Filed: Tuesday, 6th May 2008
By: Gary Kruse
So here we are then, at the end of another eventful roller coaster of a season at West Ham United.
Next weekend’s game against the Villa marks the end of a tumultuous, turbulent, topsy turvy season that has seen West Ham do…not an awful lot actually.
In truth, this season has been about as turbulent as a frozen mill pond. In fact, it’s been frustrating in its blandness. We’ve been sitting comfortably in a mid-table league of our own since about the thirteenth game of the season. We’ve not even bothered to flirt with relegation. We could have had a decent cup-run, but the minute we met quality opposition, we went crashing out.
And whilst we paid lip-service to the idea of chasing a UEFA Cup place, the players apparently took a long hard look at what it would take to achieve that goal and decided to think about their holidays instead. It’s been so tedious since Christmas that we’ve even started calling ourselves Charlton.
The worrying thing about the Charlton tag is that it accurately sums up the kind of season we’ve had. Whilst we strove for the magical forty point target that almost certainly guarantees Premier League survival we played like lions. Who can forget the 5-0 thrashing of Derby, the 3-0 slaughter of Reading and that glorious hat-trick victory over Manchester United. We even came from a goal down in that one! Glorious days. The future looked bright.
But once safety was all but assured, we seemed to stop playing. Oh for sure, there have been some fantastic moments in the second half of the season. Young Freddie Sears scoring on his debut, and celebrating with crossed arms immediately springs to mind, as does Carlton Cole’s overhead strike at Manchester City.
But for the most part it’s been insipid, tedious and utterly devoid of anything resembling passion. It almost made you long for a good ol’ fashioned relegation scrap. Now, with one game to go, the biggest issue to be settled is will we finish above the Spuds? Forgive me for my negativity, but that’s hardly a nail-biting conclusion to the season.
Curbs has had his detractors, but to be fair to him, the aim this season was stability. We’ve certainly had a lot of that. Win, lose or draw, we’ve barely moved in mid-table. An almost unprecendent injury list hasn’t helped matters and Curbishley has to take some credit for putting together a makeshift side that has still managed to avoid the lower reaches of the table. And although the performances in recent months have left a lot to be desired, there have been some positives that can be taken from the season.
For a start we’ve managed to blood some of the Academy boys. Freddie Sears became a cult hero with his debut goal, and Jack Collison and James Tomkins have both featured in the side more than once over the last few months. Mark Noble has continued to develop steadily. Carlton Cole reacted well to the early season boo-boys and has managed to earn the respect of the Hammers faithful. Rob Green has finally won a place in the England squad, and Dean Ashton has found his scoring boots again.
So overall, it’s a case of job done, and lets look forward to next season. The Icelandic masters must surely be pleased with the progress and one would hope that they would use this stability as a springboard to build a squad capable of challenging for a Uefa Cup spot.
Unfortunately there are some worrying rumours flying around at the minute that suggest it may be a summer of déjà vu for Hammers fans.
Curbs has said that there will be no big name signings this summer. There is talk of trimming the wage bill and quite rightly so, considering most of the squad players never even make the bench. More worryingly though, Dean Ashton and Rob Green are yet to sign new contracts, and if you believe everything you read in the red-tops, the Big Four are sniffing around again.
Curbs has said he would like to tie Green and Ashton into new deals, but will he actually be able to? Only time will tell, but we now face the first big test of the Icelandic ambition.
We’ve always had a reputation as a feeder club. We have at least five ex-players who may well feature in the Champions League final later this month. I’m sure I won’t be the only Hammers fan wondering what might have been had we kept the likes of Rio and Tevez, Carrick and Cole, not to mention Lampard.
But when the Icelandic consortium took over, we were led to believe that we would no longer need to sell our best players. We were told that there was a five year plan for Champions League football. There was talk of new training facilities and a new ground. Even the official website calls it a new beginning.
If this is a new beginning, then the powers that be need to make a statement to the fans and ensure that we don’t loose Green or Ashton, or any of our other up and coming young talents.
On the other hand, if we do end up selling Ashton and Green this summer, it will be a clear indication that despite the new owners, nothing has changed. We will still be a feeder club, the Champions League will probably be forever out of reach, and Hammers fans will have to watch their former heroes march to glory with other teams.
By the time the new season kicks off in August, things should be a lot clearer. For now though we have one more game of this season left. Let’s hope we defeat the Villa, and claim tenth spot.
At least then we can enjoy the summer knowing that despite the fact that we’ve been rubbish since Christmas, we were still better than Spurs.
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.
12:30AM 7th May 2008
''I have to say Gary, that your article highlights the fears that we as West Ham fans have suffered for all our lives really which of course is losing our best players to bigger clubs and it should also send a message to BG that we are all watching with great interest over the summer period to see whether the 'feeder club' tag has actually been removed or not!The Premier League table never lies and you are always better than those below you. If we beat Villa and finish above Spuds next season too then we are surely better than them now and can look forward to a top 6 finish and hopefully playing football in the true West Ham tradition!
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