West Ham Puts Exclamation Point on Relegation Campaign with Brawl at Season-Ending Dinner

West Ham United, home of U.S. defender Jonathan Spector, sealed its relegation fate this past Sunday when it surrendered a 2-1 lead at Wigan and lost 3-2. (For the record, Spector started the game, and the Hammers were still up 2-1 when he was substituted in the 61st minute.)

The club still has one match remaining, but yesterday it held a season-ending dinner at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. At £275 a head (roughly $440), you might think the event would be a tony, fairly sedate affair.

You would be wrong: According to various  reports, police had to be summoned to the hotel after a fan turned nasty following a conversation with Senegalese striker Demba Ba.

Here’s Ba talking to the Daily Mail

“It was a crazy situation. This guy came to me when we were sitting at the table. There were two players per table and Manuel Da Costa was with me.

“This guy came and asked for an autograph so I gave him his autograph. Then he asked me nicely how I was feeling so I just said I was tired from the game and that it was a tough game. And then he just replied ‘Oh, we’re tired watching you play every weekend.’

“I was surprised and told Da Costa what the guy had said. Then the guy all of a sudden started screaming at me like crazy. I tried to calm him down but he didn’t want to.”

Things escalated from there, and punches and dinner plates were thrown, tables overturned, and, reportedly, racial epithets hurled.

Not good times.

West Ham fans are understandably frustrated that their team is going down, but we gotta say, Ba was a curious target for this fan’s ire. He scored seven goals in 12 appearances for the Hammers this season—including two in Sunday’s game that staked his team to a 2-0 lead.

You’d think he’d be dead last on any nutjob’s list of players to confront about the awful season.

In any event, West Ham plays out the string on Sunday against Sunderland, at home. Some extra security may be in order.

No word on Spector’s experience of the Grosvenor fracas.

Spector Returns in Style

After weeks of being mired on the bench (or not even dressing) for West Ham in the Premier League, U.S. defender Jonathan Spector got a start in the Carling Cup yesterday and made the most of it, scoring two goals in the Hammers’ stunning 4-0 quarterfinal win over Manchester United, Spector’s former team.

The rangy Illinois native, who began his youth international career as a striker, started in midfield last night, and opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, athletically heading home a lob from Victor Obinna.

Fifteen minutes later, he and Obinna combined again, as Spector made a beautiful solo run, laid a ball into the box for Obinna, and when it got away from the Nigerian winger, pounced on the loose ball and buried it from nine yards.

Carlton Cole scored the Hammers’ other two goals on this snowy night at Upton Park, completely skinning Man U centerback Johnny Evans on both.

The victory puts West Ham in the semis with Arsenal, 2-0 winners over Wigan yesterday.

Today, Birmingham City takes on Aston Villa while Ipswich Town hosts West Brom to determine the other semifinalists.

Dempsey Scores, Spector Flubs: Your Meaningless Premier League Game of the Week

There was almost nothing at stake in yesterday’s meeting between Fulham and West Ham at Craven Cottage. West Ham was all but mathematically assured of staying up, and Fulham had advanced to the May 12 Europa League final and would be resting players for the game.

Sure, Fulham could move into the top half of the table with a win, while three points for West Ham would vault it over some of the teams ahead of it in the standings. There was also the odd fact that West Ham hadn’t lost a league game at Craven Cottage since 1966.

But apart from those straws, and pride and professionalism, there wasn’t much to grasp at, motivation-wise. Nobody told that to U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey, though. Playing with a cast on his right thumb, Dempsey hit the bar with a terrific shot in the 26th minute, then opened the scoring just before halftime, corralling a pass from Simon Davies and slipping a shot inside the near post.

An unlucky own goal by West Ham striker Carlton Cole put Fulham up 2-0 in the 58th minute, but Cole pulled one back for West Ham just three minutes later, heading in a Scott Parker free kick.

Now the Hammers had some life, and started creating some chances. An equalizer seemed within reach until U.S. defender Jonathan Spector coughed up the ball to Erik Nevland just outside the area on the left in the 80th minute. Nevland squared it for substitute Stefano Okaka to tap in: 3-1 Fulham.

Guillermo Franco scored in stoppage time to make it 3-2, but it was too late for West Ham. Thanks in large part to Spector’s gaffe, they lost a league match at Craven Cottage for the first time in 44 years.

With his second poor performance in a row, Spector is not exactly peaking as the World Cup approaches. Dempsey, on the other hand, is hitting his stride. Still not sure what happened with that apparently broken right thumb, though.

Click here for the game highlights.

Spector Shaky in Crucial West Ham Win

It wasn’t as bad as his U.S. teammate Jozy Altidore’s game against Sunderland, but Jonathan Spector’s performance in West Ham’s must-win game with Wigan on Saturday was not one he’ll want to remember.

He scored an own goal in the opening minutes—putting his team behind the eight-ball four minutes into the critical relegation game—and was yellow-carded for a foul in a dangerous spot in the second half, with his team clinging to a 2-2 scoreline.

Spector also struggled to contain speedy Wigan winger Charles N’Zogbia for much of the game.

Fortunately for the Yank defender, his gaffes faded to the background as West Ham won the game 3-2 on goals by Ilan, Radoslav Kovac and a scorching 76th-minute winner by Scott Parker.

When Liverpool blitzed 19th-place Burnley 4-0 on Sunday, West Ham had clinched another season in the top flight.

Here is a Parker highlight reel, including Saturday’s season-saver: