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500 days and counting: where do we go from here?


Filed: Monday, 23rd October 2017
By: Paul Walker


We have just passed the 500 days mark since we left our beloved Boleyn. Seems like yesterday, doesnít it, and those vivid memories of the last game played at Upton Park.

Manchester United stopped in their tracks - quite literally, outside and inside the ground - and vivid memories of that night, May 10 2016, when 30,000+ Hammers inside the stadium and 20,000 outside witnessed a night we will remember forever.

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Those figures alone probably convinced our owners in the boardroom that night that we were a big club that had outgrown a small home. It no doubt re-enforced their view that everything would be hunky-dory in E20.

How wrong could they be. Our record is all matches since that night against Manchester United is P 58 W19 D 12 L27 F 70 A 97.

That is just shocking, and is the reason we are where we are with Bilic, a board that is not trusted by a vast majority of the fans and the potential disaster of a shattering relegation on our hands - something that must be the ownersí worst nightmare.

I walked away that night back in May 2016 determined not to look back, and never go back to Green Street. My family, dad, grandad, uncles, brother, son, myself, had invested a century in that ground, some things are just too painful.

And nothing I have seen since has got even close to the excitement of the Boleyn. It has become a long, painful wait for take-off at the London Stadium, and a relentless, cruel destruction of Slaven Bilic. Back at the Boleyn he was the manager of passion, all hugs and kisses for his team.

Not too many kisses now. A manager sadly exposed and ridiculed. An endless list of being two/three matches away from the sack. How he must privately wish that these past 17 months had not happened, that he could somehow turn back the clock to better times.

Many feel like that for many conflicting reasons. I know my family, past, would not recognise our club now. We all have stories to tell about those family roots. I was told the grandfather I never knew watched West Ham before the First World War and was at Wembley in 1923.

And sadly thereís no reason now to go back to the old manor. The streets of East Ham, my old auntís place just behind Upton Park tube, the other family homes in Forest Gate, Barking, Ilford, all now distant memories. Replaced by Chelmsford, Southend and Sevenoaks in our Christmas card address book. I am sure that sort of tale is familiar to many East End, East London families, not just mine.

So it was off to the shiny new palace on the banks of the River Lea, the cold wastelands of Stratfordís canals and rivers. Our island in the sun we were told.

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Itís fair to say that some have handled the moved better than others. Not for one moment am I saying folk should move on, my own memories here show thatís very difficult. But it is history now, and maybe itís the time for a quick evaluation of where we are, and where we are going. Clearly, at some point, without Bilic. That is so blindingly clear now.

But in terms of progress, what could we have realistically expected at this stage? Cut through all the PR rubbish that was spouted about a new level, thatís an expression I hate because it comes from a dream world for people who think Champions League, Europe and trophies were just going to fall from the sky.

Elsewhere on this site my colleague HHS produced a lengthy piece recently showing just how much nonsense it is to believe that we can make any sort of leap to a new level in a football industry that is totally loaded in favour of the elite, the established wealth domestically and in Europe.

Now this is not intended as another slagging for our owners and Lady Karren. That would be too easy in the current climate, and because they have done so much talking. So much hot air. Off the pitch they would say the move has been a success, now we are the 17th richest club in the world and are selling 56,000 tickets each week, if not filling the seats.

But even that is the same method of recording ticket sales used by every club. There are empty seats everywhere, even Old Trafford is reputed to have at least 5,000 empty seats some games.

Our owners are often accused of wholesale lies about the whole move. I would prefer to call it being economical with the truthÖabout athletics events, about the non-retractable, removable, temporary seating. About how far we are from the flaminípitch, about the dreadful transport links and the constant closures of inadequate local stations.

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But a lot of this stuff only effects those at the ends of the stadium, the BML and the TBL. I know folk sitting in posher, more expensive seats who are more than happy with things and this modern stadium.

In the end, it is what happens on the field that really matters, that changes moods and makes the problems we have all faced a little more acceptable. And thatís where things have not gone well, to put it mildly.

We have had three transfer windows since we left the Boleyn, and frankly I do not see much of an improvement in the squad.

And the figures do little to help this perception. I reckon that we have spent around £96m on transfers since leaving Upton Park, and pulled in around £65m in sales. Those figures will no doubt be challenged because clubs tend to inflate figures for public consumption when they sell and reduce them when they buy, and of course they donít take into account the extra charges, wages and agents fees - seemingly we spend £9m on that a year.

The owners will point to breaking the transfer record twice in this time, but on what? Are they serious about the quality? It is pretty much accepted now that our buying has been a mess and a high percentage of acquisitions are no longer with us. Pick a card, chose who to blame!

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What we have spent is far short of the clubs we are trying to emulate. But even that is not totally our ownersí fault, because we are not allowed to throw, say, £200m at the problem, FFP regulations donít allow that.

You have the boost your transfer budget by raising cash from sponsorships and commercial activities. How long that takes to find its way into the food chain is anyoneís guess. And certainly David Sullivan has a reputation for not spending cash unless he really has to.

Sadly, it is the results since we arrived in Stratford that severely let things down. Itís 58 games in all, as previously mentioned Our league record in that time is P46 W13 D11 L22 F 54 A 81.

At the London Stadium it is even more miserable. In all competitions we have played 29 games at our new home, won just 13, drawn four, lost 12 and scored 34 while conceding 44.

It does not take much working out to see where the problem lies. What is being offered on the pitch does not come close to a reasonable level. Certainly not the next level. In fact, I struggle to recall games that have really excited me or lived up to any level of expectation.

Is that Bilicís fault, is it the fault of a board and transfer department that falls horribly short however you look at it?

Everybody can have a view on where the blame should rest, I can just present the statistics. I do not really want to jump on the ĎBilic outí bandwagon because I feel he has been dealt a pretty rough hand at times trying to overcome all the problems of the move and a restless, sometimes resentful public.

It all seems too much for him in the end. But one thing is for sure. Everybody has to improve across the board.

My view is that we should be challenging in the top eight by now, This current squad is underachieving, it is the most expensive, well-paid group we have ever had as a club. Itís just not good enough, and our owners and manager, whoever he may be, know it.


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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