How El Diego saved West Ham

maradona

At 6.30pm on Sunday January 12, 2014, a repeat of Mrs Brown’s Boys was interrupted to the delight of millions. The BBC cut to East London where David Sullivan was sat behind a desk, his face hanging solemnly like a novelty Ray Winstone nodding dog.

Speculation immediately began to gather on social media. It had been rumoured that defeat at Cardiff was the last straw for West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, and that he had merged with his clothes, shoes and dinner to form one glutinous, sausagey mess. Club spokeschild Jack Sullivan promised “Big news. No, really big, none of that Roger Johnson bollocks”. The nation waited with baited breath.

The co-owner of the club gauged the prevailing atmosphere, discarded a notepad full of inappropriate and probably racist ‘mood-lightening’ jokes, and cut to the chase. Gone was the world’s 13th-best paid manager (yeah, seriously) and replacing him was none other than Diego Maradona.

“Diego was the obvious choice,” Sullivan Sr. lied. “Everyone in the country already hates us, especially after Karren Brady got given a CBE. I mean what the shit was that about.”

“I’m standing right here,” Brady interrupted.

“Fuck you, I stand by it,” Sullivan continued. “So anyway, we’re in the rare situation where we can test out whether two wrongs actually make a right.”

Stunned into near-silence, the press turned their attentions to El Diego. Why had he chosen this job above any others? Speaking through an interpreter who looked suspiciously like Mauricio Pochettino, the new manager spoke of West Ham’s strong tradition of Argentines.

“Carlos Tevez is still well respected here,” began the interpreter, “and Javier Mascherano was an able backup to world-class midfielders like Hayden Mullins and Nigel Reo-Coker. Then there was Lionel Scaloni, erm, Mauricio Taricco…psst, help me out here guys…was Walter Lopez Argentinean or Uruguayan? How about Pablo Barrera? Mexican? Really? Actually that explains a lot…”

Having successfully bored the watching public into not caring about what he had to say, Maradona set about his task, bringing in Diego Milito on loan until the end of the season. Also, in a controversial move, he swapped Kevin Nolan for an ocelot and 30 copies of Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge. Fans rejoiced at the news.

The impact was immediate. Enjoying the famed new manager bounce, the Irons beat Newcastle 3-2 in Maradona’s first name in charge. Visiting manager Alan Pardew was furious, claiming a “Premier League conspiracy” and bringing up the previous season’s defeat to Paolo di Canio’s Sunderland.

“It’s unfair that we have to play these teams before the players realise how much of an assclown the manager is,” Pardew complained. Though he said “arseclown” rather than “assclown”, which doesn’t work quite as well.

After a 9-2 aggregate defeat to ManchesterCity, more signings arrived. Goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri was coaxed out of retirement to replace Jussi Jääskeläinen, with the manager under the mistaken impression that you had to “replace all the letters, like in Scrabble”.

The strikeforce was bolstered further with the arrival of Garry O’Connor and Adrian Mutu, while former West Ham winger Shaun Newton also returned to the club. The manager spoke particularly highly of Newton’s “supply line”, before giggling to himself and scratching his nose.

Another player to make his return to Upton Park was Rio Ferdinand, though only on loan as the coaching staff admitted to not being sure about him.

Results from then on in were mixed. Milito ruptured his Achilles tendon scoring a late winner against Swansea, but an improvised centre-back pairing of Roger Johnson and a fit-again Andy Carroll (“he’s good in the air”, Maradona insisted) saw the club enter May just outside the relegation places, only for disaster to strike ahead of the penultimate fixture against Spurs.

Concerned about the North London club’s late-season form, David Sullivan looked to poison the opposition’s pre-match lasagne on the basis that no one would be stupid enough to suspect West Ham of doing the same thing twice. Jääskeläinen, by now sleeping rough on the streets of Newham, was promised a new contract if he injected the Spurs’ hotel’s supply of parmesan cheese with ricin, however he didn’t count on one thing – Tim Sherwood’s aversion to any cheese other than mild cheddar.

Sherwood denied his team a hot meal, insisting they prepare for the game with wine gums and pre-sliced ham straight from the packet, but that was still enough to help them see off a West Ham team who had been out on the piss the night before on the assumption that they just needed to turn up.

That meant a point was needed away at Manchester City in the final game, and with minutes left it looked like that was beyond Maradona’s side, with thunderbolt from the recalled Scott Sinclair sealing the title and wrapping up the winger’s place in the England squad for the World Cup.

However with the clock ticking down, Carroll headed clear a City corner and Newton gathered the loose ball. He sped down the line (geddit) and drove a high cross (ok I’ll stop now) into the box. It went over the head of Mutu but at the back post the ocelot was waiting to leap like, well, an ocelot I guess, and head the ball into the back of the net.

The crowd went wild, and Maradona sprinted onto the pitch to embrace the goalscorer, receiving a near-fatal mauling in the process.

After the game, Neil Warnock, manager of relegated West Bromwich Albion, called a press conference in which he went off on a tirade about the signing of the final-day goalscorer, pointing to an obscure FA rule which he claimed could be seen to forbid cross-species transfers. However the league ruled in West Ham’s favour and they lived to fight another day.

So that’s the story of how Diego Maradona saved West Ham. For more tales like this, you’re probably best writing one yourself. It’s bound to be quicker than getting me to come up with another one.

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