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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Hammers circus rolls into town
By Frank Keogh
Long-suffering West Ham supporter

David Connolly celebrates his winner at Preston
I had been part of the starting line-up in training all week, then we picked Neil up at a service station and I was told he would be playing instead of me
An angry David Connolly

Roll up, roll up. The West Ham circus is in town and is appearing at a Division One ground near you.

The hapless Hammers kicked off life outside the top flight as only they could - in chaos.

An opening day 2-1 victory at Preston put three points on the board, but then the balloon went up.

Match winner David Connolly berated under-fire boss Glenn Roeder for leaving him on the bench.

Connolly threatened to quit having played just 30 minutes of competitive football for West Ham.

He claimed Neil Mellor only started the game because of a Roeder promise to Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, who has loaned him out for a year.

Roeder denied Connolly's allegation and responded by calling his big summer signing "an angry ant". He also denied Jermain Defoe was off to Manchester United for 10m.

Remember, this is the club who sold 17,000 tickets to loyal fans and THEN sold homegrown hero Joe Cole.

This followed a clear-out of stars such as Paolo di Canio, Glen Johnson, Frederic Kanoute and Trevor Sinclair.

No wonder the club's sponsor is Jobserve, an employment recruitment agency.

It all adds up to entertainment of the highest order in the coming season for neutral football lovers, and agony for West Ham lovers.

Here is a look at the impressive cast list in the Hammers House of Horrors:

Pantomime Villain:
Terence Brown

First game of the season, first chant - "Brown Out".

Has infuriated fans by selling off some of the club's most talented youngsters.

Fell out with previous manager Harry Redknapp, who went on to take Portsmouth up to the Premiership as West Ham went the other way.

The Incredible Moaning Striker:
David Connolly

"It was a mind-boggling terrible decision - a real kick in the teeth."


And no, he isn't talking about his move to Upton Park.

However, Connolly did score 42 goals in 63 league games for Wimbledon and he expects a first-team place.

Trapeze Artist:
Glenn Roeder

Still hanging onto his job after months in the firing line, even returning to the fray after suffering a brain tumour.

In proud possession of an unusual managerial hat-trick - taking Watford, Gillingham and West Ham to seventh spot in his first season, and then seeing them relegated the next.

Also claimed quote of the weekend with his response to Connolly's outburst.

"I gave David his debut when I was at Watford. He was an angry ant then, and nothing has changed," he declared.

Comedy pick-up point:
Service station

Neil Mellor was collected from a motorway service station near Blackburn for his West Ham debut.

Unconfirmed reports suggest he was carrying two medium-sized pork pies and a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich.

Clowning around
David James

Went to train with Miami Dolphins in the summer to try his hand at American Football.

David James in training with the Miami Dolphins
He might drop it any minute

Presumably also learned how to play rush goalie as demonstrated by an interesting 30-yard charge from his area for no apparent reason at Preston.

Earned the nickname Calamity James for a serious of previous blunders, and is fond of ridiculous haircuts.

Great shot-stopper, though.

Custard pie, anyone?

A couple of years ago, defender Sebastian Schemmel was voted Hammer of the Year by supporters.

He warmed up for this season by being ejected from the ground after Roeder brought in security guards following a dressing room dressing-down.

The Dangerous Brothers
Tomas Repka/Christian Dailly

Read this sentence carefully, it's not a hoax. These two are both international players.

Repka, a once-useful central figure with an explosive temperament, could not be accused of gelling with ponderous Dailly.

Prime candidates for bit parts in the new Carry On London movie.

Maverick entertainer
Paolo di Canio

Gone but not forgotten. A genius who likes to stick the boot in.

"Redknapp was sacked and Roeder - a man with no personality - replaced him," he told The Times on Monday.

The Italian says he would have taken a pay cut to stay at West Ham.

"I'm convinced that had Roeder not dropped me late last season, we would have stayed up."

But Paolo, where's the fun in that?

David Connolly
"I thought I had earned a start"

West Ham boss Glenn Roeder
"I don't know where Connolly is coming from"


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