Green preaches positivity after relief of first win
West Ham United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Russell Brand led a celebrity kick-about on the Upton Park pitch to celebrate West Ham United's first victory of the season.
Russell Brand led a celebrity kick-about on the Upton Park pitch to celebrate West Ham United's first victory of the season. David Walliams, Noel Gallagher, David Baddiel and a few others joined the tight-trousered poser for the game, before the party jumped into a taxi to head off to ogle the strippers at Stringfellows as part of Brand's stag do ahead of his forthcoming wedding to pop superstar Katy Perry.
The celebrations by West Ham's players and staff were more conventional but no less restrained. Manager Avram Grant milked the applause of the home fans before hugging co-owner David Gold while goalkeeper Rob Green raised a fist of defiance to the press. After the worst start to a season in club history, the relief was palpable.
West Ham co-owner David Sullivan said he never doubted Grant would turn things around, despite rumours circulating that he had been considering a change of manager.
"No doubts crept in," Sullivan said. "Some teams start well and die. Others start badly and come good. We said all along, judge us over half a season not four games. People want instant decisions in football. One week players look good and another week they disappoint you but overall we're improving."
West Ham were good value for the win, not least Green whose performace included two wonderful saves. It had been 105 days since he allowed Clint Dempsey's weak shot through his fingers in Rustenburg in the opening game of England's World Cup campaign and Green's frustration was understandable, even if raising his fist to the media is not the best way of showing it.
Team-mate Danny Gabbidon said no one at the club has mentioned the infamous gaffe to Green. "He's a big guy, I've seen him lifting weights and he's pretty strong so I think that's why no-one here has said anything to him."
West Ham's task was made easier by the injuries to Tottenham's pool of defenders. A torn groin muscle meant William Gallas joined Michael Dawson, Jonathan Woodgate, Benoît Assou-Ekotto, Ledley King and Younes Kaboul on the sidelines. Vedran Corluka deputised in the middle with Gareth Bale dropping into left-back, and they looked decidedly shaky.
Fortunately for their manager, Harry Redknapp, King and Assou-Ekotto should be fit for Wednesday's Champions League encounter with FC Twente. Redknapp promised his side will attack, despite the patched-up nature of the team. "We have to go for it, a win is all important. If we get a win it sets us up really nicely," he said.
Things might have been different had Tottenham's Tom Huddlestone not missed an open goal early in the second half when he rounded Green but rushed his shot and fired lamely into the stands. It was the sort of chance Brand, even in his most dainty winkle-pickers, could have scored.
Redknapp was convinced afterwards that had Huddlestone scored, his team would have gone on to win, and this morning West Ham would still be bottom of the table looking for their first win.
"If Tom had scored, it would have been different. They [West Ham] would have been on the floor and we would have been in the ascendancy," Redknapp said. "At 1-1 I'm sure it would have changed the whole atmosphere, we'd have been on a high and I think, when you haven't won, we all know what it's like, a bit of fear creeps in."
Instead, Frédéric Piquionne's first-half header won this engaging London derby, and the celebrity knees-up could begin.
Grant said he expected his team to improve further in the coming weeks. "We knew we had to improve things and start picking up our form, and we have done that," he said. "I feel all the time under pressure. I don't want to be even one minute without pressure in this job as it will damage me more than be a good thing. Pressure is not a bad word. It pushes, pushes you to the right place. I control the pressure and can direct it when I decide. Other people let the pressure control them."
West Ham United 4-4-2: Green; Jacobsen, Da Costa, Upson, Gabbidon; Dyer (Barrera, 42), Parker, Noble, Boa Morte; Obinna (Kovac, 89), Piquionne (Cole, 64). Substitutes not used: Stech (gk), Ben Haim, Faubert, McCarthy.
Booked Boa Morte, Cole.
Tottenham Hotspur 4-4-1-1: Cudicini; Hutton, Corluka, Bassong, Bale; Lennon (Keane, 66), Huddlestone, Jenas, Modric; Van der Vaart (Giovani, 78); Crouch (Pavlyuchenko, 80). Substitutes not used: Pletikosa (gk), Palacios, Sandro, Kranjcar.
Man of the match Green.
Possession West Ham 53% Tottenham 47%
Shots on target West Ham 14 Tottenham 11
Referee M Atkinson (Yorkshire). Attendance 34,190 Match rating 8/10.
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