Oh goody, another Biggest Game of the Season. It’s been days.
The strolling Milanese aristocrats may have been replaced by the bow-legged Bash Street Kids, but the stakes are still high and the implications still terrifying.
God the stress is unbearable. At this stage we’re usually treating games as pleasant days out: having a few pints in the Bell & Hare beforehand, shoveling a pie down our necks at half time and maybe even nipping off early to get to Barry's 30th.
And that’s just the players. You saw that coming, didn’t you?
The importance of the fixture is ratcheted up a notch or two by the fact that Chelsea play Man City the next day. If we win, any result in their game will give us encouragement. If we lose, any result will look like a nail in our coffin (and by ‘coffin’ I mean ‘Channel 5’s Thursday night schedule’, home of the undead rather than the actual dead)
I don’t fancy our chances. FA Cup quarter-final aside, West Ham have found some form and confidence recently. Our last two league games have seen us lose to Blackpool and draw with Wolves – conceding six goals in the process. (I’m ignoring the Champions League – it’s good practice for when we’re not in it anymore)
They’ll come snarling out of the traps, and give it loads of grrrrr, whereas we’ll try and take them to one side and calmly explain that, whilst we admire their gusto, they have to understand that, by any objective measure, we have better players than they do and if they just take a minute to analyse…. Oh dear, they weren’t listening and seem to have opened the scoring. What rotters.
Perhaps we can bring out their softer side by convincing them that they’ve already won this season’s big prize: the Olympic Stadium.
I remember we played Leicester in the league not long after we’d beaten them in the Worthington Cup final. They formed a guard of honour and clapped us out onto our own pitch. They practically fucking curtsied. We were all, ‘Aw, shucks, you guys’ – and they promptly tanked us.
The trouble is, it’ll be hard to offer our humble congratulations without sniggering – and we don’t need them any more riled up than they already will be.
West Ham will get at least a point. They won’t get relegated and we won’t finish top four. We’ll be fifth. We were always going to be fifth. I may have mentioned this before. Over the season we’ll be quite a bit better than the teams below us and a tiny but irritatingly tangible bit worse than the teams above us.
Prove me wrong, Spurs. Please, please prove me wrong.