massive twice in 59 years at Anfield. And the nightmare continues as we lose 1-0 although deserved a draw. Jarrod Bowen has a penalty saved by Alisson. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?

24 Oct: A rainy, miserable evening and we’re playing Bournemouth at home. Not a classic game by any means. Blatant handball in the build up to Zouma’s goal. Roundly booed (again) when he scored. Penalty converted by Benrahma near the end. Three points and high 5’s all around.

27 Oct: Silkeborg in the last home game of the Conference League. A flat atmosphere and a game that felt more like a training session. 1-0 in the end but the winning margin should have been much greater. 

30 Oct: Sunday afternoon, feet up watching the Hammers play Manchester United at Old Trafford. A strong performance against the Mancs yet end up on the losing side; it seems to be a recurring theme away from home.

3 Nov: Final group game in the Conference League is something of a victory roll. The kids play well and contribute to a comfortable 3-0 victory.

6 Nov: London derby against Crystal Palace who are easily the better side but we go into the lead. Zaha equalises and sets up the winner. We played poorly and Palace deserved the win. Nuff said. 

9 Nov: A graveyard in the Carabao Cup as five London clubs are eliminated. We lose 10-9 on penalties to Blackburn Rovers, who are a decent side but a game we should easily have put to bed.

12 Nov: Leicester at home and last game before the World Cup. We give Leicester time and space to walk the ball into the net. But pummelled them for most of the first half without any joy.

Daka goes down after a perfectly good tackle by Dawson but stays down for a full two minutes. Gets up after VAR awards a penalty. Our fans are outraged but these decisions are routinely given. Fabianski saves brilliantly from Tielemans but we’re still 1-0 down at the break. Second half is similarly frenetic but we look less likely to score. They hit us on the break and we lose 2-0.

Not exactly a full scale crisis but sense we’re not far off. A break for the World Cup could do us good. Declan Rice is selected for the England squad but they are two West Ham players short of a World Cup win. Let’s hope I’m wrong?

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