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2006/07 in review

Filed: Tuesday, 15th May 2007
By: Joe Harrow

Joe Harrow takes a look back at one of the most eventful seasons ever experienced at The Boleyn.

The beginning

West Ham and my mood are inextricably linked. Those close to me can fairly accurately predict West Ham’s last result, scorers and subsequent league position by the complex contours of my face.

For the 2006/07 season I was a little more difficult to read. Anger and happiness mixed like paint into a weird bemused brown.

Pre-season everything seemed so perfect. I attended the Olympiakos game and saw a trim and svelte Dean Ashton, our young manager beamed with what at the time appeared to be confidence, all the noises were right. Pardew’s pre-season signings seemed to be sound fringe players with potential. We had no reason to doubt Pardew’s judgement after the miraculous transformation of average players to Premiership destroyers last season.

Sudden realisations

We started the season well with a home win. I unfortunately couldn’t attend because of the V festival in Chelmsford. Even there it was business as usual, West Ham shirts everywhere, excitedly sharing knowledge of the score, a poor Premiership, there to be eaten by a team with desire and drive, too easy.

Then reality. 11 games in it began quite clear that Pardew’s “miraculous transformation” was perhaps down to something more arcane. Had he sold his soul in exchange for Premiership survival? Was the lease on success up?

Basic football skills we took for granted last season seemingly disappeared. Passing to a teammate, pressuring the ball, width, ball retention in the final third, nothing was functioning as it should.

Our play reminded me of a bank holiday a year or so back, me and a dozen or so hung-over friends grudgingly fulfilling the fixture. I half expected Roy Carroll to ignite a Benson and hastily stamp it out as Mido broke our sluggish defensive line. It dawned on us all that our only win in 11 came against a 10-men Charlton. Thing’s were not as they seemed.

The Egg, the Kia and the Pardew

The takeover talk first arose after the unlikely signings of Tevez and Mascherano (which I will deal with in more detail later). Astute observers saw the links between the companies that owned them, Zinhavi and Kia who had unsuccessfully tried to buy our club last season. Brown, possibly the most loathed and resented Chairman in football history played his cards to his chest, most likely for selfish reasons rather than for the good of our club but it quickly became clear that Kia’s bid was more about real estate and player babysitting than football. From the ether came our saviour and thank God Brown, despite all his shortcomings chose him over Kia’s bid. The Eggman.

I cannot put into words the affection I have for him. A big fish in European football, well connected, a true football man with a clear vision and a no bullsh*t attitude. He immediately - and to the shock of many - showed us his decisiveness by sacking our saviour Pardew.

My view on Pardew is divided. Our first two seasons in the CCC performances were very poor with what I believed to be the best squad in the league. We scraped into two playoffs and had some shocking results.

One can only admire his bravado in our first promotion season but something always made me feel uneasy about him, when basking in the glory of our top-ten finish and Cup run he regularly alluded to the abuse he received from West Ham fans, failing to recognise football is a results business. Thank god Eggert is aware of this.

Welcome home Curbs

I was delighted Eggert appointed Curbishley as our new manager. I am not of the mind English managers are inferior to their foreign counterparts. Very few English managers have been given a chance with large budgets and are forced to squeeze results out of poor squads.

Even when we were losing under Curbishley you had the sense he was trying to instil something in the team. We looked organised, rigid and had to go through some awful results but once the team settled it became clear it was slowly clicking into place. There was no more using 4 strikers in one match or fitting round pegs in square holes.

Curbs also did exceptionally well considering our predicament to attract the signings he did. Neill brought a calm head and confidence to our defence. Quashie though not very good at least got Mullins out of the picture with his marginally better distribution. The turning point was coming.

Gutted, but proud

It’s becoming a cliché that the Tottenham game was the turning point of our season. “Gutted, but proud” was my response to a Sp*rs supporting friend who txt me saying “that is one of the best games I have ever seen”. His reply? “You should be”.

Something happened that day. The team stopped believing they could stay up but played with an anger and aggression spawned by the injustice of Stalteri’s bayoneting our wounded heroes.

Lady Luck was finally on our side. Goals started to fly in, our midfield was assured and strong with Noble pulling the strings, calmly distributing the ball like an old pro. Tevez showed the class all West Ham fans knew was there in a functioning team. Our hero Bobby banged in seven goals. I felt proud to be watching them again, the players I literally hated had won back my respect; the buzz was back.

Even losses to Sheffield Utd and Chelsea didn’t stop a small army going up to Wigan. From the second I got in the mini-bus to the second I left the game I knew we would destroy them. Their JJB advert of a club didn’t stand a chance. The sheer volume and intensity of the support seemed to suck the ball into the net again and again. We had the momentum and everyone knew it.

The last day worryingly seemed a formality - and it was.

The aftermath

I won’t say much on the issue of Mascherano or Tevez because I don’t believe it to be a massive factor in our season. It is a media generated furore that actually had very little impact. Tevez didn’t score until the team functioned, Mascherano hardly played and is more suited to a cultured continental system. To say Tevez single handedly kept us up shows a lack of respect for our management and players like Bobby Zamora, who scored seven in the last ten and did more over the whole season for the team.

We didn’t get points deducted partly because of the timing of the hearing but also because it was a complex case with no precedent. I am very proud of Magnusson and the class he has shown in this and believe we will come out of it smelling like roses - and the Chairmen of Sheffield Utd and Wigan like pig sh*t.

An odd, often painful season. But wasn’t it all worth it at 4.50 Sunday?

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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