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This must stop

Filed: Friday, 16th March 2018
By: Connor Darrell

I am an American. I have no familial ties to the East End, and I have only been to one West Ham United match in my entire life (a 0-0 draw with Stoke during the final season at the Boleyn). So I forgive you if you decide to read no further or question the value of my opinion as an outsider.

But I can assure you that I love this club with a fervent passion. Though there are days where I ask myself why I didn't just follow Manchester United or Chelsea like every other fairweather American fan, it is too late now. I bleed claret and blue.

What follows is a somewhat incoherent collection of thoughts running through my mind. I have never written any journalistic pieces before, and may never do so again. But it was somewhat therapeutic for me to do this, and I hope at least some of you agree with me.

I sat down to write this piece shortly after the final whistle of what could only be described as a nightmarish and embarrassing loss to Burnley. Nightmarish not because of the result, but because of the reality it left us in. Embarrassing not because of what transpired on the pitch, but off of it.

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As someone forced to follow the club from 3,500 miles away, it is a bit difficult for me to gain a full understanding of how we have arrived at this perilous state.

I think back to that magical final season at the Boleyn, and the optimism I was filled with. Dimitri Payet was one of the best players in the world, and while understandably emotional, a pending move to a larger stadium seemed a reasonable proposition for a club looking to take the next step required to compete on the world’s biggest stage. I couldn’t wait to embark on that journey.

I was drinking the kool-aid.

What’s transpired since has been very difficult for me to grasp. Sure, the board carries the bulk of the blame. The move was clumsily administrated, empty promises were made, and the final product has been nothing short of dreadful. But I can’t help but think that the unrest among the fan base has also contributed significantly to our inability to seize opportunity, and what I witnessed today on my television screen cemented that belief in my mind.

After 60 minutes of outplaying the opposition, a cheap goal was conceded, and we allowed Ashley Barnes - Ashley FREAKING Barnes - of all people to put the final dagger into the soul of this club.

At one goal down, an objective spectator might have reasonably backed West Ham to still nick at least a point from this match, but those spectators in attendance who felt the need to take it upon themselves to storm the field and direct frustration at the board made it certain that wouldn’t be the case. At the very moment the players needed the backing of the club’s supporters, those same supporters abandoned them. There was no coming back.

I truly believe that the time has come for us supporters to look in the mirror and objectively ask ourselves if we truly believe we are acting in the club’s best interest by franticly rebelling against the board.

One of the most frequently cited knocks on Sullivan and Co. has been the ineptitude with which they conduct themselves in the transfer market. The long track record of incompetence is there, and nobody can rationally argue that the club hasn’t been handcuffed by poor personnel and player recruitment. But the argument that the board has refused to make the necessary investments in the squad since the move to the London Stadium has some holes in it.

Given the strife and infighting amongst the club and supporters - and amongst the supporters themselves - perhaps nobody could have navigated the tricky negotiations needed to bring in players of the necessary quality.

Ask yourselves this, if you were a young promising player sitting in your living room with your family and your agent, trying to decide what move might help you propel your career to the next level, where might West Ham rank on your list of destinations? My guess is that it would be very close to the bottom. And part of that is due to the behaviour of supporters on days like today.

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I am not defending the board. They are arrogant, incompetent, and incapable of objective self evaluation. If the club is going to truly move forward, they must go. But they won’t, and we need to acknowledge that reality.

At this stage, the most important thing is survival, and in order to survive we must put the anti-board sentiment aside and focus on supporting the players. After all, they are the only ones with direct control over the fate of this season. We must do everything we can to support them.

In an age where money is everything, the potential perils of relegation are far too large. We must swallow our pride, put the anti-board protests aside for the time being, and focus our energy on positive support for the players in the dressing room. There are points to be gained in the remaining fixtures. We all have to do our part.

And when I say “we”, I of course really mean all of you who have the luxury of attending matches. There’s nothing I can do from my living room in Pennsylvania but clench my teeth and nervously shout at the television screen.

Please heed my call, I would really like to avoid suffering through more seasons in the Championship, where I must listen to audio-only broadcasts of trips to Barnsley, Preston, or Reading.

Come on you Irons.

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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