A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to 4-nilBy: Angela Poe | December 1st, 2010
I should’ve known our luck was turning when I heard Mark Clattenburg was stuck on the M25.
Living in Los Angeles and supporting West Ham United is like adding insult to injury, almost literally.
I had to work offsite today, so I had the game on DVR and successfully managed to avoid all modes of communication usually responsible for spoiling: texts from mates, Facebook, Twitter, my Hammers email list, and basically the internet in general. I was at a media event for Amir Khan, the boxer and avid Bolton supporter, so needless to say he gave me a bit of stick. I turned up in my West Ham kit, and by the time most of his entourage arrived the game was already over. I should’ve known when his mate pointed at my shirt, laughed and called me a “giantkiller”, that I was going to enjoy the rest of my day.
A short while later, my friend Gerard called from SWEDEN and knowing the cost of the call I accepted it despite the likelihood that he was going to ruin the game for me. I tried to shush him in time, but he managed to get the words “Can you believe Spector SCORED?” out of his mouth. I told him I hadn’t seen the game yet, he apologised and we hung up. The pieces of the puzzle were coming together.
Finally, I arrived home, made a cup of tea and sat down to watch the game (now nearly 5 hours after it happened).
First the line-up:
Faubert, Tomkins, Upson, Ben Haim
Barrera, Spector, Kovac, LBM
Wait a minute, SPECTOR in the middle?! Finally, someone remembered that Jonathan Spector is NOT a defender. I like leaving Piquionne on the bench to start and when Jacobsen cannot be played, Faubert is better than nothing I suppose.
In the first half, I noticed Obinna was ON and ready to go. Faubert all but lectured Barrera following a corner when he didn’t get free (so Faubert could hand it off and go back to help defend). There was a measure of accountability to themselves and each other that hasn’t been there in previous weeks. When you lost it: you get it back. When you cannot pass forward: you pass laterally or you ram your way in alone. When you hand it off: you get free to accept it back. NO ball is a lost cause. How refreshing and it’s about time.
Tomkins, Upson and Ben Haim didn’t allow themselves to be bested. They were not leaving it all to Greeno this time. Incredible save by Green in the first (and just about the only) chance in the first half for Manchester United.
Kovac proved he’s not a goal-scorer with a blast into row zed and looked dazed for most of the game, but luckily LBM was playing enough for three players so he pretty much stayed out of the way.
The disallowed goal didn’t even seem to phase this bunch of go-getters who looked a team transformed from the club which barely turned up at Anfield two weeks ago. Uncle Avi Grant tossing the ball around and watching Paul Groves plead his case to the 4th official was more passion than we’ve seen from the lot of them all year.
And then it happened: Jonathan Spector, the American who HAUNTED our season last year by being the right back who just couldn’t close down a car boot…SCORED.
The bad luck to which Hammers supporters have become accustomed: Spector’s bum being the reason the first goal was disallowed was typical Spector behaviour. However the goal that stood made every one of the 33,000+ fans at Boleyn Ground wonder if they weren’t hallucinating from the cold.
Little could have prepared them for what happened next.
Manchester United botched a throw-in, LBM shoved the ball into the center (without earning a yellow card), Spector made another killer attacking run and passed off to Obinna, while encircled, who loses track of the ball in a tussle with Fabio who slipped to leave it in a perfect place for Spector to rush in and blast it home.
Green made several fantastic saves: a catch after the Spector goal and a hand which directed a set-piece-attempt just wide of the far post.
And at the half, in the BITTER cold, West Ham are up 2-nil.
It means nothing, however, we’ve been here and back before.
The second half got off to a cracking start as the snow fell. It seemed Sir Alex went into the dressing room and told them to block little Jonny Spector a little more aggressively. The result was that they backed off the always-surrounded Carlton Cole.
And at 55 minutes, they found out what happens when you leave Carlton Cole unmarked in front of the goal. 3-nil.
Then the songs erupted: “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we’re going to Wembley, Que sera sera”
The commentator said, “There’s some spirit in this team yet” and then he reminded us that Victor Obinna is our hardest worker, something he says, West Ham fans appreciate. And how. At only 23, he’s certainly a hard worker for West Ham.
Substitution: a yellow ball in for a white one, perhaps a brighter ball would help Manchester United score? Sadly, no.
Substitution: twin for twin – Fabio off, Rafael on, perhaps it would keep LBM from being so hard on the De Silva kid? Sadly, no.
It didn’t fool Obinna either as he chumped Rafael off not once, but TWICE before feeding the ball to Carlton Cole who beat Evans for the umpteenth time. Then it was 4-nil to the cockney boys, sang the frozen excited crowd.
I’m sure the critics will say, “Well it was a weakened Manchester United side” and to that I say, “Oh yeah? So Giggs, Macheda, Chicarito, Fletcher, Fabio and Rafael are WEAK?”
Still others will say “West Ham had their best players out” and to that I say, “ALL our top goal scorers weren’t on the pitch: Parker, Noble, Piquionne and Behrami as well as our star right back Lars Jacobsen”.
With 9 minutes left, Zavon Hines made quite a run and was denied an opportunity to make it five, which I’d hoped for so the supporters could sing “Five-nil even Spector scored”. Hines then ran to the sidelines and dropped his pants. I could FEEL the commentator turn red when he had to describe it. It was just to change and get back out there for the first time in 11 months. It was great to see him back.
The best bit of banter/singing happened in the final minutes, when Upton Park was the most alive it’s been all year, with a stirring rendition of “you only live round the corner”. That one’s my personal favourite as it’s directed at the Manchester United away support who we all assume follow the club because of the points they have and not because the fans are FROM Manchester.
LBM and Fletcher were feuding right up until the last second. Giggsy took a corner and then moments later Rafael put a throw-in at the foot of a chorus of whistles from the standing, singing, dancing, cheering, freezing East London masses.
The whistle finally blew and we had done it! 4-0. Manchester United were eliminated and we were through to the semi-finals.
I guess as our song suggests “fortune’s always hiding”, in our case it was hiding all last season at left back.