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It's not just the hope that kills you, it's the 'spin' as well

Filed: Sunday, 28th May 2017
By: Samba

Blame the Board? T'was ever thus. West Ham 'Boards' have generally NEVER treated West Ham fans with respect.

Back in the early 70s, not sure of the year, in one particular match day programme was a message from 'The Board'. It was all our fault (us fans), we had not been supportive enough, we needed to get behind the team more AND to stop moaning.

After years of unstinting adoration from us fans - despite being served up general mediocrity since the glory years of '64, '65 and ahem, '66 - the obvious lack of respect and lack of gratitude being dumped on us once more from a great height by 'The Board' was bad enough to make some of us feel like not wanting to go, ever again. Put up and/or shut up. All of this 45 years or so ago. So there's nothing new.

Except perhaps an athletics stadium.

Now (as I don't need to tell you dear reader), us West Ham fans have always been (and presumably always will be) amongst the most loyal of football supporters. Anywhere. (Apart from the perenial boo boys, of course - new thread needed). If you're West Ham, you're West Ham for life.

We're not glory hunters. We knew we were probably never going to challenge for the title but just being in the top flight, occasionally beating and upsetting the 'top teams' and always being in with at least a hope of a good cup run (and even winning the FA Cup three times), we were happy.

All this, mind, because 'The Board', every Board, never, ever wanted to spend more than the bare minimum to stay safe. Even relegation-threatened seasons gave us real excitement even though we craved the safety of mid-table mediocrity. Even actual relegation seasons came with the promise of an exciting, successful season to come, at some point in the near future.

If West Ham ended up playing home games on Wanstead Flats many of us would still go. You can't kill a love that strong (although this season some people have really tried, unintentionally). I suspect that this undying loyalty has often been used against us.

2016/17, a season of two separate problems (Part 1)

The Move aka 'The Emperors New Clothes' (The king was in the altogether, the altogether, the altogether...)

We'd got a new Board back in 2010. DG, DS and KB. At least DG and DS were wealthy - nothing like Roman A wealthy, but still. Gold and Sullivan claimed to be lifelong West Ham fans; something that unfortunately also ensured that we got sucked into the Olympic Stadium move.

Except we didn't quite get that DS especially, was a businessman FIRST and a WHU fan second (no, not quite true, some of you did). I don't know if KB even likes football. Are we just a real life fantasy football team game to them? Go on, prove us all wrong.

We were told we were going to move. We kept saying we didn't want to move. They refused to (or didn't want to) listen. We said if it's going to be anything like the old Wembley, it'll be fucking awful. So far away from the pitch, we might as well watch it on the telly. We were spun the following:

"We'll have more status and prestige if we move to the OS"
How exactly does that benefit us? Prestige doesn't win games. Not worth a fuck, unless you're on The Board and have pound signs in your eyes for the future sale of the club.

"Without us the stadium would lose money"
So what? Absolutely nothing to do with us and no reason for us to move there.

"We'll attract better players to the OS"
Yes, that's right, players ALWAYS come and stay for the ground, it's never the money (which is from Sky largely, not the increased capacity).

"We'll rebrand the club" (mainly it appears so far, by putting the word LONDON on the badge)
Who decided we needed rebranding? Don't answer that. We didn't need rebranding. What part of E6 or E13 wasn't in London?

"We'll have a bigger capacity of at least 55,000 at the OS" (which will let us buy better players and achieve more success)
What, like Newcastle? Chelsea are averaging 42k this season and have been in all their recent glory years.

"Even though we've got planning permission and space to fully renew the East Stand/Chicken Run, we can't have over 40,000 trying to get to and from the Upton Park ground"
Really? Why not? How's that going at the OS? How's that long depressing walk? Better? No, not really.

"We'll make changes to the OS"
You can't polish a turd. Well, you can but it's still a turd.

"It's only teething problems at the OS"
Shane MacGowan's got fewer teething problems...

All of it 'management speak' to DG, DS and KB but to you and me, BS.

No one ever said Upton Park was a fortress. Christ, we saw some dire games and performances there over many, many years. Just like this season. We also as well always had our share of violent, antisocial scumbags, not there for the game.

Increase the capacity what did you think would happen? Scumbag quotient the same? Or less?

WE KNOW WE CAN'T GO BACK. But it doesn't mean we have to like the new place. At all.

If you're in the E6/E13 area and can face it, go and look at what remains of the old place while the West Stand is there still, or even if it's now gone. Marvel at how the hell did we ever once get over 42,000 people in there playing sardines, in such a small place.

The atmosphere, the singing. I dare you not to get a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye. Aside from all of your memories of heroes gone and loved ones no longer with us, four words might come to mind: WHAT A FUCKING DISGRACE.

How could you have done it? Shout it out loud, HOW COULD YOU HAVE FUCKING DONE IT? A West Ham fan FIRST wouldn't have done it. I just don't think you understand.

I don't blame the fans for one second. Wanting to watch our team and with a begrudging hope that we had to move on to have any chance to improve, you got on board and bought OS season tickets. As loyal as ever. It might work.

Like we ever had a choice. Spurs wanted the site; PLEASE let them have it. Barry Hearn didn't want us there; PLEASE let him win his case. If both of their legal teams couldn't have stopped it, nothing was ever going to stop it, was it?

Rival fans think we've lost our soul and have become a laughing stock. Message alert to rival fans: We know, we agree, you're correct.

Except they're not. We lost our home. What choice did we have? Us fans had no choice at any time or in any way. Were we ever asked if we wanted to move? Was there a vote on it? Apparently 'there was' AND one on changing the badge. So it IS all our fault...

It was not completely about us not liking change (always the line thrown at you when those in charge want change), it was about us not wanting a change to something not as good as what we already had and had built up, for 112 years.

In hindsight, and with 20/20, the ONLY thing we could have done would have been to completely boycott every home game when the OS move was being discussed and we weren't being listened to. As business people it would have been the only thing they understood - the bottom line.

Unfortunately, I don't think it could have been organised or carried out. Would it have changed their minds anyway, once they'd got their eyes on the prize? Could it be done at the OS? What would be the point now? What would it achieve now? We fans would still get the blame.

The trouble was, unlike a purpose-built football ground, a move to the OS was a gamble - unless you had an agenda to one day sell the club with its shiny new ground, for a tidy profit. It was a gamble that the Board put their house on, except that it was OUR house, Upton Park.

Look at the photos on the KUMB Forum's 'Farewell to the Boleyn' thread and imagine the East Stand/Chicken Run with a huge new stand. Wow, now THAT would have been some ground. And still with all its history intact.

You wouldn't have minded so much spending £1,100 on a season ticket there. Not so at the E20 monstrosity. Which we can only play at when someone else isn't using it; like at the beginning of next season.

WE didn't NEED a new ground, we just needed more money for better players. What a gamble.

A sensible approach (as someone on here mentioned) might have been to hold off selling Upton Park for a couple/few years and renting it out to Chelsea or Spurs for a nice little earner, whilst seeing how it went at the OS. They never would have done it, would they? Especially not with all that lovely money from the sale of Upton Park.

2016/2017, a season of 2 separate problems (Part 2)

The Team aka how to piss off your own fans with bizarre player selections/positions/aquisitions...

At the start of the season we still had a genuinely world class player whom we loved and loved watching. On 20 August were told: "He loves the club and the fans love him. His family are settled and one of his boys is at the club academy. And just as important, his wife loves the life here in England. It is the perfect storm".

We all know what kind of storm it turned into. It started with an S.

I don't even hate the player. Well, apart from him showing a complete lack of respect to his team-mates, his boss and us his adoring fans. In his first few games back you could see he didn't want to be here. He stopped playing long before he stopped playing.

If you're not going to play even when you're playing, you're no longer any good for us, whoever you are. You might as well go as be held against your will. It was great for a while. One man does not maketh a team. Except Ronaldo. Or Messi. Or Neymar. Or Bale. Okay, okay, one man can make a team. Unless I missed it, one day we will know the truth why he wanted/needed out. Strange that he couldn't wait til the end of the season though.

Perhaps what upset us fans the most though was the secret fear that if one world class player didn't want to play/stay for us how are we going to attract any other world class players in the future? Hey ho, backwards and downwards...

Things we have learned in 2017
(or already knew but didn't want to remember/believe)

Players contracts are not worth the paper they are written on. Ditto, contract extensions. Player loyalty? Does it exist anymore? This isn't the 1970s with Trevor Brooking and his like.

Even if we give a player our undivided adoration it isn't enough to keep them here. Not in these days of lottery jackpot earnings. Which brings us nicely on to West Ham's transfer policy. Now, as you are all aware, the WHU Board's way has always mainly been to only buy top, top players when they are:

1) nearly dead
2) legs gone
3) One season away from the knacker's yard
4) seen better days and
5) therefore cheap

Step forward please: Jimmy Greaves, Stuart Pearson, Clive Allen, Ian Wright, Freddie Ljungberg, Liam Brady, Kieron Dyer, Robbie Keane, Davor Suker, Lee Chapman and many, many others you make wish to add. No wonder we've been linked with Rooney, he's now past it.

Okay, some of those mentioned gave us some fantastic moments and memories but you know what I mean, we never buy top players in their prime. And now, we sell them.

But DS and DG promised to completely change the old traditional West Ham transfer policy and they certainly did. This last few years we are mostly been buying younger average players. A complete change from the old, nearly dead, 'stars'. But not even as good and not even cheap.

So where does that leave us now? Apart from miserable, angry, depressed and looking longingly at the plans for the new purpose-built grounds Chelsea, Spurs and Everton, et al will one day get to play in?

Despite finishing 11th and 11 points above relegated Hull City we SERIOUSLY flirted with relegation this season, only really saving ourselves with a few very lucky wins and the famous Spurs victory. As usual, relying on enough other teams to be worse than us as the real reason we avoided relegation. You can't do that every season, your luck runs out in the end as it has for us in the past.

In terms of our future success, apart from not playing at Upton Park anymore, nothing else has changed, we are nowhere nearer to 'the next level', and the same old perennial questions remain:

* Is the current manager any good?
* Are we going to sign any good players in the summer?
* Are our current players including recent signings going to be better next season?
* Are our younger players good enough to step up to be first team/squad regulars?
* Why did so many players get so many injuries this season? (Dicks 'aint joining in the actual training games, is he?)

Reasons to be cheerful

We're still in the Premier League. At the moment we've still got some players who are half decent and who we like. We might even buy some team-improving players in the summer (though I'm not holding my breath on that, expecting more short-termism, Saga members to join).

At least we're not in the Europa Cup next season. That's an absolute blessing when you consider the harm it usually does us. As a reward it seems a poisoned chalice.

I hope for better performances/results next season as we all do but I'm not going to expect it, whoever we might buy, unless it is a world class player or we just get lucky. And the chances of that? I can't say they're good, but you never know.

The good news is that Board and owners are not here forever, even though the Cearns family felt like they were. This current lot will one day go but they'll unfortunately still have left us with the OS. Thanks guys. We'll have to seriously try to persuade the new owners to build us, you know, a football stadium.

I do know there's a lovely large patch of grass called the Memorial Recreation ground near West Ham station. I could see a real future there one day.

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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