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United we stand, divided we fall

Filed: Monday, 20th October 2014
By: Paul Walker

Nothing disappointed me more of late than seeing how disunited our great club had become. We seem to have been at war with ourselves over everything from Big Sam to the Olympic Stadium move.

In the end I , and I hope a lot of you out there feel the same, have become weary and distressed at the seemingly endless debates, abuse, polls, banners etc. Too many splits in the camp for our own good.

What is needed at any club trying to win and progress is unity, and to hell with the debates. And maybe we are just getting there.

Standing amongst nearly 4,000 fellow Hammers at Burnley on Saturday was an uplifting experience. Ok, so we played brilliantly in the second-half and we all had the chance to celebrate three fine goals and a victory right in front of us, and some excellent interaction with the players. We are all in this together, they were showing.

In such an atmosphere, everyone gets on together. But for once it all looked genuine. Manager, players, fans, co-chairmen. We looked a family united again.

We are where we are. Big Sam is not going anywhere, no matter how much chatter on twitter, and the move to Stratford will happen, come what may. We are seeing more expansive, entertaining football and the squad has been improved out of all recognition.

Let’s just enjoy it for what it is. The best West Ham squad I can recall in years, with the greatest depth and a good mix of ambitious youngsters and experienced men.
What is there not to enjoy about all this, whether you like the manager or not? And at last the silent majority, and I have always felt that to be the case, have been speaking up for the boss.

When things are not going well, the noisy minority take centre stage. Now the fans’ forums have people praising Sam for winning promotion, sorting the club out and keeping us up for two seasons.

At Burnley, everybody has to pass in front of the away fans as they come off the pitch, with the dressing rooms in the bottom corner (much like at Stoke). Everybody gets a say and everyone knows when the punters are not happy. It used to be even more vociferous at Turf Moor in the old days when the tunnel was right in the centre of what is now called the David Fishwick stand…there was no escape then!

For every Hammer at the game, it was a special moment. Big Sam--happy birthday you old sod--got a great reception and responded accordingly, and I am told the high spot was him waving to a Burnley fan who had been giving him God’s abuse as he came off, all very amusing.

The players all responded to the support, even the kit man. Mark Noble, Carlton Cole and James Collins always react well, Adrian--even though he’d thrown another one in--never hides. Aaron Cresswell is an absolute star in the making, while Diafro Sakho has quickly picked up on the Hammers salute, and what a signing he has become.

The point I am struggling towards is that Saturday was a giant team effort. Nobody booed Kevin Nolan (I’ll get to that), Sam was a hero, and when David Gold made his way to the dressing room he was greeted royally as well.

In those moments of triumph and celebration at the end, the unity was total. No divisions, no booing of our own, no grumbling about the manager or the tactics. It tends to be like that for away games and I love being in that environment.

You tend to get the real fans, the ones that travel to land supporting the club they love. We are always in a minority and that throws everyone together. I am not saying our home fans are any less in love with the Irons, but the feeling of unity is not always the same.

Sam, of course, hasn’t wasted the opportunity to chatter now we have started well and suggested that the idea he was told to change the style is a myth. That got a few of the ‘Sam out’ brigade back on their feet.

But looking back at the summer of discontent, I cannot find a quote from the owners or club statement specifically using the words, style of play. They wanted more entertainment, yes, and Sam obviously said: Show me the money.

Better players, quicker, younger players, have been bought. They provide the opportunity to play different ways. I noticed we scored three headed goals and the fans were singing “We play on the floor.” I think that shows we are now able to mix it up better.

We are attacking more, Stewart Downing’s move into the centre has been a revelation and Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson have the pace and running power to get up and down the flanks brilliantly. Two fine crosses for Sakho and Enner Valencia headed goals showed that.

Sakho is amazing. Straight out of the French second division, this lad is hungry for success and knows that if he runs himself into the ground, scores goals, he will achieve all he wants. He was a nightmare for the Burnley defence, chasing lost causes. You can’t help but warm to him, he wants it so much.

And as for Valencia, wow. He has already shown he has dynamite in his boots after that goal at Hull, but to score a header with such pace and power when he had to lean backwards to connect was truly outstanding.

All in all a tremendous day out. We must, though, get some perspective. Our last six points were against teams likely to be relegated, even if the invigorating play has enthused us all with 13 points from the first eight games and sight of the top four, our best start for 15 years.

Last season, when we finished 13th, we took eight points from the first eight games. And it was a struggle. The season before, when we managed 10th saw us take 14 from the first eight games. The relegation season under Avram Grant produced six points from the first eight. It shows just how important the opening games are to set a pattern and a level of growing confidence.

Now I got plenty of abuse a few weeks back for suggesting we should not boo our former players, without even getting around to Nolan. I was told I was talking rubbish, it seems some people have selective hearing.

I was also surprised that a few were unable to notice that the piece was written ahead of the QPR game and my opportunity to explain my dislike generally of twitter trash and the way people are now abused. Plenty saw my point, some chose to see only what they wanted to read, which was disappointing.

Then we had the booing of Nolan, and plenty have rightly jumped to his defence, although I sense he can look after himself. You do not boo your club captain, whether he is the manager’s man or not. In fact, I feel he gets such treatment only because he is part of the ‘management’ so to speak.

Nolan got a grip of a dysfunctional dressing room and led us to promotion and two successful stays in the top flight., scoring important goals. He has served the club well regardless of what people think. He is now clearly involved in the successful integration of new players into the dressing room culture, something Sam has said he prides himself on. Maybe that is why Valencia, Sakho etc have hit the ground running.

And Nolan hasn’t just walked back into the side, as many detractors feared. He has come on as substitute in the last three games, and Mark Noble got the nod at Burnley. Actually, in the current situation I do not really care who plays in midfield as long as we continue the way we are, and Sam has clearly not thrown Nolan straight back in.

It has been a strange couple of weeks. The international break gets filled with people talking too much. Sam is on about England again, the owners rattling on about Europe and the top six. Although there is still silence, though, from Winston Reid. (Make your mind up son, it is all getting tedious and you are not irreplaceable).

But I feel people should now put aside their differences, smell the coffee and see the way things are going. It is not always going to be top four or five, and Manchester City will be very tough next weekend.

But we are better together, to steal the ‘no’ vote slogan from the Jocks, and disunity does not help the cause in anyway.

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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