This being my personal, professional and philosophical blog, I don’t normally write about football, but I think now is a good time.
As an armchair supporter of West Ham United for the last 30+ years, I’ve been seen the ups and downs before. This season’s down seems to be the toughest yet though.
I’d heard all the rumours about Avram Grant when he started, mainly about his training methods and lineup choices from Chelsea fans who said he rode his luck.
But I looked at his time at Portsmouth, the team spirit that he seemed to foster, despite Pompey’s relegation, mainly for their points deduction rather than their play, and hoped for the best.
It wasn’t long before I realised that maybe our hopes had been misplaced – It took two months to get a Premiership win, against Tottenham, and then another two months for our second win, at home to Wigan.
West Ham were bottom at Christmas, along with that favoured pundits’ statistic that the team who are there at that time, are doomed to go down.
But then there was a decisive Boxing Day win over Fulham and another against Wolves, getting our spirits up again before we got a 5-0 drubbing from Newcastle. Our old boss Pardew had only been manager of the Toon a month, and the NUFC fans, may of whom seemed dead against him, probably couldn’t believe their luck.
Our cup run was still good though, even though we really needed league points, and maybe winning some silverware might give the team’s morale a boost.
However, we screwed that up too, first beating and then losing to Birmingham in the League Cup, before failing to even secure revenge over them in the league.
Signing Demba Ba, Robbie Keane and Wayne Bridge was yet more of West Ham looking good on paper and, once again, there was hope. The West Brom match in mid February, sure, we showed great spirit to come back from being 3-0 down to get the draw, but it was Scott Parker’s team talk at half time that got the squad firing again, not the manager.
The win over Liverpool at the end of February was another high – At the top of the relegation zone, two more “wins like that” could have taken us to mid-table, and the emphatic 3-0 win over Stoke saw us out of the zone. But then that dream didn’t last long – who knocked us out of the FA Cup run? Yeah, Stoke.
And that was it for the rest of our miserable season – not one solitary win in any of our last 9 games.
Grant, hardly the most inspirational character, kept on clinging to any mere spectres of positivity that he could find in a game, whether these ghosts were fleeting or just non-existent. But when he allowed the team to throw away that 2-0 lead over Wigan, that was it – Game over!
I didn’t like the way he was sacked, straight away after the game in a room borrowed from Dave Whelan who, just a few years prior, was baying for our blood when he and other club owners wanted West Ham punished for its owners’ misdemeanours in the transfer market.
As for putting Kevin Keen in charge for the last game, we didn’t come out of that one with a scrap of pride either. Down and out. No bang, just a whimper. When Graham Westley was manager here at Farnborough he used to have his own business, the AIMITA Corporation; AIMITA was an acronym for Attitude Is More Important Than Ability, and despite Keen’s attitude, the ability was sadly lacking.
Now we’ve got Sam Allardyce at the helm.
I saw a lot of shouting and moaning about his appointment but then who else would have been up to the job? Martin O’Neill? I think he was scared away with the carry-on over his appointment earlier in the year. Chris Hughton? He was my personal favourite for the job.
But the owners chose Big Sam. I think he’s a good choice; I said elsewhere, and I’ll say it again, that I think he could be the best manager we’ve had in a while and more…
To prove a point, he’s already lured Kevin Nolan away from Newcastle United. For Nolan to have been in the side that thumped us 5-0 and then join us in the Championship bodes well – Not only does that show the pull of Sam Allardyce as a manager but that speaks volumes about the character of Kevin Nolan – That’s the sort of spirit and attitude that West Ham fans should appreciate.
What’s more is that bagging Nolan is a sign of intent – Nothing makes a statement quite like the fact that a successful quality Premiership player is willing to step down a league and play for the Hammers. When Big Sam’s back from his holiday on Monday, he can sit down with Scott Parker and and maybe persuade him to stay.
OK, that’s a big ask, especially when Scotty has said he wants to secure his England place by playing Premiership football next season. If Tottenham can hold out selling Luca Modric for more than the “derisory” £22 million that Chelsea have offered for him then you can be sure that Blinky will use that money to come after Super Scotty. But let’s wait and see aye?
Abdulaye Faye is another good signing – We have a lot of young players in and expected in the squad so we’ll need Faye’s strength and experience. Again, to come down a league, that shows good character and Faye could be just what we need in defence.
As for the rest of the squad, well we’ve lost Ba already. Cole could still bring in some cash but then I fear for whom his replacement might be. If he stays, I’d like to see if the new manager can inspire some of that gritty determination Cole showed against West Brom. If not, then I’m at a loss as to who to play upfront; we’ll need strength and experience to go with Hines and Sears, so if Cole stays we might just do OK.
Will Robert Green go? Who knows. Again, he could bring in a few bob and the likes of Marek Stech could finally get first dibs, but you’d have to ask goalkeeping coach David Coles for his opinion if he stays as part of the backroom staff. As a techie with a PhD wife, I’d love to see Ruud Boffin in goal, but then that’s more of an appeal to my sense of humour.
I haven’t got time nor space to speculate further on individual signings but I think that Sam Allardyce will bring much-needed discipline to the side, something that both Zola and Grant lacked. The fear of his “long ball” style is probably, pardon the pun, a bit over the top – The excuse against this is the whimsical “West Ham way” and that’s the sort of fancy football we can’t afford to either pay for let alone play. Besides, I haven’t seen anything like that since we had Di Canio in the side, although Diamanti show some flair and passion yet we got rid of him.
I hear people slagging off Allardyce in that he should have cut short his holiday to commit to West Ham, but if he’s bagged Faye and Nolan whilst being away then think about the possibilities once he’s back in Green Street.
I’ve got high hopes. This is going to be an interesting few weeks, so I hope Big Sam can impress the fans with some more great signings. But please, not Alan Smith, El Hadji Diouf or Lee Bowyer again – if they sign for West Ham then that’ll taint my, so far, good opinion of Big Sam. If he can get some strong, capable and agreeable new signings and maybe, just maybe, hang on to to some of our key players, then hopefully this will be an exciting season. Even if we do just grind out some results and hold on to some one goal leads like we’ve hardly been able to do in two seasons.
And if I can pull in as much business as I can handle this coming year then maybe I can finally afford that season ticket…
COME ON YOU IRONS!
Tags: West Ham