Filed: Saturday, 16th September 2006
By: Matthew O'Greel
Glenn Roeder returns to West Ham this afternoon for the first time since he was dismissed from his managerial post at the beginning of the 2003/04 season.
Newcastle manager Roeder was in charge of the Hammers between May 2001 and August 2003, and despite leading the team to a seventh place spot in his first full season in charge West Ham were relegated the following year.
Opinion over the degree to which Roeder should be held accountable for that relegation remains split; whilst some feel that as manager he should be ultimately responsible for the progress and fortunes of the team many accept that there were a number of other factors involved.
Roeder's side was relegated in May 2003 on a record 42 points - the same number that Harry Redknapp's team had finished with two years previously when finishing two places above the relegation zone.
However whilst Redknapp had the benefit of a sizable transfer budget in 2000/01, Roeder went into the 02/03 season as manager of the only Premiership club not to spend a single penny on transfer fees - a result of the problems caused by the massive wage bill Roeder inherited from Redknapp.
There were further problems for Roeder that season; 2002 was the year in which the transfer window was introduced to the Premiership and that, combined with lengthy injuries to his two main strikers left him with a choice of playing either an overweight and disinterested Titi Camara or Ian Pearce, a striker in his youth but by that time an established centre-half.
The impact that the introduction of the transfer window had on West Ham's season cannot be underestimated; Roeder's side failed to win a single home game during the first five months of the campaign, but having strengthened the squad in the first January window with the likes of Les Ferdinand, Rufus Brevett and Lee Bowyer the team produced form worthy of a top six finish.
Unfortunately it was too little, too late and the club were relegated after a 2-2 draw with Birmingham on the final day of the season - something later recognised by Chairman Terry Brown when he admitted that the board's decision not to invest in the playing squad at the beginning of the season had proved a major factor in the club's relegation.
However all of that is likely to hold little sway with those who blame Roeder squarely for West Ham's relegation, and it is expected that a fair few of them will make their feelings known during this afternoon's game.
But the affable Roeder - who led Newcastle to a seventh placed finish in his first season in charge - says it is not something that will cause him sleepless nights as he prepares to return to East London.
The reception that I might get doesn't bother me and, on the day, it will be the last thing on my mind," he said. "I will have too many other things to concentrate on.
"It's not about Glenn Roeder's reception - it's about a game of football and when I walk out there, I won't be the major player in what happens. I am looking forward to the game; I have no reason not to."
And on that relegation season, and in reply to his critics, he explained:
"People don't scratch the surface very deeply, but I understand that. I understand a lot more things now - I see them more clearly than I did in my two years at West Ham.
"My first season was one of the highest finishes in the club's history, and that's not a bad achievement by anyone's standards. In my opinion, no team will ever go down again with 42 points. Who knows what might have happened if we had stayed up?
"The fact is that we operated with three strikers; Di Canio, Kanoute and a young Defoe - who we knew would go on to play for England.
"Paolo Di Canio and Frederic Kanoute were out for six months of the season and the team couldn't handle it, we couldn't go to war with just Jermain Defoe. So for one third of the season we had Ian Pearce up front.
"It doesn't matter that we had Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, David James and Trevor Sinclair. A team is 11 players - and we just couldn't cope without the two players who scored all our goals."
West Ham v Newcastle kicks off at 3pm. We'll have updates for you here on KUMB throughout the afternoon.
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