One magic moment in time changes everything

It wasn't just any old goal, was it? That gem from our very own little pearl, Manuel Lanzini. It has changed the course of our immediate history and maybe seasons to come.

I don't feel that is over-sensationalising the effect of Manu's winner against Spurs, such was the gathering cloud hanging over every aspect of our progress as a club and the great master plan of our owners.

Relegation was not part of that plan, the loss of so much money and status a nightmare of biblical proportions. Far too many folk were dismissing the prospect of the drop, more fool them.

The form hit by Swansea, Hull (before that home defeat by Sunderland) and Burnley, the big Sam factor...all set against a West Ham side defending like clowns ,losing players to injury by the shed-load and failing to show any sign of a collective spirit and purpose.

I don't doubt for a minute that David Sullivan, David Gold and Lady Karren were terrified of the prospect and its implications. Even the current position is bad enough to contend with.
But it took the arrival of the despised , patronising, laughable entitlement of the second biggest club in north London to galvanise our great little club. The management, the team, the vast sways of fans were united as one.

Sadly I missed it. Entrenched in deepest Cheshire with a bottle of wine and family illness to occupy me. But I witnessed on TV something not seen this season at the OS. A collective, defiant spirit. Proper defending, team ethos, a refusal to give an inch to a deluded club who have never understood that talking big about winning titles, claiming top spot whatever, before they face us is just asking for trouble.

The noise was deafening, the unity so obvious. And the best bit? Seeing our fans as one. No longer old hands and tourists, newbies and first-time season ticket holders. It is what our owners have prayed for.

The whole place was rocking, and I have even seen pictures of thousands of fans celebrating outside on the soulless (not any more!) concourse, with its concrete and boulders, its queues and over-priced food.

There was 50,000 plus--there were some Spurs fans there, I believe--howling their defiance. Sullivan was spot on in his programme notes, stating: "Let's take the opportunity in front of the TV cameras and a captive audience of millions around the globe to show the passion that makes our fans famous worldwide, and to illustrate the effect your support can have on the team throughout the game".

Frankly Spurs' supposed wonderkids couldn't cope with it and Dele Alli was back to his petulant, stamping schoolboy best. And as for his England mate Eric Dier, he was out there I assume? Well, they both ran into an inspired Mark Noble, whose legs haven't gone. Jamie Redknapp on Sky reckoned he'd need a weekend in the ice bath to recover, having run 7.8 miles for the cause, further than any one else on the pitch, further than any of Poccho's supposed super-fit wonder kids.

I do hope that calms down the anti-Noble brigade a bit. Slav said he was brilliant, and as long as Bilic remains manager, Noble will continue to play a major part in this club, that's obvious.

That one match, Manu's one goal, changed the perception of the club overnight. And it has taken a battering so far have we regressed this season. Jacob Steinberg in a excellent, calm, thoughtful piece in the Guardian last week got it very right.

He explained the season of mishaps, fan unrest, transfer shambles, Payet's treason etc,etc without taking sides or blaming anyone. You sense he's a West Ham fan, he certainly writes with that level of concern.

Sullivan and co will know just how far we have fallen back from the supposed giant step to a higher level that just has not happened on the pitch. Off it, well that's different...

Alan Pardew, in one of his increasingly regular TV spots these days, talked of our owners doing an excellent job. And he's right. Forget all the personal stuff, all the emotion, just look at a management that has doubled the fan base, raked in vast amounts on the commercial and corporate side to put us--financially at least--amongst Europe's top 20. That has been a success.

Trouble is, everything from UEFA regulations to financial controls, works against a newcomer breaking into the elite.

Last summer was our best chance of selling the dream. Seventh place, within touching distance of CL qualification and with a bright, vibrant manager and a team capable of beating their supposed betters on a regular basis. But we all know it went wrong. Even with all that going for us, the big names wouldn't come. We were not in the CL, simple as that.

Without going through the transfer failings again, in hindsight a few have been better than we first thought. It takes time for some people to adjust to new surroundings, and how were we to know that Simone Zaza was going to have a mentality and personality as brittle as crystal, or that Gokhan Tore was going to be that poor.

That still bothers me. When Slav arrived I was telling anyone who would listen that the one player he should bring from Besiktas was Tore. I had seen him at international level as well as club level in Europe and knew he was a tough, hard working, clever wide player. But he too lacked mental toughness, got injured and we are still paying his loan decision Sullivan certainly got right.

So it was down to Lanzini, our shining light this season, to bury that winner. It's still going to be hard to sell our club (no pun intended) to top players, who have no doubt heard all Dimitri Payet's moaning about what he discovered in the east end. Just think how tough our progress would have been from the Championship.

And of course, Bilic has survived yet another crisis, yet another 'he's got two/three/four games to save his job.' Tedious those stories, and always discounted.

Now I have not bothered my old friends in the industry much about West Ham. The saying goes that those retired should stay retired. But I have rung a couple of good mates, not to ask for sources of course but to find out what sort of briefings take place. And I have been assured that our place leaks like a sieve. Enough said really.

And surely all bets are off now regarding Slav's future. I felt he returned to international mode a few weeks ago, the sort of approach you have with a small country.

Croatia had a handful of very good players and then the outstanding Luka Modric. The rest just have to work their socks off. Bit like Wales. Gareth Bale is world class, then there's Aaron Ramsey, while the rest are journeymen.

An international manager at that level knows he has about 15/16 players to work with, and he picks the best system. We have had that problem for weeks, due to injuries and form loss. Slav had to get his most trusted people in the side, take a bow James Collins, and then make the most of what is left.

And it has thrown up five unbeaten games, three successive clean sheets and it has acquired nine priceless points. It has also produced unlikely heroes. We'd all seen the YouTube clips of Jonathan Calleri, so there's talent there. But it is clear now he lacks pace. Slav suggested months ago that he lacked the ability to adapt his game.

But what we have seen recently is a young man who probably never played with his back to goal for Boca Juniors but has had to learn to do that job. Against excellent Spurs defenders he held up play with the ball to feet, not in the air, turned defenders and made a real nuisance of himself running and closing down. He deserved his standing ovation and I would like to see him kept on, one certainly for the future.

But now we discover that the rogue Kia Joorabchin is behind the shell-club in south America we signed him from and he wants the lad to move to Italy. Hell, I thought we had seen the last of him and his dubious ability to affect team selection (the core really to the Carlos Tevez scandal). Why are we still dealing with him?

But we still have Manu. Great performance against Spurs and for a few weeks now, and it would be nice to see him tear Liverpool apart on Sunday.

As it is, his goal has given Sullivan and co a lifeline. The opportunity to spend more wisely, pay the big wages needed and to give Slav a balanced squad. Surely he deserves that now after all the months of pressure, much of it unnecessary.

Garth Crooks reckons we are lucky to have avoided relegation. But he's become little more than a fat, smug, annoying Spud these days. We cannot be lucky after Friday's result, just fortunate that the anguish didn't drag on any further.

At last there seems to be unity, whatever Pedro Obiang thinks. Sometimes his interviews this season have been a little odd, did he mean lack of unity between players, between manager and board, fans and owners, between manager and players. Who knows?

But in one marvellous night under the lights, it seemed like the Boleyn again. The word raucous was heard on TV to describe the atmosphere. Not a word I have heard since that last home game against Manchester United., the first anniversary being today(May 10).

That team, including subs was Randolph, Antonio, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate, Noble, Lanzini, Obiang, Payet, Valencia, Carroll, Sakho, Tomkins. Eight of those players were unavailable to Slav against Spurs...that sort of disruption to plans and progress says it all really.

Slav, surely now, deserves to start next season. In fact the board have constantly said that's what they want too. Well now, after the end of season review, they have the grounds to let that happen.

But lets be clear. Any repeat of this campaign, certainly until Christmas , will see a new manager at West Ham. Slav must know that himself.

But that's all for the future. Lets continue to bask in the glory of Friday, the demise of a club who believe they are so much better than they are. Their only triumph this season is to finish above Arsenal for the first time in two decades, but they will always be bigger than your lot, won't they?

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