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All calm on the West Ham front... for a change


Filed: Friday, 31st May 2013
By: Paul Walker


I donít know about you lot, but Iíve had a brilliant couple of weeks, no tension, no high blood pressure, no sleepless nights. Not even a mild nervous breakdown.

Yes, I know, itís so unlike the usual end of season for a West Ham fan. And itís all because our Sam and the boys finished in a remarkable tenth place, without any hint of featuring in Skyís íletís search for a sobbing faní final day TV torture.

Itís hard to believe that it is two weeks since our last day victory over Reading, a hugely entertaining day that went totally to plan before we all drifted happily off into the sunset without a care in the world.

The previous season we were still to endure the draining play-off Final. The previous season we were left to contemplate the horrors of relegation and the season before that we had just about limped over the line to safety.

It was quite fun watching Crystal Palace beat Watford at Wembley to claim their place back in the top flight. Seeing such anguish underlined what it must have been like to watch us at the same venue a year earlier.

The right side won, too. Palace deserved to win, even though some of our number wanted to see Gianfranco Zola back into the top flight. Iíve nothing against Zola, but I have plenty against Scott Duxbury, who caused so many of our own problems over the Tevez fiasco. To see him back in the Premier League at the administrative helm of Watford would have been too much to bear.

Anyway, I was delighted for Danny Gabbidon. He served us well over the years and struggled to overcome some shocking injuries that almost ended his career. Once our Hammer of the Year, he was always a honest, tireless competitor in our colours.

Forced to play out of position so often, it was nice to see him at the heart of Palaceís defence and doing so well. I do hope he gets a good reception when he returns to the Boleyn with Palace next season.

The reason, of course, for me being able to feel so happy for a potential rival is the calm state of mind that follows our more than decent season. Although I donít go along with Samís ability to re-write history and claim we were never in the relegation dogfight. Four points off the bottom three with a couple of weeks of the season left felt like a dogfight to me, and itĎs easy in hindsight to just trot out that we were never lower than 14th.

But tenth place is a real credit to our team. And the statistics make enlightening reading. In what John Hellierís book rightly called the Elite Years, basically from 1958-59 when we won promotion from the old Second Division to now, we have finished above tenth place just 16 times.

And if you want to massage a fact with a little journalistic licence, you can go back to our first season in the Football League (1919-20) and the figure is just 18 times above tenth place in 95 years. The war years, and the fact that we were in the Second Division from 1932 to 1959, does make that statistic a little dramatic. But you take my point.

What our team and manager achieved in the recently ended season was very, very impressive, so I was determined to savour the moment for a couple of weeks before launching into the usual silly summer season of transfer rumours.

Weíve not been disappointed. A quick flick through the more lunatic fringes off football websites and blogs has thrown up 17 names already, probably more that I have missed or just dismissed as ludicrous.

From Dynamo Moscow midfielder Balas Dzsudzsak to a Serbian born, Albanian heritage striker Atdhe Huhiu (who plays for Austria) and is on loan to Eskisehirspor in Turkey. These are just some of the growing list of players being linked with Sam.

Finishing tenth at least gives us a better quality of rumour, like Manchester City wanting to sign Ravel Morrison!

AC Milan veteran Massimo Ambrosiniís name keeps cropping up; Iím not too sure about that one, at 36 surely he is too old?

Bordeaux defender Ludovic Sane seems a good shout, mainly because we will have to sing a new Ludo song! I cannot see Jose Mourinho letting Romelu Lukaku back out on loan again, while Barcelona reserve defender Marc Bartra would be interesting, just to see how he handles Samís defensive and attacking set-piece set ups after all those years playing the beautiful game at the Nou Camp.

Razvan Rat seems a decent signing, heís played high quality stuff for years and will help solve our pressing left-back problem. George McCartney does seem injury prone and I donít believe Danny Potts is strong enough yet. So we need experience there and that allows Joey OíBrien and Guy Demel to contest the right-back slot.

But the real one we are all waiting to hear about is Andy Carrollís future. And it should not be long, I feel we all made it pretty clear to the lad during the Reading game that he would be more than welcome back, and itís all down to his career ambitions now.

But if he thinks he is going to get another crack at Liverpool, I believe he is seriously deluded. Brendan Rodgers has not changed his mind from last summer, and must surely have made it plain to Carroll that he is well down the pecking order.

The main reason everyone was so keen to get him out on loan last summer - and Rodgers did tell the lad to join us - is that Liverpoolís American owners were not prepared to have a very expensive asset just sitting on the bench. At £35m and £80,000 a week, that was just not cost effective and would not be tolerated. I doubt anything has changed.

On a smaller scale, that sort of accounting had a lot to do with Carlton Coleís departure from the Boleyn. Allardyce was only ever going to use Cole from the bench, and he was on around £50,000, money that could be spent on the Carroll deal or bringing in sensibly priced cover up front.

I wish Cole well, he did a good, loyal job for us and he will get one last decent pay-day at somewhere like Hull or Palace. Or even in the States where deadbeats like Freddie Piquionne and Nigel Reo-Coker can make a lucrative living. Good luck Carlton, and thanks for everything.

The Carroll situation is being masterminded, of course, by Mark Curtis, the agent for Sam and the player. I still donít understand how football can tolerate what seems a clear conflict of interest, but then what do I know.

Andy has been away on holiday while Curtis makes Liverpool sweat. They desperately need their wage bill slashed and the money to fund Rodgers' rebuilding. He has to make his own money and sell before buying, so he needs cash from the Carroll deal.

And seemingly without any other big offers for Carroll, the lad would be wise to join a club like ourselves who really want him. And to go somewhere that his private life is not all over the papers every day.

That is what it was like in Newcastle, just Google his name to find out the long list of former girlfriends, an ex-fiancee, children plus the usual array of burnt-out cars and bar room problems. Has anyone heard anything about Carroll off the pitch while he has been in London? I certainly havenít, and I doubt little will have changed for him in Geordieland. Newcastle really is a very small city where he just cannot blend quietly into the background like he seems to have done in London.

He is desperate to be in the England World Cup squad in Brazil, and he wonít do that without playing a full season in the top flight. And that wonít happen at Anfield for him.

Even if Luis Suarez leaves, and that seems likely, and Daniel Sturridgeís ankle injury is worse than feared, Rodgers will still see Fabio Borini ahead of Carroll while he is about to spend £7m on Celta Vigoís forward Iago Aspas. So Andy, come to a club where you are wanted and will play every week.

As for the rest, I will be interested to see what Sam decides to do about Alou Diarra and Gary OíNeil. While decisions will need to be taken about the futures of Rob Hall, Blair Turgott and Elliot Lee, all youngsters who need to progress.

But just for now, Iím off for more calm on holiday, the only concern is whether I will like the new Adidas kit enough to finally buy one at my age!


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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