Filed: Tuesday, 4th April 2017
By: Paul Walker
Where do I start? How on earth did West Ham go from the beginning of a brave new world to this mess, this circus?
Yes, many of us moved to the Olympic Stadium in hope and trepidation, some hated it, some were willing to give it a chance, we all wanted to believe this was a step worth taking to rub shoulders with the big boys.
We said our farewells to the Boleyn with heavy hearts, but--and I fall into this camp--reckoned that a big new stadium was the only way to muscle our way onto the next level. And I still believe that and understand the finances of modern football.
But we have gone from that enforced optimism to this nightmare. On the brink of the relegation zone, Slaven Bilic as close to the sack as anyone could be regardless of any ’we have faith in our manager’ statements from the board.
It had been a terrible fortnight following the Leicester defeat. A growing firestorm of pressure on the manager, and the bit that upsets me most-- a damaging ‘blame’ game as folk at our club seemed to be getting themselves on the right side of the fan when the brown stuff starts hitting it.
It’s easy to blame the media for all this. Rubbish. Do any of you really believe the newspapers and Sky have been making up stories that Bilic was on his way out? No chance.
Or inventing stories about us using intermediaries to suss out who would be interested in Bilic’s job, or suggestions that he had been told to change his backroom staff? No chance.
It took a fortnight for David Gold to say something in support of the manager, for Karren Brady to tell people to ‘shut up’ speculating about Slav’s position in her Sun column, or for the club to finally issue a vote of confidence.
Beforehand? Well there had been far too many ’briefings’, without anyone putting their name to anything. Too many attempts to point the finger at Bilic for last summer’s transfer failings, while previously it had been the equal fault of the three-man transfer department of David Sullivan, Tony Henry and Slav, who all had to sign off incoming deals,
Suddenly there was a list of who proposed who. Now before I go further, this is not an attack on our friends over at C&H, and my old mate Hugh..we do go back a long way to when we both made an ’honest’ living at these things. I respect his newspaper blog and having the guts to launch it, and I respect him as a more than decent journo. Good operator is the expression in our business.
But someone inside our club saw fit to produce the list. Maybe to push the blame for the transfer failings towards the manager. Pretty despicable to my mind.
To me that list just showed what we are dealing with. What Slav is dealing with. An attempt maybe to isolate him. And then when the damage was done came the votes of confidence.
Cynically, that looks like the club realising there is no sense sacking him now, however many more games we lose, Who of any stature would come in with eight games to go? There is no-one in house to take over, like Ronnie Boyce or Kevin Keen did in the past. Axing Slav and what is becoming a much-maligned backroom team would be a total disaster. Assuring relegation.
So we hang on and hope something goes right now, and heaven knows we are owed some luck at the moment.
The list was given to C&H by someone inside the club, surely? And of course they would publish it, so would I have. It’s not something you would keep to yourself, gold dust really. But who was it from the inside who decided to issue it in the first place, to point the finger, turn the screw on Slav? How very brave. Whatever happened to collective responsibility?
The long trek home from Hull on Saturday was as hard as it gets. Watching West Ham now is like viewing one of those annoying Money Supermarket adverts on TV shown over and over again, nothing changes.
The amusingly titled Cross Pennine Express was full of Irons fans heading back to Manchester, it made me realise what a wonderful fan base we have. Loyal and supportive, which makes the club’s plea for supporters’ unity behind the manager and team pretty damned insulting. That backing and support, even if some doubt Bilic, has never been in doubt.
The claret and blue travelling army sell-out away sections and the support is unstinting. Nobody can doubt them or their love for our club.
It just took a couple of wines on the way back and a insular search through Sam and Dave’s back catalogue on the iPhone to get me out of suicidal-mode.
Yet another fine first half, then a total collapse. We can’t hold onto leads, we keep giving away late goals (in three of our last six games), We have thrown away 20 points from winning positions this term. The defence is a constant shambles, game after game. Six wins in our last 23 games, 68 goals conceded in 36 matches this term, no wonder Bilic is under pressure.
“How did it ever get this crazy“ is a line from the Eagles’ Lyin’ Eyes, and many fans would feel that is an appropriate song for our board after all the big boasts about our new stadium. I couldn’t possible comment!
So here we are. The brave new world more like a horror movie now. Four straight defeats with Arsenal away to come ahead of Swansea at the weekend. And that’s at a ground where we have won just five of 15 league games and eight of 20 matches overall this season. Doesn’t fill anyone with much optimism, does it?
Neither does watching us defend. Take Hull’s equaliser. We were caught again on the counter, when someone should have taken one for the team on the half way line. Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United would have done. But not us.
Lazar Markovic ran on across field, a Hull player ran across the face of the box left to right and for some reason Jose Fonte followed him, into nowhere. The gap opened up and Andy Robinson was through to score.
I am no coach, but someone tell me why Fonte followed the decoy. I was always told that when you are facing a breakaway you should defend the six yards box, the decoy runner was never going to get the ball. And this from a European Championship winner.
Hull’s winner was even worse. Not until Sky’s slow motion the following day did the calamity become clear. Firstly Arthur Masauku was distracted trying to get Sofiane Feghouli to do something more than stand idly on the edge of the box. The corner comes in, Masuaku has by now allowed his marker, Andre Ranocchia to run away from him to head home.
It is hard to believe anything so amateurish could happened in the Premier League. And will people stop telling me Masuaku is brilliant. Am I missing something? He’s not; one minute he's fine, the next an accident waiting to happen, I still haven’t got over his double hand ball at West Brom back in September.
So it’s back to our new home, which could easily double as a Big Top with a tent and some bunting around the circular stadium. Seems more appropriate. In my nightmares I see an old fella with a beard as ringmaster, a little dwarf clown (they always had one in the circus when I was a lad) plus a clever girl on a high-wire trying desperately to keep her balance as everyone around her is falling flat on their faces.
Always good for a laugh these days, aren’t we. Maybe it’s about time we stopped becoming everybody’s joke, let’s stop people laughing at us and start behaving like a proper football club.
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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