Who, as Pete Sixsmith put the question last night, would have guessed it? We were drifting unhappily towards the end of a season that had promised so much and, if truth be known, left us anxious to get the last game over and done with. Then a team still missing several key players turns in a performance, for a full 90 minutes, that was as convincing as some of our recent second halves have been flat. Pete reports on a satisfying finale …
That was a satisfying way to end the season, wasn’t it? Admittedly we were up against a team who were utterly demoralised, led by an interim manager and playing in front of a crowd who looked as glum as I would be at a Michael McIntyre gig.
But, as the old adage goes, “you can only beat what is in front of you”, and that is exactly what we did. We did it in some style, with excellent performances from Sessegnon, Colback , Henderson and Zenden. You can’t ask for any more than that.
We had 12 senior players in contention, with Riveros being the one sat on the bench keeping the youngsters happy with games of I Spy (“I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with P: Pornographer”) and battleships. No Mensah after his disappointing departure last week.
It was a well balanced team as well. Bardsley reverted to right back, Elmo went into midfield and Colback played at left back, where he looked a natural. Gyan returned up front with help from Sessegnon and we looked well set for a decent game as the Hammers had nothing to play for.
Ninety minutes later, we had scored three goals which explained exactly why they were heading for Doncaster, Barnsley and Millwall. No marking on Zenden and poor positioning by Green for the first, a defence that backed off even worse than ours does for the second and Riveros left with more space than a flatulent llama for the third.
West Ham were wretched, with some players making it clear that they had no interest in playing in the Championship next season. If Bruce were looking to pick up players from them, there was little here to encourage him. Hitzlsperger started well, but Henderson ran the legs off him and he ended up looking very ordinary. Sessegnon and Gyan caused all kinds of problems for Tomkins and Gabbidon, while the front players were poor. Sears looks overweight, Hinds buzzed around a bit, while Piquionne huffed and puffed. As for Wayne Bridge – well at least he won’t have to refuse to shake John Terry’s hand next season.
No Keane, no Cole, no Ba, but we did have the dubious pleasure of watching Boa Morte clatter his way around the pitch until he was withdrawn, to the obvious satisfaction of the West Ham crowd who booed him off.
Their fans came out of this well. It was obviously a difficult day for them with a totally avoidable relegation smacking them in the face and there was a fear that it could have turned ugly. But they showed their quality with a dignified exit from the Premier League although it must have been hard for them to accept a cuffing from a side that had been on the slide since January.
It was a long day, but an enjoyable one. Clambering out of bed at 4.30 on a Sunday morning is not something I enjoy, but the coach journey was a doddle. Because the bulk of the regulars were down for the weekend, there were only eight of us heading south so plenty of room. We picked the others up in Bayswater (I believe the Mayor of that area has a pretty daughter) and we headed east, taking in views of the Gherkin, Spitalfields and the Olympic site.
Dropped off near Upton Park, we flagged down a cab to take us to the Coburn Arms at Mile End. The driver was a chatty Dagenham and Redbridge fan and he managed to get “lost” (deliberately I suspect), giving us two more views of the Olympic site, before depositing us at the pub and taking a morning’s money for 45 minutes work.
Wood Major and Minor were there, the Youngs Bitter was excellent and the Rail Replacement Bus to Upton Park was not only free but had a driver who knew the way.
The man in front of me was wired up to 5Live so we got the relegation score flashes. When we heard that the Mags had gone three up, there was a resigned sigh as we saw bragging rights drifting away. However, a huge roar went up just before Riveros notched his goal and that told us the Baggies had levelled. Once again, we were the Best Team In The North East – something to be really proud of.
I gather that there were plans to unveil a banner at St James’ Park, reading “Always In Our Shadow”. I can’t find out if it did make an appearance, but as Winker said as we waited to pull away from the East End, “It’ll be on EBay tomorrow; one banner for sale, never used”.
What a lovely way to end the season.