Filed: Tuesday, 26th January 2016
By: Paul Walker
It’s all happened in a bit of a rush, hasn’t it? You have to wonder whether the Davids and Karren write their own scripts these days!
The ambition of moving towards a new level with a team playing attractively with belief, confidence and style was what we all craved, and only but the most stupidly inpatient were happy to give it a little time.
But there we were in the anniversary week to mark six years of David Sullivan and David Gold’s ownership, and our achievements on and off the field this season were being lauded across the globe.
Hot on the heels of being told we were Europe’s most improved club this season came Deloitte’s Money League table which has us back in the top 20 of Europe’s (and that means the world's) richest clubs.
Last time we were there--I must have missed it--was a decade ago around the time we were playing in the FA Cup Final and then finding that Alan Pardew would not use properly two of the world’s best players. And yes, I know Carlos and his Argie mate Javier had been partying after the World Cup in Germany and were a touch unfit.
It all went downhill from then on really, and it has taken ten years to claw our way out of that hole, one that nearly buried us under the ludicrous excesses of the Icelandic owners.
However much I admired Hayden Mullins’ graft, nobody will ever convince me that he was a better player than Mascherano, while if Tevez had been given just a little bit more love early on, he might have stuck around a lot longer and maybe no-one would ever have known about the dodgy clause in his contract. Who knows?
But here we are, finally getting praise for the efforts of Slaven Bilic and his hungry, ambitious team. Taking Manchester City to the very limit was just the icing on the cake of an eye-opening week.
And it wasn’t a fluke. We were unlucky not to win, and for half an hour at the beginning of the second half we played City off the park, much like Liverpool had floundered in the previous home league game.
The key now is for Slav to avoid the inconsistencies. After stuffing Liverpool we were ordinary against Wolves in the Cup, excellent eventually at Bournemouth but limp and disappointing at Newcastle. It would be nice to play at Liverpool in the Cup on Saturday just like we did against City, and then carry that character and desire into next Tuesday’s home game with Aston Villa.
But that is a really a small piece of nit-picking. What we have watched evolving at the Boleyn these past weeks has been truly remarkable, and we are being taken seriously by everyone, despite producing these performances on the back of a lengthy and worrying injury list.
This is the best West Ham side I have seen in many years, they have bought into Slav’s ethos, of team spirit and hard graft. It’s becoming a joy to watch.
And there has been some interesting media coverage too. It’s been hard to avoid Sullivan on the TV or in newspapers. The best interview was with the Daily Mail (yes, surprised me too, not one mention of porn barons or rabbits).
Ian Ladyman, another old mate of mine, is one of the Mail’s brightest and best writers, and he got some interesting stuff out of Sully. The only thing I took issue with was our co-chairman saying us fans want dreams and not reality.
Sorry, I’ve done the dreaming stuff for more years than I can remember. I want the reality of modern football now ingrained into our DNA. I want proof that the club is being run properly, with a seriously structured business plan that goes way beyond moving to Stratford. I would be more than happy with major foreign investment, I want to feel like Manchester City fans feel.
I want to see our team being competitive with the best week in week out, not just the usual cannon fodder. .And our outstanding form against the Rich List big boys has been brilliant, “Super Slav‘s man“ has seen to that.
But I have seen too many dreams fade and die, thank you. I want to believe there is not some horrible disaster just around the corner, waiting to trip us up again. Or some thug Merseyside player just waiting to kick the amazing Dimitri Payet out of a game again, so be careful up there at Anfield on Saturday, Monsieur!
The Mail piece implied that supporters are suspicious, even cynical of owners. Too right. I for one have never believed a word agents, players, managers or owners say at face value. I want proof. Sorry for the cynicism, but this game makes you that way.
What was interesting about the Rich List was not just how far we are behind the regular Champions League contestants…their earnings dwarfing ours three times over...but the fact that Newcastle were still above us. Now this is a club that has won nothing, done nothing for years.
Their position in the list is based solely on the size of their ground and the spending power of 50,000 plus “bar codes” each week. It shows how much more we can improve once we are at Stratford, I concede.
And we are closing on Everton, a club our owners admire for the way they are run with a similar size ground, income and fan base to ourselves The tide is clearly turning for us.
It started in the summer when we signed Payet from a Marseille club in a nightmare financial plight. They couldn’t match our Premier League spending power, much to the annoyance of arrogant, pompous French FA people, so “insulted“ and angry that one of their best players could leave for a mid-table English club. That attitude has probably cost Payet his place in the France squad.
The next step has been snatching Sam Byram away from Everton. Previously when confronted with the Goodison Park club in a race for a player, we would have lost. We were unable to compete financially with Everton, or spin a convincing enough line to turn heads towards the East End.
Not so now. Byram admitted as much. And that is what got up Roberto Martinez’s nose. His foot-stamping playground “ I didn’t want him anyway” routine did not fool our owners, they know that the Olympic Stadium is a big draw now, and Byram is the first of many I believe who will feel that way.
And what a debut he had against, in my view, the best English side of the past five years. When he trotted on more than a few muttered, “Good luck son, you will need it.” Well he played David Silva off the park and looked a serious player, but after playing over 170 games for Leeds I could not really take seriously the theory that he was one for the Development Squad.
The boy knows his way around; he‘s 22, not a raw 18 year-old.
He will be cup-tied at Anfield, but if we can meet them head on and put up a decent show, I will be happy. Sadly I have witnessed too many of our shockers at Liverpool to be over-confident now. Beating them three times in a season is a bit of a long shot, isn’t it?
Now it wouldn’t be me without a bit of a moan, would it? But stick with me. Rumours bouncing around the Boleyn on Saturday claimed our last home game against Swansea will be moved to a Monday night by Sky.
Now it was never going to be a 3.00pm kick-off because it will definitely be on TV, the club have known this all along, I believe, because if it had been on the last Sunday of the season, TV would have been only interested in the title race and relegation issues.
So I have expected a Saturday evening maybe, or a Sunday date. But by shifting the game to a Monday night, it would be a kick in the teeth to so many of our fans. Youngsters with school the following day are hardly likely to be able to go, while the many thousands who travel from all over the Home Counties and the rest of the UK would struggle to get home on public transport.
I would expect it to be a real occasion, with speeches at the end and a real party atmosphere. That could not happen if people were leaving the ground so late. For example, my last train home from Euston midweek is at 11.00pm. No chance of making that. I want to save goodbye to my stadium, the memory of my dad and brother, in my own way. Do not try to deprive me of that.
I could stay over, at vast cost, but my son would have work in the morning and a young baby and wife to consider. And it is not just the long-range fans. Plenty of Irons supporters from deepest, darkest Essex and beyond would also have difficult, if not impossible, late journeys.
West Ham’s owners have gained a lot of credibility this season with the relatively smooth migration to Stratford, and a general feeling that they are doing a more than decent job running the club and slowly solving our financial problem and building a strong squad.
So my message to or owners, if this rumour is true (seemingly it was being put about by a Sky employee on Twitter), is ’don’t’ you dare ruin our farewell party, our wake at OUR ground, by grabbing the TV money. You will never be forgiven if you wreck this historic moment for a vast amount of loyal, long-standing fans. I hope you understand!
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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