At the end of a day of sunbathing, swimming, reading, eating and drinking, I reflect on following the fortunes of our team from further away than usual.
Although this is my 59th season watching West Ham, and I have seen far more games than I have missed in that time, I have yet to go through a whole season attending every home game, despite being a season ticket holder for some time.
Booking holidays well in advance of the fixture list being revealed is an unfortunate necessity of life if you have a specific destination in mind, and have a wife who works in a school, and you wish to take a break in the half-term holiday. But even if you arrange the break such that only one weekend is involved, it is Murphy’s (or sod’s) law that the computer will ensure that you miss a home game. Of course it is a double Murphy when we progress in the League (EFL) cup and we are drawn at home to Chelsea in the following midweek.
As a result I was forced to follow the Sunderland game from a distance of around 2000 miles on the beach in Taurito in the south of Gran Canaria.
There weren’t many people on this particular stretch of black sand, typical of Canary Island shorelines. We paid our fifteen euros for two sun beds and a parasol, I took a dip in the warm, but fairly rough sea, and then settled down to follow the game via a variety of websites and social media. Just before half time, despite there being many sun beds free on the beach, a German family decided to invade our personal space unnecessarily by choosing the beds next to ours and then moving them closer.
So at half time we retreated to the hotel pool and I followed the game from there on my phone. It appeared that we were well on top but unable to make a deserved breakthrough.
The hotel had a number of bars, including a sports bar with a giant screen. Due to the wonders of modern technology, especially satellites, despite being seventy miles off the west coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, it was possible to view almost any sporting event taking place anywhere in the world as it happened. In fact the giant screen could split into nine smaller screens to satisfy a whole range of tastes simultaneously. I would have been happy to watch the West Ham game on one-ninth of the screen, but despite there not being too many people in there wanting to watch on a sunny afternoon, almost all of them were selfish gooners who wanted to view the full size screen. So I sat outside in the sun, but as the game entered injury time I was resigned to a goalless draw and popped into the Sports Bar to see how many goals that Arsenal had put into the Middlesbrough net. They were in the 93rd minute, and just like their North London neighbours earlier in the day, they had failed to score. I couldn’t be too smug as we too had not scored against lowly Sunderland. Then almost simultaneously there was a goal in both games. The Arsenal fans were jubilant until they realised it had been disallowed as Ozil was yards offside. But our goal had stood and we had picked up a very welcome, although not entirely convincing three points.
Just a few minutes later I was able to view our goal on my phone. The way we approached a corner in the 94th minute took everyone, including our manager, but not Noble, Payet and Reid by surprise. Instead of the usual last minute hoof into the danger area, a cleverly worked short corner ended with Reid firing a low shot through almost everyone on the pitch. How it evaded everyone is hard to fathom. To me it appeared that three or four of our players were offside, especially Calleri who must have been unsighting the keeper. But incredibly the goal stood, and after all the dodgy refereeing decisions that went against us last season it made a big change for one to go in our favour.