1. The Claret and Blue Army’s jubilant return
West Ham United’s win was not only impressive, but also historic, for it was the first time since March 2020 that the Claret and Blue Army were present at an away Premier League match.
The COVID pandemic meant travelling supporters were absent for the whole of last season, meaning the Hammers’ loyal fans were unable to enjoy the record nine away victories achieved by David Moyes’ squad on their way to a sixth-place finish.
And so it was no surprise that the few thousand present at St James’ Park were determined to make up for lost time.
After welcoming the squad off the team coaches, seated – or standing – high up in the Leazes End, the Claret and Blue Army treated us to their full repertoire of songs, including Bubbles, Twist and Shout, We’re all going on a European tour, Oh Christian Dailly, My name is Ludek Miklosko and many more.
There was also a chorus reminding Mark Noble he is too good for England, another paying tribute to manager David Moyes and some light-hearted banter with the home fans.
At the final whistle, Moyes and his players celebrated with them, waving and clenching fists in recognition of a job well done.
After 18 months without the noise, atmosphere, support and humour provided by having our fans with us on the road, Sunday marked a memorable return for the best supporters in the game.
2. West Ham, United, all over the pitch
Bar two defensive slips in the first half, West Ham United’s all-round team performance at Newcastle United was truly superb.
The Hammers recovered from the shock of conceding an early goal and again on the stroke of half-time to win fairly comfortably at St James’ Park.
And it was a victory based not just on the performances of one or two individuals, but of all eleven starters.
To give you evidence of that claim, no fewer than NINE different players shared West Ham’s 18 goal attempts, with seven of them hitting the target and four of them scoring – Aaron Cresswell, Saïd Benrahma, Tomáš Souček and Michail Antonio.
Meanwhile, an amazing seven different Hammers made key passes leading to goal attempts and three provided assists – Antonio, Benrahma and Pablo Fornals, who also won a penalty.
Defensively, seven different players made a total of 23 tackles, nine combined to make 21 clearances, six made interceptions and four combined to block six Newcastle shots.
This was West Ham, United, all over the pitch.
3. Dominant Declan Rice
Anyone who saw Declan Rice’s performance in England’s UEFA Euro 2020 final with Italy will know the 22-year-old can dominate any midfield.
And in the second half, especially, at St James’ Park, Rice was virtually unstoppable.
West Ham United’s captain completed 49 of his 50 passes, including every one he attempted inside the Newcastle half.
Defensively, he won six of his nine duels, two of his three aerial battles while also weighing in with a clearance, two blocks and an interception.
Rice made just one tackle, but it was a telling one as he dispossessed Allan Saint-Maximin and quickly found Jarrod Bowen. Bowen’s pass released Antonio inside the box to cross for Saïd Benrahma to head in West Ham’s second equaliser eight minutes into the second half.
And then, after West Ham had powered into a 4-2 lead, the No41 helped his team see out the game with a succession of lung-bursting runs deep into Newcastle territory.
It was the performance of a player at the top of his game, but one we have come to expect from this outstanding young Hammer.
4. All-round Antonio’s eventful day
Michail Antonio ended Sunday as West Ham United’s joint-record all-time Premier League goalscorer, with his late strike drawing him level with Paolo Di Canio on 47.
But that told just a small part of the story as Antonio enjoyed one of the most eventful of his 181 appearances in Claret and Blue.
The new No9 was involved in virtually everything West Ham did, including all four goals.
He was part of the build-up to Aaron Cresswell’s first-half equaliser before providing the assist for Saïd Benrahma’s second leveller early in the second period.
Just past the hour-mark, he rose high to head against the inside of the post and when the ball dropped, Pablo Fornals was fouled for a penalty. Antonio himself took it and saw his spot-kick saved by Freddie Woodman, but fortunately Tomáš Souček was on hand to slam home the rebound.
And then, to complete an admirable afternoon’s work and the scoring, the centre forward collected Benrahma’s pass before slamming an unstoppable low shot past Woodman and into the bottom corner of the net.