Saturday, 1 September 2007

The Hammers' Hex

Dark lore of Dyer and the Hammers' hex- Does Kieron Dyer's gruesome leg break point to a curse hanging over West Ham?
By Russell Brand

I suppose, were I able to trade in some cosmic stock exchange I would relinquish West Ham's passage into the third round of the League Cup in order to preserve Kieron Dyer's lower right leg. As Alan Curbishley said after the win against Bristol Rovers: "Now the result seems immaterial."

It's difficult to celebrate victory having seen Dyer suffer one of those wince-inducing injuries where the leg visibly contorts within the sock and it seems impossible to imagine it ever healing. It will, of course, in time, six months or so, but that's the bulk of the season without him and he looked sharp and fast against Wigan last Saturday.

I feel dead sorry for him, in a hospital somewhere hurting. Obviously I don't know what it's like to be a professional athlete but it must engender a particular insecurity to be dependent on your body in such a palpably direct manner. Whenever I suffer great physical pain or even mild discomfort it immediately resets my psychology to neutral. Say if I feel all sad and self-indulgent then get stung by a wasp, my misery feels quite abstract and I long just to be in spiritual pain once more - "Damn you tiny assassin, all clad in yellow and black, how I crave my former innocence where melancholy was my only trial."

It's terrible news for West Ham, and Curbishley implied there might be a jinx as so many of the players he's bought in have suffered injury. It is bloody unfortunate but a curse? After last season's controversy plenty have grudges, not least in the city of steel. Could former Blades boss Neil Warnock be poised in a circle of stone, stinking of chicken's blood, spewing white-eyed incantations clutching a buckled dolly of Julien Faubert?

There appears to be a troubling tendency among under-pressure Premiership mangers to jab accusatory digits in the direction of the dark arts - Martin Jol cited "black magic" as the reason Spurs didn't get a penalty at Old Trafford at the weekend. Perhaps Tottenham did deserve something from a tie in which United were less than brilliant and they doubtless had chances but the resulting home win surely owes more to Nani's right foot and Wes Brown's chest/upper arm than Aleister Crowley's necromancy.

Perhaps this is a further indication that top-flight managers are under too much pressure, when in our secular age they crumble into medieval beliefs whenever luck goes against them - "What?! Arsenal away in the fourth round? Damn you Lucifer. Why have you forsaken me lord?" However, the injury crisis at Upton Park, if not the work of Beelzebub, is critical: Dean Ashton, Scott Parker, Dyer, Faubert, Freddie Ljungberg and both Lucas Neil and Matthew Upson joined the afflicted minutes after they signed. The only solution available to the club is to keep signing more players, an approach I believe was pioneered by Stalin in his gruelling fixture against Hitler on the eastern front.

His mentality was, as I understand, "Right, loads of Germans are dying, loads of Russians are dying and we're both going to continue to pour young men into this battle until it's resolved, but as Russia has a larger stack of human chips we can carry on playing beyond the point of German exhaustion. I feel the hand of history, not on my shoulder but cheekily goosing me out respect."

Let's hurl more millionaire footballers on to this bonfire of the lame; why wait till they arrive at West Ham? Just give Eidur Gudjohnsen a sack of money then smash him in the balls with a pool cue. Let's buy a wing at Whitechapel hospital and send an army of thugs with chequebooks and chainsaws on a tour round Europe to assemble a hobbling chorus of convalescents. I wish Dyer a speedy recovery. It's a shame, and as an offer of appeasement to the angry football gods I shall sacrifice the next virgin I meet on Green Street. It could take a while.

Guardian column

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