Pete Sutton is back for his second match as our From the Stands writer. His report comes again from the K5 block in the Holte End.
One of the consequences of being a fan (which is, remember, short for fanatic) of a football team is the need to form a view of opposition clubs. This can range from very grudging admiration, through complete indifference to absolute loathing. In football you never get even polite applause when the opposition does something worthy of praise, as you might do in some other sports, and some visiting teams are greeted with pure vitriol by home supporters. And of course it varies from one to another which position each visiting team occupies on that spectrum of dislike.
For me, West Ham are one of the most detestable clubs in the league - a view which originates in being the target of half-brick-throwing home supporters when in the Villa section of a game at their ground a number of years ago and has remained ever since. Today, it's easy to dislike them for their carpetbagging pornmeister owners Sullivan and Gold, formerly engaged at the knuckledraggers down the road along with the fragrant Karren Brady, director of the club, who was recently ennobled by posh boy David Cameron (who, by the way, is not one of us and never will be but has sought to try to jump on the football bandwagon for his own advancement) and charmless manager Sam Allardyce (even though he is rumoured to be a Villa supporter from Dudley).
And the final spice to the proceedings is added by two former players likely to be in the West Ham line-up, James Collins who was ok though susceptible to penalty area foolishness that hopefully will be in evidence today and ship-jumping, self-serving Stewart Downing. There's a good comparison here between Downing and the saintly Fabian Delph. Both were very well looked after by the club during serious injury episodes early in their club careers but whereas Delph has shown great loyalty when he could have gone to a currently more successful club, but has stayed and is prospering greatly in his career with Villa and England, Downing forced a move and has seen his career go downhill since. Let's hope that Christian Benteke, in a similar positon, turns out to be a Delph rather than a Downing when the choice is made.
So for today's game the stakes are raised by virtue of the above and victory, if it comes, will be that much sweeter whereas failure will be that much harder to bear. Points remain badly needed though if recent playing levels are sustained there shouldn't be much to worry about.
In the event, the fine run of form and results continued albeit by the narrowest of margins although when we went ahead following a fine run by Grealish it looked as though we might get plenty and the crowd sat back in anticipation. However, the second wouldn't come and by the end we were all back on the edges of our seats.
First-half total dominance was replaced in the second with a more even game, particularly because sub Alex Song imposed some midfield control for West Ham though the opposition never looked like scoring and despite a short period of late nervousness our defence steadied and saw the game out. Okore in particular put in a fine performance and Hutton looked very steady when he came on late in the game. In contrast Gabby couldn't do a thing right when he appeared and wasted a peach of a pass from Grealish who deservedly got the man of the match.
And very close behind was Cleverley who had a terrific game, full of energy and running, covering and tackling and who has been a revelation since Sherwood came in. The licence to go forward that he has been given, and which resulted in the winning goal, seems to have transformed him and when interviewed post-match on BBC WM he came across as intelligent and level-headed and totally committed to the club.
Benteke was relatively quiet but the best quote of the week came from Tim Sherwood yesterday when he said"Christian's going nowhere — no-one can afford Christian. There is no price on his head."
Towards the end of the game when the attendance was announced as 39,000 plus the Holte began to sing 'where were you when we were s**t' which, amidst a lot of laughter, no doubt caused a few spectators to shift uncomfortably in their seats. Things are looking up and we could fill the ground and more each week if the club can build on the early success that Sherwood has achieved.
And it was good to see West Ham sent on their way without any points. Downing did nothing all game except get bamboozled by Grealish for the goal (lol) but Collins was one of their better players. Unfortunately, the Director's Box is too far away to be able to see the expressions on the faces of the visiting directors but I can imagine what they were like and that gives a good deal of pleasure.
So we go on to Southampton full of expectation. Hull losing means that whatever happens anywhere else, one win will do it so those of us with tickets for the game may be there when everything finally comes right. Watch this space!
From the Stands writers normally cover two matches, but Pete is traveling to Southampton next weekend and has volunteered to give us a report from the road. Thanks again, Pete!