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03/04: Preview: West Ham United
Opposition opinion
by Graeme Howlett and Gordon Thrower of Knees Up Mother Brown

What happened last season?
Gordon: Failed to invest in new players at beginning of the season. Badly needed two new full backs and a strong midfielder. Got the full backs two late and Bowyer failed miserably. That's a short summing up.

Graeme:Under an out-of-his-depth manager we simply didn't play well enough at home until well into the new year. This left us too much to do with too little time in which to do it once we did start to perform. Failure to strengthen the squad (the signing of Breen did the exact opposite) in advance of the transfer window meant that when the inevitable injuries came to DiCanio and Kanoute we were left with a strike force of Defoe assisted by the willing but unable Pearce. On the few occasions we did manage to start playing some scandalous refereeing added to our woes. - Mr Mike Dean in particular is off my Christmas Card list.

What's going to happen next season?
Graeme:This will largely depend on which of the crown jewels we can hang onto. If we can keep hold of the bulk of the likes of Cole, Carrick, Defoe etc we ought to be a good bet for promotion. However, this is West Ham we're talking about and it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that we'll have some inexplicable slump in form mid-season and struggle to even make the playoffs. The only guarantee you can ever get with West Ham is that over the course of a season you will be delighted, annoyed, frustrated, elated, depressed and baffled - often during one spell of 90 minutes. And the pies will be awful.

Gordon:Difficult to say until we see who is sold and who we've got left. If we keep Sinclair and Cole then we will get promoted automatically I think. If not, then we will finish top 8, maybe in the play-offs.

Can you recommend a pub for away fans?
Graeme:Obviously not an expert on this matter but I understand that the Central on Barking Road may be ok if you're not mob-handed. Probably wise to keep colours discreetly under wraps though. Otherwise, when we play Newcastle I usually meet my Geordie pals in a pub in Whitechapel - The Good Samaritan. Not exactly close to the ground but quiet and about 15 mins away by tube. The KUMB regulars drink in right hand side bar of the Earl of Wakefield in Katherine Road E6 (corner of Wakefield St) and the occasional away supporter has been known to stick his head round the door for some light-hearted banter - again probably not a good idea if there's loads of you though.

What's the nearest railway station?
Graeme:Upton Park tube (District/Hammersmith & City Lines) is nearest. Turn right out of the station and the ground is about 4-5mins away on your left. Post match the queues to get onto the tube at Upton Park are absolutely horrendous. Your best bet is probably to go for a pint somewhere for half an hour - nearest pub to the tube is the Duke Of Edinburgh (out of the station turn left 100 yds on the right). Usual discretion with colours required.

Where is the best place to park?
Graeme:My normal advice to those driving by car is don't! Parking around the ground is difficult to say the least. If you must drive try the side streets to the south >of Barking Road. Alternatively you could try a "park & ride". Upminster is not far off the M25 and has a station Car Park. From there Upton Park is about 30 mins away on the District Line although a faster journey is possible by taking the C2C mainline and changing at Barking.

Word Association
Graeme Gordon
West Ham United Claret & Blue disappointment
Beckham Good but overrated - shame about the missus greed
Milton Keynes concrete cows style council
The Premiership crap programme - bring back MotD money
Division Two a distant land of which I know little - and hope to keep it that way! Brentford
Glenn Roeder "I used to coach England you know" why
Watford Craggsy (a good mate of mine who lives there - sorry you did ask for gut reactions!) elton john

Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)
"Broken shins take longer than 3 months to heal"

"Glen Roeder will be sacked by November . George Graham and ian Dowie in"

"Div 1 sucks - please help us get out of it"

"i have been known to work at youre current bosses house, ray is a top bloke , and was in my book one of if not the manager of the year last year and to think he was offered a coaches role by roeder the same time as you lot offered him his job"

"I don't half fancy Alicia Silverstone & that Kelly off Eastenders"

"I wanted Watford to win the FA Cup in 1984 and have hated Andy Gray ever since"

"I still cant beleive that we've been relegated with the best first team we've had for years.The Board must take the blame for not investing pre-season.Ian Pearce is never a sriker !"

"Will you take Roedent back ?"

"middle if you're reading this help" (eh? - ed)