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No time to rejoice

Filed: Sunday, 6th May 2018
By: Graeme Howlett

West Ham United may have guaranteed their place in the Premier League next season, but this is no time to rejoice.

Yesterday's 2-0 win at Leicester - only our third away victory in the league this season - was good enough to secure another season of top flight football. Yet unless there is a dramatic shift in attitude by those in the Boardroom, we may simply be deferring relegation by another 12 months.

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David Moyes, for all his faults has accomplished what he set out to do. But less than 24 hours before the club's most important game of the season he felt compelled to complain to the media about in-house leaks.

There is barely any news that comes out of the club these days that hasn't previously been passed through one of the Sullivans' favoured media outlets, falsely presented as independent fan concerns, often in order to guage wider opinion.

And whatever your view on his credentials, the anti-Moyes propaganda that has almost certainly been fuelled from within in recent days - the kind of negative publicity that Messrs Zola, Grant, Allardyce and Bilic were also exposed to - is little short of disgraceful.

In short, the entire season has been a disaster, from the moment it was announced that the Hammers would be playing their opening four games of the season away from Stratford whilst the temporary scaffolding that passes for seating was re-erected following an athletics event.

It was an arrangement that left the club facing an uphill struggle from the very start of the campaign; Premier League defeats at Manchester Utd, Southampton and Newcastle resulted in West Ham propping up the table by the end of August and fighting relegation for the remainder of the season.

Slaven Bilic's mission was made even more difficult when the pursuit of his key summer target, William Carvalho, was dropped as a result of West Ham's fudging and indecision - a situation made even worse when David Sullivan attempted to slur Carvalho's club Sporting, a policy that ultimately backfired spectacularly.

Bilic of course failed to arrest the slump and paid for the team's poor form - and the shortcomings of his paymasters - with his job just three months after his attempts to sign Carvalho, the type of destructive midfielder around whom his plans had been made, had failed.

Slav's replacement, David Moyes arrived on the back of successive failures at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland with the lowest approval rating of any West Ham manager in the Premier League era. Desperate to show he could still cut the mustard, the Scot accepted a cut-price, short-term deal that didn't really work for anyone except his employer.

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Still, baffling decisions continued to be made. The January transfer window passed without any major investment despite the club's precarious position in the League, with West Ham's only notable outlay being the 8million wasted on Championship striker Jordan Hugill, a player destined never to play.

The decision to sell Jose Fonte in February, at a time when it was impossible to source a replacement of equivalent status was unfathomable; again, the assumption must be that Sullivan considered the 5million on offer a deal 'too good to refuse'. Too good for him, that is.

Meanwhile a serious injury to Winston Reid meant that Moyes would have to rely on teenage rookie Declan Rice as a result, with no contingency plan in place. That Fonte's sale was allowed to go ahead without a replacement being previously sourced was unforgivable, given the rate at which injuries are collected at Rush Green.

The fans' discontent at these events and other long-term issues finally spilled over into direct action at the beginning of March, when a-protest-that-never-was turned into a far more effective and spontaneous display of anger in front of the Director's Box and the world's media during the 3-0 home defeat against Burnley.

Yes, David Sullivan had finally managed the unthinkable; by usurping the universally-disliked Terry Brown as the club's most unpopular chairman of modern times.

Brown, of course, had been the subject of multiple demonstrations some 15 years ago, when he was accused of failing to back successive managers financially. Yet his regime still ensured West Ham finished in the top ten of the Premiership every other season on his watch.

In contrast, under Sullivan and long-term associate David Gold, West Ham have finished in the top half of the Premier League just twice in eight seasons, with a record that reads 20th-3rd-10th-13th-12th-7th-11th-15th.

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Yet before Sullivan and his fellow Board members can even think about planning for next season, there are still a number of pressing matters from the current campaign that require their urgent attention.

London major Sadiq Khan, no doubt with one eye on his own career prospects appears to be gunning for the club, whilst the unsavoury Tony Henry affair - now the subject of an FA probe - could have major ramifications for West Ham should it be proved that prominent members of the club were sympathetic to his 'no Africans' policy.

And with the national media having finally exposed the Board's shortcomings and those of the disastrous money-pit that is the legacy Olympic Stadium - a venue built for athletics into which a makeshift football stadium has been illogically and expensively shoehorned - Sullivan's problems are many and various even before he begins to plan for the 2018/19 campaign.

Universally distrusted, the co-chairman appears to have few friends right now. Many long-term supporters maintain that the current administration have effectively destroyed the club they once treasured, whilst many more refuse to set foot inside the Olympic Stadium whilst Sullivan's regime retain overall control of the club.

Despite having said at various times he has no intention of selling the club, the intense and continuous pressure must surely be weighing heavy on a man who, in his 70th year, has earnt more than enough to retire and wallow in luxury for the rest of his days.

Put simply, he doesn't need the aggro.

Much speculation regarding West Ham's future has ensued since American investor Tripp Smith became the newest member of the club's Board last Autumn, when he seized control of the 10 per cent stake formerly owned by CB Holding/Straumur.

However there has been nothing from Sullivan to suggest that he may be preparing to hand over control of the club - even though possible signs of a potential sale, such as the club making an unheard of 43million profit in the latest accounts (2016/17) and a trimming of the first team squad may suggest movement in that direction.

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Either way, West Ham United almost certainly faces a summer of internal revolution and enormous change; David Moyes' immediate future is likely to be decided first, before several members of his squad are set to move on - including big-name signings such as Joe Hart and Javier Hernandez.

Quite where this will leave West Ham come August and a new Premier League season remains to be seen - although it should be unrecognisable from the club that ends the 2017/18 season in dire straits and on a downward trajectory.

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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