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The Decline & Fall Of Leyton Orient
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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
Well, I’ve got another busy week ahead (and, for those amongst you that stop by here frequently, I’m working the dreaded late shift this week, so posts will usually be up here either very early this morning or very late), and I have plenty to say about this weekend’s football, but I thought that I’d take a moment out to thank West Ham and Spurs for the best Premiership match that I can remember ever seeing.
Last week was a dreadful week for West Ham United. If you can imagine such a thing as the worst season that your team could possibly have, I should imagine that this season has been a bit like that for supporters and every time they thought that presumably this time it couldn’t get any worse, it has. Everything that should, in theory, have gone right for them has gone dreadfully, horribly wrong. The signings of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, which were supposed to be the start of a new golden era, coincided with a slide towards the bottom of the table that Alan Curbishley has been singularly unable to arrest. Where do you mark the low point? A six goal defeat at Reading? Two home defeats by Watford in successive matches? Also, you can’t help but think that things are set to get even worse for them – the FA are looking into the signing of Mascherano (with talk of them being deducted points from the paltry number that they’ve already accumulated), and this extraordinary report into the gambling culture at Upton Park and the animosity caused by big money being paid to their January signings.
It couldn’t, in all honesty, have been a worse time to be playing Spurs, who’ve turned a corner this season with ten goals in their last three games. Having said that, though, West Ham very seldom merely fold without giving their supporters some sort of hope, and they may have felt that they’d turned a corner of their own when Carlos Tevez curled a free-kick into the top corner to put them two up – his first goal for the club. Having done this, West Ham allowed Spurs a way back into the match through a somewhat needless penalty conceded by Lee Bowyer. Step forward… who else but former West Ham striker Jermaine Defoe to put them back into contention. Five minutes later, a sublime moment of skill from Aaron Lennon teed up Teemo Tainio to level things up. I guess that, with so many players having made the journey between Upton Park, it was kind of inevitable that something like this would happen, but when Bobby Zamora, another former Spurs player, headed the ball in with his first touch, their supporters must have thought that this time they’d done enough.
Well, no. Of course not. Dimitar Berbatov curled in a free-kick with a couple of minutes to play and then, five minutes into injury time, and with West Ham having pushed everyone forward to try and snatch it back again, Jermaine Defoe broke away and shot, Robert Green spilled the ball and a most unlikely hero, Paul Stalteri, put the ball in to wrap up the win for Spurs. Breathtaking stuff all round.
Where now for these two teams, then? For West Ham, eleven points adrift, with the threat of having further points deducted and with matches running out, Premiership survival is surely now too much to ask. Yesterday afternoon they finally found the spirit that they’d need to launch a sustained fight to keep their place, but their defensive frailty and the body blow to their confidence that such a result will surely deliver to them would indicate to me that they are now surely doomed. For Spurs, though, the future looks bright. Fourteen goals in four games is a hell of a way to go into their FA Cup quarter-final match at Chelsea next weekend and they’re still in the UEFA Cup, too. They’ve probably left it too late to close the gap for a place in next year’s Champions League and I dare say that they’ll be cursing the fact that they waited until February before playing their best football of the season. However, with Portsmouth and Bolton dropping points at the moment, a place in the top six certainly looks well within their grasp.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
West Ham really are up shit creek, if that Observer article is to be believed. Supporting Brighton for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen my fair share of awful teams slumping to relegation, but never once did I have the idea watching them that they weren’t all focussed on trying to get themselves out of trouble. I don’t have the same feeling about West Ham.