After bumping into television impressionist John Culshaw in a run-down grotty pub in Farringdon, I worried that it would be the highest point of that cold, dour November evening. I had stopped off for a pint of lager with the old man before continuing on the Hammersmith and city line to Upton Park. The mighty Irons were to face Manchester United in the quarter-final of the Carling Cup in what promised to be a game that we would probably draw at best.
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Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised. The snow was thumping down on that Tuesday evening but there was a warm atmosphere around the stadium. Sitting bottom of the league, with a hopeless manager who had about as much charisma as a wet fish, we hadn’t had much to shout about so far that season. Despite being half aware that United were to play an under strength side, I felt that we would have to play far better than in previous matches in the league.
The team sheet was displayed at one of the betting kiosks near the bar in the East Stand and our misery seemed somewhat compounded when learning that Super Scotty Parker wasn’t even in the starting eleven. As most die-hard fans do, I placed an absurd bet on West ham to win, already waving goodbye to the five pound note as I handed it to the clerk along with my coupon. I strolled up to my seat, bang on the half way line down the old Chicken Run, half expecting a “nearly but not quite” performance.
The match started fast and furious, the snow still falling heavily from the East London sky. Robert Green was already being abused after his World Cup antics, but soon hushed the Northern – by which I mean Southern – Manchester United faithful with a cracking save. With Sir Alex Ferguson naming Ryan Giggs, Javier Hernandez, Darren Fletcher and a few other first team names, it looked as though we could be in for a tough evening. That was until the twenty-second minute.
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Midfield maestro and prolific goal scorer Jonathan Spector popped up with a header beating Kuszczak to make it one-nil, and we never looked back. Carlton Cole was already giving Johnny Evans all sorts of problems and we looked dangerous going forward, every time we attacked. No sooner than fifteen minutes later a second Victor Obinna (remember him?) assist led to a second Jonathan Spector goal, this time a tap in.
At this point I felt as though I was going to pass out. Not only were we two-nil to the good against the best team in the league, but Spector had scored two goals. The usual banter was flowing through the terraces at half time, “We need another 6 goals before we can think about winning” and I tried not to get my hopes up too much. But this United side were poor, and we were on top and good value for the lead.
The second half was much the same as the first, West Ham making the most of the possession when they had it. And when Carlton nodded home a third from a (you guessed it) Victor Obinna cross, there was an optimism in the rumbling stadium for the first time in the whole season. The fans roared, and the players responded. In the sixty-sixth minute, that man again, Obinna, rolled the ball into Coles feet who all rather too easily it must be said, spun Johnny Evans and rolled the ball past a helpless, and I imagine a pretty forlorn goalkeeper.
So with a good twenty-five minutes remaining, the supporters were finally beginning to enjoy the staggering score line, chanting “We want five” and who can blame us? The reason this match sticks out in my mind as the best match I have ever seen involving West ham, is because nobody, especially us, beats Manchester United four-nil. No matter what side United had out, which incidentally was their fans excuse, would any side beat the Red Devils by this amount.
For once we were awesome, passionate, fearless, full of zest and hunger, which had been evidently missing from previous fixtures. Players such as Kovac, Boa Morte and Ben-Haim had stood up and counted. The team had given us one night to cheer in what was in the end, a desperate season for all involved with the club.
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Tuesday 30th November 2010 is a date that will live long in the memory, marred only slightly by Avram Grant still not being able to smile despite the events that unfolded before him.
Oh and John Culshaw? Nice bloke!
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