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15 years of KUMB: 2004/05

Filed: Monday, 16th 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 most memorable articles we've published over the years, ahead of the new 2012/13 Premier League campaign.

For today's dip into the KUMB archives we're going back to our eighth season in business, the 2004/05 Championship campaign.

Having failed to take West Ham back into the Premiership at the first attempt having lost to Crystal Palace in the 2003/04 play-off Final, former Reading manager Alan Pardew - West Ham's tenth full-time manager - is under serious pressure.

Outside the play-off zone with just a matter of weeks remaining until the end of the 2004/05 season - and with only three wins from their last 11 games - Peter Hamersley examines how much time 'Pards' has left to correct the club's alarming slump in form...

Pardew’s time
By Peter Hamersley
First published March 2005

These are troubled times for West Ham. Expectations are high – returns are poor.

Looking at the current position – one place and one point outside a play-off position – it doesn’t appear so bad to an outsider maybe. But to those of us in the fold, there is a great feeling of despair and dismay at the current predicament the club and its supporters find ourselves in. This is not what we expected.

There are many schools of thought and protest currently. Alan Pardew is under great pressure as manager to achieve the stated goal and get the club back in the Premiership. The Board is under enormous pressure to show some form of leadership, direction and hope for it’s customers – the paying public.

But games, and maybe time, is running out for Pardew’s West Ham.

There are many sides to this story. Consideration must be given to the amount of support and backing Pardew has received from the Board – practically none. His brief was simple – get a relegated club back into the Premiership, preferably at the first attempt.

The resources given to him? – virtually zero. Pardew was up against it from day one. Initial reactions were positive. There were many backers for a man who had probably the best record of promotion and play off finishes in the lower leagues. Early transfers in were positive and by January a team had been established to push for promotion – albeit via the play offs.

But the road ahead was not easy, as time and again the same old West Ham resurfaced and performed poorly at places like Millwall and Reading. Eventually, as we know, Pardew’s West Ham made the play offs and gave us the biggest occasion we have had since May 1980. And there we saw Pardew’s failure in all its glory.

The failure to psych his team up for the biggest game of their lives. The failure to have an effective game plan. The failure to properly weigh up the opposition. The total failure to understand how his substitutions could change a game. I have never heard him defend the changes he made in that game, and have never heard one iota of support for his actions. Just total disbelief from those in and out of the game.

And so to this season. Many believed that a pre season with Pardew would put West Ham back amongst the top flight. But, as we know, we are far from it. Pardew’s team this season is probably weaker than last’s. It certainly has little confidence, does not appear to understand its tactics and game plan, and shows no character.

Pride and passion are words not often read in this season’s match reports. No one seems to know what to do. The team are sometimes aimless and have been inconsistent, never going more than four games without a defeat. The crowd’s frustration set in early as it reacted to the dross that was being served up on a regular basis at Upton Park.

Pardew made changes almost every game. Some due to injuries, and frustratingly, some because he cannot seem to resist the urge to tinker with a winning side.

In all this Pardew has failed. A match by match, player versus player comparison would show West Ham to have a team of riches in this league. But they have under performed.

It was the apparent strength of the squad that hyped up so many expectations. Who else has so many ex internationals (Sheringham, Hutchinson, Lomas, Dailly, Rebrov, Repka, Powell)? Added to under 21 caps in Ferdinand, Reo-Coker and Bywater? Plus million dollar rated Zamora, Etherington and Harewood?

Add to this Premiership experience in the likes of Chadwick and Brevett – no wonder expectations were so high. Yet week after week, against teams that have no such resources, West Ham continued to under perform. Pardew’s failure has been his inability to get his team motivated for this league.

This is not a league for stars to pose. It is a league where you have to get stuck in and prove yourself each and every game. It requires blood and guts – not airs and graces. It can be simple – a good passing team with ability to utilise the flanks, coupled with a no-nonsense defence and a hard working midfield will always do well at this level. This is a level where youth does well because of the hard work and running required over a 46 game season. The right blend with old heads like Sheringham should suffice.

But Pardew has failed to get the right blend – or mould it into something worthwhile. Instead he has put together a hotch-potch eleven that is aimlessly heading down the table at a time when it should be gearing up for the finale.

West Ham has lost six of the last eleven games, winning only three. A meagre total of 11 points from those 11 games is par for a relegation side, not a promotion one.
When the chips have been down, they have not responded.

Many players have let Pardew down. But, at the same time, he has failed them too. Pardew must take the blame for ruining the confidence of Hayden Mullins, for example, in who we all thought had been a bargain buy early on. A victim of his own versatility, Mullins has played wherever asked to do so. He has struggled in defence, but Pardew has sacrificed him by continuing to play him there.

Pardew should have publicly defended Mullins – especially so after the atrocious booing when coming on recently as sub against Crewe. Pardew should openly state that Mullins is playing out of position because he is being asked to do so and that Mullins will play anywhere for West Ham. Pardew should openly take any blame for this. The supporters would have a greater understanding if this were the case.

So, where to now? Of course, we all know that the real problem at West Ham lies behind the scenes. Given a choice, I think most supporters would prefer to see a change at the ownership and Board level of West Ham, rather than the manager. The problems there are material for another article, but suffice to say West Ham is a poorly run club that continues to show it amateurism in its affairs.

Can anyone name another Premiership club that lost the chance to play in a major Cup semi-final due to being unaware one of it’s players was cup tied? Can anyone think of a Premiership club that would allow the likes of Ferdinand, Lampard, Cole, Defoe and Johnson to slip away from it’s grasp rather than take the risk of building around the potential team of the 2000’s? Can anyone remember any club at any professional level making an agreement that denied itself having it’s appointed manager manage for a whole month, mid season, while it’s rival was allowed to appoint and build itself?

We all know the real problem with West Ham is that the person or persons ultimately responsible for these calamities remain at the club.

That aside, and assuming that the Board are not going to change or consider investment as a means of achieving any success, what is going to happen to Pardew and West Ham?

I think it is clear that Pardew has worked hard, but failed. I have never known another time at West Ham in my 42 years of support when so many have been calling for the managers head and the team be so high up the table! We are still 7th, and just one point off from a play off place.

Despite the league position, there is little support for a team that is really heading downwards and plays a poor version of the long ball game. Pardew’s West Ham does not entertain.

Nor does Pardew appear to plan. The recent home loss to Preston was a disaster for Pardew’s team. This was probably the turning point of the whole season. So much depended on that one game – a six pointer. It was preceded by an uninterrupted week – no internationals or cup games to distract attention.

Pardew should have approached the game like a cup final. Preparation should have been planned all week long and the players should have studied Preston’s strengths and weaknesses and been totally focused. A game plan should have been worked on all week in training so that by Saturday everyone should have been totally up for it. Instead we saw a gutless lack lustre performance where an aimless team drifted through such an important game without really raising a stir.

That pathetic performance, and subsequent result, was all down to poor preparation. Clearly the manager is to blame.

Media reports are high right now that the Board have already approached Gordon Strachan and that Pardew is going. Ken Dyer on “This is London” has mentioned this, and he appears to have a connection with Terry Brown inside West Ham. There appears to be some truth in this rumour. However, it is a move that would surprise me, given West Hams’ previous.

I would speculate and say that they’ll actually stay with Pardew until it is almost certain the play offs are not going to happen. Or, if they do, only failure to achieve promotion will be Pardew’s undoing.

Would Strachan fare any better? Right now, some will say he can’t do any worse! The same argument that applied when Roeder’s head was on the block. A change happening right now – today - might be just what is required to lift the fortunes at West Ham. Strachan has some pedigree, but didn’t win anything in his previous charges with two struggling clubs like Coventry and Southampton.

I don’t personally see a long term success here – I think I’d rather opt for a younger man with raw talent. I’d actually be in favour of Martin Allen – a former player with passion and enthusiasm that might spark off a revolution at Upton Park. Expectations would be lower with someone like Mad Dog and a clear out of the big names might see a young and attractive side put together that might well be the real future we all hope for. I think that his grounding at Brentford has been a success and he will be a longer term solution.

It might be too late for this season – and Strachan’s availability is strongly in his favour right now. Personally, I’d rather wait. To be honest, I don’t think I relish the prospect of playing in the Premier League with Pardew’s team anyway.

Whatever, it is more than likely that another managerial chapter is about to open in the history of West Ham United Football Club.

2004/05 Fact File

League: Championship
Manager: Alan Pardew
Final Position: 6th (promoted via the play-offs)

Points: 73
Record: Won 21, Drew 10, Lost 15
Goals: For 66, Against 56 (GD +10)

FA Cup: Fourth Round - lost to Sheff Utd (a, replay, pens)
League Cup: Third Round - lost 1-0 to Chelsea (a)

Biggest Win: West Ham Utd 5-0 Plymouth (February 2005)
Biggest Defeat: Cardiff 4-1 West Ham Utd (November 2004)

KUMB.com Player of the Year: Teddy Sheringham
KUMB.com Young Player of the Year: Mark Noble

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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