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Shuffle the pack


Filed: Thursday, 5th April 2001
By: Peter Hamersley


Supporting West Ham since 1963 has made me immune from surprises. Winning away at Man. Utd or losing at home to Wrexham does nothing to my sense of surprise. But when it comes to disappointment, however, it’s a different story! Rarely does a season go by when a deep sense of disappointment is not felt.

I think that disappointment is when you expect something that does not eventuate. That is where the problem lies with West Ham. We are eternal under achievers and take the comfort route every time it’s offered. Morale, motivation, and mentor are words not normally associated with the West Ham way. We need to be underdogs to have any chance of success. Imposing superiority upon those below us has never been a strong point.

The recent events and results at the club since the win at Bradford are a perfect example of West Ham disappointment In my opinion, these wounds were self inflicted. The failure to see an opportunity to try out new formations following a run of injuries, led to the sacrificing of the Arsenal and Chelsea games. The inept performance of those games led to the drop in morale that has now become an epidemic following the defeat to Spurs and the resultant exit from the FA Cup.

Some may say it was bad luck to have such injuries at such a stage. Harry appears to be one of those who scold supposedly ill fortune. “Bare bones, shuffle the pack”, etc, etc, etc. These are Harry’s eternal excuses. But, it is Harry’s failure to shuffle the pack that has led to the present unacceptable position that we find ourselves in. The manager’s failure to make correct use of substitutions in games has resulted in much comment from any web site you choose to look at it. Would any other manager have left the situation to sort itself out when it clearly was not working in the Everton game on Saturday? Harry has allowed himself to become enclosed in a regime of favouritism and nepotism. Any successful business will tell you that there is no place for either if you want to ensure long term success.

When things are going well, it may seem fine to stick by the regulars and have relatives both around you and playing for you. A measure of success however, is how you react when times get tough. How does Frank senior react when Frank junior tells him that perhaps Uncle Harry has lost the plot? How does Uncle Harry feel about telling brother in law Frank senior that nephew Frank junior needs a run in the stiffs to recover his form? It doesn’t work does it? Look at all the top companies in the world that have been around for a long time – the family connections split up a long time ago. It always ends in tears.

Harry probably has been selecting the best eleven as far as skill and talent is concerned – though this is always open to opinion. However, additional to injuries and suspensions, sometimes the best eleven does not function as a team, and changes may be necessary to get the right blend and balance. This is why Premiership clubs have first team squad’s of around thirty players. West Ham’s use of its squad this season leaves a lot to be desired. Some players must wonder why on earth they are there. As supporters, we certainly feel that way! Footballers receive big pay packets – but at West Ham it is contestable as to whether they earn them. Just how many starts have our squad players had this season? Players such as Todorov, Soma, and Schemmel must wonder why they were brought in. Despite injury and loss of form, only scarce opportunity has come their way. Basilla returns to fitness – no game. Song has had an opportunity to play his way in – but has so far failed to impress. Camara, unimpressive at best, has had no direction. If he is not up to it he should be under no illusion as to what he must do to get a game. Kitson must have committed some sort of crime – there is a total lack of communication there that management must account for. Arguments could be stated for three or four others to have been given at least a game or two.

It is precisely this inability to shuffle the pack that has led to our present predicament. We remain two wins short of guaranteed survival. This has been the case since we beat Bradford the week after the glory of Sunderland. Harry has not addressed this fact so far. Having thrown the points to both Arsenal and Chelsea and then losing to Tottenham, the need to change the line up was obvious to all. Todorov should have started in the Ipswich game. Di Canio, genius when on form, has played much too deep recently – small wonder his goal ratio reflects this. Kanoute is a lone runner up front. Without a league goal in three consecutive games, what other club would have played a home game against struggling Everton with only one forward?

The time has come. The outcry for Harry’s head is growing daily. I’m not one for drastic measures. But I do support managed change when a different direction is needed. Harry states that he has taken us from relegation battlers to European challengers. However, you are only as good as your league position. The fact is that we are now back to relegation strugglers, albeit with a team that is capable of European qualification. That in itself is a failure of the manager to get the best from his players. Is it any wonder that Rio left us? Be prepared now for our England squad players to feel the same way, especially after not getting even a bench seat in the last two games. Why should an England manager pick players from a club that is evidently content to lose 7-1 at Man.Utd?

West Ham have lost direction this season. The season as a whole is reflective of the cup defeat to Spurs. We only played in short spells in that game (last five minutes of the first half and last fifteen of the second). In the same way, we played for a short spell approaching Christmas, and have yet to fire since. How we have suffered for the groundsman’s failure to have our pitch ready for the Chelsea game on December 30 when we were bang in form. Three points from that game would see us almost safe now and would have given us a better preparation to the Tottenham cup game. You have to agree, it is all self inflicted isn’t it?

The situation is now serious. We are currently heading for Rotherham, Stockport and Wigan next season. We could find ourselves underdogs to the likes of Charlton, Ipswich, Fulham and Coventry. Action must be taken NOW to turn things around. It is blatantly obvious that the current first team favourites cannot deliver the goods. At least three or four IMMEDIATE changes must be made. It is too late to buy new players. We must find the right balance within the squad we have. Of course, had we tried out things when we should have done, we would know what these formations are. As it is, we are left with just a precious few games in which to find a balanced team. When the season is over we can look at the management set up. Until then Harry the message is loud and clear – SHUFFLE THE PACK.


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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