From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

It’s been a strange start to the season for the mighty ‘ammers. First off, we managed to lose the first game, at home to the Spuds, when we should really have won it. Having been awarded a penalty and seeing a Spurs defender sent off for the offence, Noble then pulled the spot kick wide of the post. We played well in the rest of the game, and it was notable that we were playing a more expansive game and the “hoofs” were much limited compared to recent seasons. Unfortunately we didn’t take advantage of the apparent superiority and also went down to 10 men when Ginge was sent off. Then we got caught by an added-time sucker punch to lose a game we should have won. New boy Kouyate had a fine start, as did Aaron Cresswell.

Next up was Palace away. With Nolan injured, it meant we saw Zarate for the first time in claret & blue, and his opening strike – a volley demonstrating excellent technique – was perhaps the highlight of a fine team performance, although Downing’s goal capped a good move from out of defence. Apart from a nervy few minutes after Palace pulled a goal back, we played well throughout, and Cole’s strike for our third goal saw us out comfortably for the win.

The League Cup tie against Shitfilled United was a strange affair, where once again missed chances cost us the match. After taking the lead through new boy Sakho (making his first start for us), and playing reasonably well, we then conceded a Reid own goal. The game remained deadlocked so it came down to penalties. Yet another of the new boys, Enner Valencia missed our 5th kick, and we were out. The positives were that Valencia & Sakho both had decent games, short of taking a few more opportunities

Now for the ridiculous – Southampton at home. As poor a performance from us as you’d never wish to see. We looked lacklustre (to say the least) all over the park and couldn’t seem to do anything right. We lost 1-3 and deservedly so.

Thanks to Sky, we had a Monday night trip to Hull (don’t bother to worry about the traveling fans, Murdoch!). After the Southampton debacle, some changes were required, but even so, I don’t think many Irons expected the team selection and formation that BFS came up with. Out went Cole and Vaz Te, to be replaced by Sakho and Valencia, both making their first league starts for us. The shape of the team was changed from a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 depending on your point of view, to a midfield diamond, with Downing as the attacking point. Although we managed to concede the first goal, we played well in the first half, with the new boys up front causing all sorts of problems for the Hull defence. Soon after the break, we pulled ourselves level through a stunning 25 yard strike from Valencia. Then the inevitable happened when former Hammer Mo Diame managed to find the net in his first game for Hull. Fortunately we equalised within a few minutes, with a Sakho shot that went in off a defender. We continued to look the better side and very nearly won it at the death when a Valencia header was cleared off the line.

Now for the sublime – following the encouraging performance at Hull, we faced Diverpool at home. Despite the Scouser’s dodgy start to the season, this was likely to be a tough fixture, particularly given we’d lost all 3 of our home games so far this season. We certainly couldn’t have imagined the sort of start we got. Starting with the same line-up as at Hull, with Song replacing Zarate for his first start for us. From the off, not only were we were right in Liverpool’s faces, chasing down every ball, but our movement and pace up front was causing their defence all sorts of problems. In seven minutes, we found ourselves 2 up through Reid converting a well worked free kick move, and then Sakho lobbing the keeper for the second. We had further opportunities to score again, but it was Liverpool who scored next through Sterling. The second half was always likely to be tougher, and we didn’t impose ourselves on the game as much, particularly after the excellent but tiring Song was replaced and Kouyate was carrying a knock. But we largely defended well, limiting them to a few half chances. Even so, I felt we were always likely to create more opportunities on the break, and so it proved as yet another new boy, Amalfitano nipped home a late third to clinch the win.

We started that game with 5 of our summer signings (Cresswell, Kouyate, Song, Valencia & Sakho), and 2 more came on as subs (Amalfitano & Jenkinson). Song looks class, but is not yet fully match-fit. Hopefully that will come soon, as we will be a much better team with him in it. The strikers, Valencia & Sakho, look to be very useful acquisitions, both pacy and with good movement and Sakho seems to know where the net is, having scored on each of his 3 starts for us. Kouyate has the potential to be a beast of a player for us, with bundles of energy and no little skill. Cresswell has looked useful, but needs to build up experience at this level. His poor throw-in at Hull cost us a goal. Amalfitano and Jenkinson have only had a couple of subs appearances each so far, so can’t really judge what impact they’ll have for us. As well as the 7 who played the last game, we’ve also seen an eighth newby in Zarate. He had a fine game at Palace, but since then has been a bit hit and miss. Assuming the others maintain form and fitness, I can see him being only a bit part player. If we can maintain the level of performance seen in the Hull and Liverpool games, one wonders where club captain Nolan and record signing Andy Carroll will fit in once they’re fit again. It’ll be an interesting dilemma for BFS – I hope he doesn’t bring them straight back in at the expense of in-form players, but I have a horrible feeling that’s what he’ll do.

Overall, Southampton apart, it’s been an encouraging start to the season, but where results mostly haven’t matched the performances. It’s been good to see us play a more attacking style on the deck. Hopefully the results will pick up as the team gels both with the new players and the new style.

It’s Been a Long Time Coming

Sixteen years ago almost to the day, I caught my first Kennet double-figure barbel, a fish of 10-05. Since then, Kennet doubles have eluded me, with the exception of a solitary fish just an ounce over the ten-pound mark, caught in 2002. I’ve had my fair share of nine-pounders in that time, but couldn’t quite manage to top the ten pound mark.

But yesterday at last I managed to break that long-standing PB mark. To say it came as somewhat of a surprise is a bit of an understatement. Partly because the weather was hot and sunny, so I wasn’t expecting much action before twilight set in, and the fish came on the second cast at around half four in the afternoon, just twenty minutes into the session.

The bite was typically barbel, with the rod tip pulling sharply round. As soon as I hit it, I felt this was a good fish, as it headed downstream, not at pace, but with a power that took line steadily against the clutch. As it was heading towards a fallen tree, I leaned into it and stopped it from taking line, which put the BFW Torrix rod into its full fighting curve.

Just as I felt I was beginning to win this part of the battle and retrieve some line, it all went solid. This was not good! A steady pull didn’t seem to be making ground, and neither did the trick of letting out slack line. Getting worried now! Next trick was to walk downstream to see if a pull from a different direction would work. Having to hold the rod high to keep the line above the large bed of reeds that started immediately downstream of me, I manged to get just downstream of the fish, and luckily it came free and I could pull it away from the danger.

However, the battle had a way to go yet, and I was worried that the snag may have damaged the line. Manoeuvering my way back above the reeds to where I could land the fish, I got my first sight of the fish, which confirmed that it was indeed a very good fish. The adrenalin was pumping nicely now, with all the doubts about what could go wrong before netting it running through my mind. But there were no further serious alarms, and a few minutes later, the fish was in the net.

Letting it rest in the net for a few minutes, the mat, weigh-sling and scales were prepared. Then it was time to weigh the fish. I was reasonably sure it was a double, but would it be big enough to challenge my PB mark? It was, tipping the scales at 10-15.

Barbel, Kennet, 10-15, 2014-07-26 (2)

Barbel, Kennet, 10-15, 2014-07-26 (3)

The fish was rested again in the net while the camera was set up. Eventually the trophy shots were captured on film (well, pixels anyway), and the fish was returned after a further rest, to swim strongly away.

After this early action, the swim remained very quiet, apart from the actions of crayfish. I’d been fishing across and downstream towards the fallen tree I mentioned above. But a change of plan late in the session saw a bit of a hunch pay off. The river in front of the reeds down from me ran deep enough to think that fish could be drawn to feed there, so as the sun began to drop towards the horizon, I started to feed a few boilies and pellets down the inside line, just a few feet from the bank.

As it got dark, I changed from the pellet feeder tactics that had accounted for the “biggie”. Putting on a straight lead and a boilie hook-bait, I cast it gently into the swim along the line where the feed had been going in. For about thirty minutes, the rod remained motionless in the rests. I’d just checked my watch and decided it was time to call it a day, when the rod tip suddenly pulled ferociously round. Grabbing the rod, I found myself into a fish that was determined to get to Reading at a speed that Usain Bolt would have been proud of. Following a lively and spirited fight, a nice seven-pounder slid into the net. A second good fish to close the session, and a satisfying feeling due to the nature of its capture.

First Fish of the Season

Just had the first fish of the new river season, a fighting fit barbel of 8lbs. It was in very good condition and quite a stocky fish – unusual for this early in the season, when the fish are still normally quite lean after spawning.

First barbel of 2014-15 season

First barbel of 2014-15 season


On arrival, my initial plans were scuppered by a notice preventing access along the top section of the fishery, due to collapsed and undercut banks caused by the severe winter flooding. Curiosity got the better of me and I explored along the bank to see what had happened (taking care not to encroach too close to the river’s edge). The damage was quite severe, with a number of long-established trees and bushes having been ripped out, many of which were regular fish-holding features. In  one spot, sandbags had been piled up to prevent the river from flowing into a new course.

So off to the bottom car park it was. The lower end of the fishery didn’t seem to have suffered any great effects from the floods – at least not visibly, there may have been some changes to the gravels on the river bed – and looked in good nick. I chose a spot that I call my “falling-in swim”, because that’s exactly what I did there (fall in that is, not swim) a few years ago, while attempting to prevent a rod being dragged in by a barbel.

I was reasonably confident of a fish or two, but had to wait almost three hours for the first bite. It was worth the wait, though, as it resulted in the fish above. When first hooked, the fish did not put up much resistance, but once it was closer in, it suddenly seemed to realise that it was hooked and proceeded to put up a spirited and strong battle for its freedom. Its efforts were in vain though, as I eventually managed to slip the net under it.

Later, a much smaller barbel, of about a pound and a half, fell to the pellet bait. A lovely, pristine little fish and hopefully a sign that there’s a crop of younger fish coming through.

Despite the forecast of mostly sunshine with a possible quick shower later, some heavy clouds began to gather and thicken, and it started to rain. Lightly at first, but soon becoming heavier. Not having full waterproofs with me, and there being no sign of the “quick shower” moving on anytime soon, I decided to call it a day. A good decision it was too, as I’d barely got a mile up the road before hitting torrential rain that very quickly had the roads running with water, inches deep in places.

Common Cravings

The river season largely fizzled out, with only 2 trips to the banks after the September Wye holiday. The persistent floods put paid to a lot of the fishing. Andy & I had a couple of days on the middle Severn in March, which were somewhat unproductive, with only a couple of barbel and a jack pike to show for our efforts.

There were also a couple of trips attempting to lure a pike or perch from the canal. Apart from one very small pike (and I mean small!), this was a fruitless endeavour.

So, come the spring, and time to set sights on some carp and maybe some tincas. Off to the canal we went, and bloomin’ chilly it was too, with the spring sun yet to make its mark on the countryside. It seemed the fish were waiting for some warmth to bring them to life as Andy managed one carp, but I blanked.

Next on the agenda was an effort to catch a tench. We studied our club cards for a suitable venue and chose one, only to discover it was shut on the day we intended to fish due to a working party. So more research was done, and a second venue was chosen. There were two lakes on the site, but as one had a river running through it, it was shut for the close season. Typically, it looked the better of the two lakes, but the other one certainly looked good.

There's Tincas Out There Somewhere

There’s Tincas Out There Somewhere

Unfortunately the fish refused to come out to play, and our efforts came to nought.

Andy rests his eyes while waiting for the bite alarms to play a happy tune.

Andy rests his eyes while waiting for the bite alarms to play a happy tune.

Next up was a return to the canal in search of the elusive cyprio. The weather was at last showing some spring warmth, with temperatures moving into the low 20’s. Some warm sun on their backs seemed to improve the carps’ appetites, as at last I got some bites. I was keeping an ear on the commentary from the FA Cup Final (why does that have to kick-off at 5 o’clock? What was wrong with a 3 o’clock start?) Somewhere in between Hull’s second goal and Arse’s first, my swim sparked into action, and the bites came faster than those early goals at Wembley. First off, a common of 7lbs. Almost as soon as I’d returned the fish and put the rod out again, it was off, but somehow I failed to connect. Out went the bait again, and within a minute the alarm was bleeping furiously as a small common of about 3lbs tore off.

As with the football, the action slowed a bit after the hectic start. It was another 45 minutes before the next bite, yet another common, this one going around 6lbs and a further 30 minutes before a 5lb-er came to the net. All these bites had come to one rod, using a “Crave” boilie and pop-up, which stinks but the carp seem to like it.

The late spring sun shines on new life

The late spring sun shines on new life

It went quiet for a fair while then, and it wasn’t until the sun had nearly dropped over the horizon, before the next action. This time, it was the other rod that produced. This fish must have a sweet tooth, as it chose a white chocolate and coconut concoction. Finally, just as it got fully dark, the “Crave” rod took off again, but this time, after having played the fish for a couple of minutes, the hook pulled, much to my frustration, although I don’t think it was a particularly big fish.

So at last, the spring fishing has produced a few fish. Not big ones, but some excitement anyway.



6 league games

5 good results

4 wins

3 goals conceded

2 goals scored in each win

1 draw

Title-winning form 🙂


My first visit to the Boleyn Ground

I  recently managed to obtain a copy of the match programme from my very first visit to the Boleyn Ground, way back in 1966 (the year West Ham won the World Cup 🙂 )Ist Match Programme Cover
Not many pages in it, but there’s some history there. The teams, with some famous names on both sides…Ist Match Programme Team 1

Death of Frank Cearns…Ist Match Programme Frank Cearns RIP 1

Appointment of Rob Jenkins and the early days of Remfry’s Records…Ist Match Programme Rob Jenkins 2

Naughty boys!…Ist Match Programme Terrace Trouble 1

Wet Week on the Wye

Late update this one, as it’s about the week on the Wye that Andy and me spent on the Wye back in September, trying to catch a few barbel.

The journey down kinda set the scene for the week, as it rained heavily throughout the journey. Having arrived in Ross, where we were staying for the week, we then spent ages trying to find the tackle shop in order to get info on day ticket waters. Eventually we found it tucked away behind the high street. Options for day ticket waters seemed limited, so we decided on fishing a stretch downstream of Ross. The sat-nav managed to confuse me, and we had a nightmare of a roundabout drive before eventually locating the venue. With the river being very low and clear anyway, this section was sluggish and not very barbel-looking. I suspect it would be better with a foot or two of water on it. We blanked.

Monday’s rain did nothing to add extra water to the river, so once again we had to contend with low, clear conditions on Tuesday. But we switched to a stretch upstream of Ross that we’d seen before, and looked more “barbelly”. Rather stupidly, we decided to ignore the “flyer” that we were aware of and try other swims. Andy found a few small chub, but I had nothing. In the afternoon, I decided it was time to give the flyer a go. This involved a long cast right across the river, and I began bombing a pellet/groundbait feeder out there. After an hour or so, the rod top nodded sharply down, then dropped back as a fish made off with the bait. A few minutes later I had a lively 6 pounder in the net.

6-07 River Wye Mordiford 10-09-13

First Barbel of the Week

This was shortly followed by another barbel, this one being a new Wye PB of 9.09. Strangely, it hardly fought at all, which slightly took the edge of the new PB. A third barbel followed later, this one going around 4lbs, but it did put up a spirited battle. I lost another fish after this to a line break.

New Wye PB, 9.09

New Wye PB, 9.09

Wednesday saw us a little downstream, where we located some interesting looking swims, where the all the flow and depth was in the nearside. Very quickly I was into a barbel, and very quickly I was out of a barbel as the hooklink unexpectedly parted. But at least it showed that the swim choice was good. Or did it? I remained biteless for the rest of the day, as did Andy. Because the main flow was being channelled down the inside, it also pulled a lot of floating weed through the swims, and even though we were fishing no more than a rod length or so out, this weed was a persistent nuisance. In the afternoon, it started to rain and didn’t lay off until after we’d returned to the lodgings, by which time we were nicely soaked.

Wye @ Lucksall

Wye @ Lucksall

On Thursday, we returned to the stretch that we fished on Tuesday. Andy fished in the flyer while I started a bit downstream of him. The morning passed uneventfully, so I switched to another swim in the afternoon. Things began to liven up then, as Andy started to catch. He started off with his first-ever Wye barbel – a feisty fish of 6.11.

Andy Loses His Wye Virginity With a Fish of 6.11

Andy Loses His Wye Virginity With a Fish of 6.11

I’d only just got back from photographic duties when another text arrived informing me that he’d had a much bigger fish. This one went 9.15 on Andy’s scales and 9.10 on mine, so we couldn’t quite make it a “double”, but nevertheless it was a fine fish. Andy said that it had hardly fought, which, given the proximity of weights, made us think it may be the same fish as the one I caught on Tuesday. However, having studied the photos, I think they are different fish. He had two more barbel after that, a 7.01 and an 8.10.

Andy Looks Pleased With His Wye PB, 9.10

Andy Looks Pleased With His Wye PB, 9.10

The Flyer

The Flyer

Meanwhile, my swim switched on in late afternoon, producing a 5 pound barbel, followed by two small chub and finally another barbel of 8.04. Annoyingly, it had started raining again by now, so just when we’d got all our gear dry from the previous day, it all got wet again. But overall the best day of the week, with six barbel between us.

Wye @ Mordiford

Wye @ Mordiford

Friday saw us both in the same swims again, but this time the flyer didn’t produce for Andy, although he did lose one. Once again, my swim didn’t switch on until the afternoon, when I had a couple of chub, and finally a last-cast barbel of 8.09. And just as we’d nicely dried out from the previous afternoon’s rain, it started raining again, so that everything was soaked for the journey home.

Strangely, despite all the rain we’d had, the river remained low and clear all week, which I think didn’t help the fishing. What also didn’t help was the lack of decent venues available on day-tickets without prior booking. I think if we are to go back there for another holiday, we will need to do a bit more research prior to the visit.

Reviving Memories

Been going through my old football programmes recently. Having amassed nearly 40 seasons of them from getting on for 1000 games, and having stopped buying them every game as I used to (I now get them delivered to my phone), I’ve decided that I need to clear out a lot of them, as part of a de-cluttering of the house.

So I’m slowly working my way through them, making a spreadsheet record of all the games (geek moment!), keeping some that have special memories and getting rid of the rest.

Some of the games bring back some great memories, and others bring back some nasty memories – great victories, cup triumphs, horrible defeats, promotions, relegations, first visits to away grounds, great crowd moments and the occasional riot. It’s funny that all I need to see is the score and scorers from a game, and the memories can come flooding back.

Not from every game, certainly – 1000 games is a lot to remember, and these days I sometimes struggle to remember what happened last week, never mind 35 years ago.  🙂 , but there are many that I can recall at least in part – for example, see the scorers from a game, and remember how a particular goal was scored. And many of these were before the days of every goal being on tv, so these memories are really precious as there’s no chance of ever reliving them on-screen.

Here’s the front cover from a game in October 1982. Not a memorable game itself, but the cover pic is a bit special for me – I’m in it! Top centre of the photo.

Programme with me on Cover

Spuds Get Roasted

Spuds – Out-thought, out-fought and ultimately out-played on the pitch. Out-sung off it.

They simply didn’t have answers to our tactics and work-rate. How many times did they find themselves going sideways about 20 yards or so from our goal trying to either pick a pass or get a shot away, but couldn’t because there were always 2-3 or more players blocking the routes to goal?

Yet this wasn’t just a park-the-bus operation. Once possession had been regained, we moved the ball very well. Sometimes knocking it around at the back, sometimes moving it quickly forward. Always giving them problems going forward, as the movement and positional interchanging of the midfield players caused them problems all game that they never figured out how to counter.

At times our football was a delight, with some moments to savour. Demel’s bit of ball-juggling tight to the touchline in the first half, Diame showed some lovely touches all afternoon, culminating in the control and pass to set Rav away for his goal. Downing showed some good touches too, and what about Noble’s interception and drift away from two players followed by a pass with the outside of his foot that put Vaz Te away for the second? Trevor Brooking himself would have been proud of that – and what finer praise can you give?

In the stands, I’ve never known the home stands at WHL to be so quiet. Even while the score was still 0-0, there was little in the way of noise from the Spuds. While in the away section, we maintained a good volume of support throughout the afternoon. It was almost as if right from the start, both sets of supporters could sense that something unusual was about to unfold in front of them, causing tension in the home ends and an increasing sense of expectation in the away end. The exodus of biblical proportions from the home stands after the third goal was a joy to watch, leaving the travelling Irons to celebrate in what had unexpectedly become the promised land.

Irons celebrating (wtih thanks to the original uploader)…

I’m in there somewhere, but it’s not a close enough shot to pick me out unless you know where you’re looking.

West Ham Fans Fighting For One Of Their Own

There is a popular website for West Ham fans called Knees Up Mother Brown, better known as KUMB, which has very active discussion forums. One of the regular and most popular contributors to the forum is a guy who goes by the moniker “Cockney Hammer”. His daily news round up is avidly read by Hammers fans around the globe. He has also been running two nostalgia threads, posting hundreds of pictures of West Ham related memorabilia, much of which he has collected himself over several decades of supporting the club. Although he doesn’t get to games much these day, he is one of those who have previously “done the miles” over many seasons of following the club up and down the country.

In recent years, his personal life has been troubled by neighbours who don’t do the word “inconsiderate” justice, with loud music being played at all hours of the day and night. It has had as serious effect on his family and health. Despite pleas to the authorities who should be doing something about it, nothing has been done. Finally things came to a head a few days ago, when CH felt that life was not worth living anymore. Fortunately, the damage was not too bad, and he is now back home recovering. It is a sad world when peoples’ lives are made a living hell and the authorities are not willing to listen or act.

Once the members of KUMB found out about the latest events, they rallied round to offer support, both practical and moral. Many have sent letters or emails to both the mayor of Newham and the local MP. The mayor has responded favourably to these communications, so let us hope that something positive finally comes of a sad situation.

At times like this, I’m proud to be counted as part of the West Ham family.

The story can be read in full here…



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