Filed: Wednesday, 19th March 2014
By: Paul Walker
Is it just me who fears we are sleepwalking towards a disaster that will make a mockery of all the self-congratulation that we have had to endure after managing one decent month of results in a dreadfully disappointing season?
I am sick and tired of being told that we are “safe”, “almost safe” or “nearly safe” from the drop, depending on whose opinion you read. None of that is remotely true.
Lovely Karren in her Sun column recently said we needed “one more win to be safe.” That would give us 34 points. Back in the old days there was an expression, Careless talk costs lives”. Well careless talk can cost you points, and causes relegation!
Ms Brady clearly had forgotten the 33 points we went down with under Avram Grant four seasons ago. Now that was a real sleepwalk to disaster with a manager who had not only lost the dressing room, but the whole Irons support as well.
Then David Gold suggested that two more wins would be enough. That’s closer, but Big Sam has never said anything less than 38 and you detect that some of this over-confident stuff has maybe got through to the players.
And of course we have had the lap of honour over the fact that Sam was not sacked when things were bad, and how clever they have all been to stick with him. But David Sullivan was quoted as saying there was no obvious candidate to replace Sam, so they had discussed it.
Now we have had two performances since fabulous February have seen a noticeable drop of intensity, and that bloody minded defiance that produced the draw at Chelsea. The constant postponements and lack of games on FA Cup weekends have not helped continuity, and we are far, far from being safe.
Now I have got a lot of time for Gold, very few club owners make themselves so openly available to fans. His Twitter responses to fans does him credit.
Trying to get comments from club owners, I discovered during my former life, was virtually impossible. They never want to be accountable, but Gold does put his head above the boardroom drinks cabinet. But maybe Gold and the rest of our leadership should just keep quiet about safety until it has been achieved.
We are not safe. Lose to even this shambolic Manchester United on Saturday, and we could find ourselves right back in the mire, even if I believe that we were never out of it. Tenth place was an illusion.
And I have also got a little tired of the leaking/speculation/guess work over our summer changes and player departures, it is a real distraction for us as well as the players. The names that have been suggested are not rocket science, but such stuff only unsettles a squad.
When our backs were against the wall in the bottom three, many minds were concentrated on the task. The visual impact of the Premier League table then was a reality check, something had to be done.
But Sam could see that the run of games coming then gave us real hope of some points. Swansea, grossly overrated in my mind, Southampton, Aston Villa and Norwich were all winnable. The success at Cardiff and the draw at Chelsea gave Sam the platform to turn things around.
He knew only too well that the run-in was horrific, and we still only have the same amount of points after 31 games that Grant had. And we have Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City to come in our last nine games. Nothing to give us confidence there, then.
Last season we managed six points from 14 games against the top seven. That top seven are the same this term, and so far we have managed four points in nine games against the division’s elite. Just where do we see points coming from in those five tough games?
And as for our other four matches, all clearly targeted by Sam, there is tremendous pressure to achieve something. But against those four clubs, we have not managed a win so far. We have lost at Crystal Palace and Hull while Sunderland and West Brom both drew at the Boleyn. It does not give me much confidence. We have to win two of those games to avoid a Grant-like shambles in the final few weeks.
So what do we need? The average points total to avoid the drop--in effect one more than the third from bottom side manages--is 37. That’s from the 18 seasons of the Premier League when there have been 20 teams competing.
And my mathematically-aware son points out that even that is a little high because on only four occasions in 18 seasons has a side needed to top 40 points to stay up. And on eight occasions, survival has been managed with 36 or less.
But for those of us who still recall with horror the 42 points that still sent us down in 2002-03, there is always capacity at West Ham to shoot ourselves in the foot.
And that brings me to Saturday’s demise at Stoke, a team you would think were Barcelona in disguise the way the match has been reported.
Over the last few months, in particular the dreadful spell of one league win in 13 that got us into this mess, I have never called for Sam to be sacked, only for strong leadership and firm decision-making. We at least got that and team selection was clearly based on Sam’s principals that if you played well you stayed in the side.
And I try not to question, in print anyway if not the pub, Sam’s team selections.
That’s his job and he knows more about fitness, form and confidence of players on a daily basis than me. If it meant Winston Reid, Joe Cole and Ravel Morrison couldn’t get a look in , well so be it. So what on earth happened on Saturday at Stoke?
HARD DONE BY: Dropped unfairly, says Paul
How is it possible to leave out our best, bravest and most defiant defender in James Collins at a place like the Britannia? Sam will know, because he is a stats man, that Collins’ performances as far as blocked shots, tackles and headers won, is one of the very best in the division. While Matt Taylor’s all-round work ethic and the ability to do the dirty work, has been second to none over the past few months. It is going to win him a new contract.
So to leave them both out at Stoke, always a physical battle, was mystifying. Collins had even played and scored on international duty, so he was clearly on form.
If anyone was going to be left out it was James Tomkins. The Everton winner was his fault. If you watch the highlights, you see Tomkins twice make a move to shut down the ten yards of open space that Romelu Lukaku was standing in. And twice Tomkins opted not to move out to challenge him. That mistake cost us the game.
Then at Stoke, it was Tomkins who ’lost’ Peter Crouch when the home side equalised. Reid, after so long out, was understandably rusty and not up to the pace of the game. And then we had the daft decision to include Antonio Nocerino instead of Taylor.
The Italian was lost. He was way off the pace and kept giving the ball away, or just going missing. No wonder Stephen Ireland suddenly had enough space to be a world beater.
Sam, to his credit, admitted he had picked the wrong side. But why on earth make such changes at a place like Stoke, never one for the faint hearted or if you are dodgy in the air.
So we have lost back to back games that needed to produce a couple of points to make our cause a little easier.
As for the list of players likely to be axed, I really hope that Jack Collison is retained. He may not be a great entertainer, but his work rate, drive and sheer effort makes him needed as a squad player.
As for Danny Potts, to me he has never had the physicality to play in a Premier League defence and Elliott Lee has always lacked pace. Jordan Spence has clearly blotted his copy book somewhere with Allardyce. but young Leo Chambers has always looked a good prospect and should be retained.
I frequently get accused of being a born pessimist where West Ham is concerned, and I hope I am worrying unduly about the weeks ahead. But experience tells me it is never a good idea to be over-optimistic about the Irons because they always let you down. I just hope it is not this season, too!
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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