Filed: Friday, 6th July 2012
By: Staff Writer
15 years ago this month, KUMB.com - then known simply as 'Knees up Mother Brown' - took it's first tentative steps on an embryonic world wide web. To celebrate this inauspicious occasion we will be reproducing some of the best articles to appear on our website over the years ahead of the new 2012/13 Premier League campaign.
For our latest dip into the KUMB archive we're going back to our third season in business, the 1999/2000 campaign. In February 2000, former columnist Chris Tye reflected on a League Cup debacle - or Mannygate (thanks to chief protagonist Manny Omoyinmi) as it was known at the time here on KUMB - whilst insisting that despite that particular disaster, there were still plenty of reasons to be cheerful...
This is all about being upbeat. Despite the horror of last month's Villa/Mannygate disaster, I'm still upbeat. I cannot possibly stay downbeat for long with things as they are. Sure, the defeats hurt, but let's not forget where we are and where we've come from.
Let's slip back four or five seasons. West Ham have an aging, broadly talentless squad and heroes are an overworked goalkeeper and a buccaneering, committed defender. Relegation is ever a threat, at times a certainty and delirium comes at that moment late in the season when avoiding the big drop becomes a mathematical certainty. The youth system has all but dried up, there's no money (some things never change) and our football has become dour to watch.
If someone had come up to me, tapped me on the shoulder and said "Don't worry - in four seasons we'll be a regular top 10 club. The youth infrastructure will be so good that a list of the 50 top teenagers in British football will contain seven, nearly one in six, Hammers including the most thrilling talent of the generation. Transfer surpluses will be used to help fund a ground development which will take us to 40,000+, in our spiritual home and in a ground both modern but full of the Upton park character - and we will have a nice sortie into Europe", I would have said "You're f*cking mad, that'll take a miracle."
Here we are now. Top 10 for three successive seasons, European trips lodged in the memory bank, three or four players capable of breathtaking skill, the best youth team ever with players already showing in the first team, evidence of things happening to the ground. The only way not to view it as a miracle is to compare us to Man U or Arsenal. But we ain't them, never will be. I wouldn't want us to be - the price is too high.
Would you want to take your seat in the ground, and wonder whether the bloke next to you is a true fan, or whether he supports your club because counting trophies and the pub bragging rights it brings are what football is to him? Because it was an easy thing to do, a choice that offered the minimum of pain? Or do you want to know that the same pain, the ups and downs, the emotion, the unbending love that are etched into your soul are in his. And victories, when they come are so much sweeter for it.
They have been earned, earned 10 times over by years of faith and hope in the face of innumerable setbacks.
Let's look at it another way. Take three similar sized clubs, say Nottingham Forest, Queens Park Rangers and us from that era. Who would have predicted that we alone out of those three would make a home in the top 10 of the Premiership? Hardly anyone. Who would have said that we'll get relegated once again and this time not make it back up? Most, perhaps all.
We were on the precipice - had we been relegated in 1997 we would still be down. We have broken the shackles constrained by our 'size' and moved ahead of our peers. How can I possibly be downbeat?
Think of QPR and Forest. We haven't made a desperate dash for success borrowing from tomorrow. It's been solid, permanent progress that will last. Greenpeace bearded, sandal-wearing types always say that we don't inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children. It's the same with this club: I don't want to ruin future generations' joy by indulging in a quick dash for success to fuel my personal, instantaneous need for a trophy. I want the long term things - the ground, the money spent signing 16-year-olds to be right, to secure our place among the elite for the forseeable future.
That's all being done.
It's easy to be jealous. Jealous of clubs who spend £25million on players in a close season to try and fund success, while we sniff around for bargains. But we are not poor. If Messrs Cole, Carrick, Newton and any other youths that make it through aren't worth £25million collectively this time next year I'll do a naked Morris dance down Green Street.
I'd rather have those kids come through than spend the cash anyway, because that's the way we do it at West Ham, it's our heritage, it won us a World Cup once, and is our best chance of doing it again. If you don't burst with pride over those kids them something has gone seriously wrong.
Four years ago you'd wait all season for a moment of jaw dropping magic; today the likes of Di Canio, Cole and Sinclair churn them out every time they play. Pure moments of magic that linger longer than any defeat. The League Cup defeat against Villa doesn't hurt now, but I still drool over the time Joe Cole flicked the ball over his head and ran 40 yards up the left flank in front of the West lower without the ball touching the ground in the Youth Cup Qtr Final.
These are the best of times, enjoy them.
1999/00 Fact File
Manager: Harry Redknapp
Final Position: 9th
Record: Won 15, Drew 10, Lost 14
Goals: For 52, Against 53 (GD -1)
FA Cup: Third Round - lost 1-0 to Tranmere (a)
League Cup: Quarter Finals - lost 3-1 to Aston Villa (h, in a replay)
Biggest Win: West Ham Utd 5-0 Coventry (April 2000)
Biggest Defeat: Man Utd 7-1 West Ham Utd (April 2000)
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.
by John J
11:31AM 6th Jul 2012
''Did you Morris dance naked down Green Street? If so, luckily I missed that!''
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