Memories are made of this, dreams cost a little more

It's been a funny old few days. Memories of our illustrious past to warm the hearts of us old timers. The reality of what we will never achieve, underlined by the cruel humiliation of Watford just to rub it in.

Then you turn on the TV and there it is again, our play-off final triumph against Blackpool. It's been on a loop recently on Sky, and every time I catch it, I just can't help myself sitting down to watch it again.

But then the real nostalgia kicks in. May 19 to be precise. Back in 1965 at Wembley me and the old man were there to see West Ham win the European Cup Winners' Cup, still the greatest moment I can remember following the Irons now for some 60 plus years.

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That the play off victory by Sam Allardyce's functional side, and the greatest day in our history against TSV Munich should be on the same date, will no doubt give you all the chance to discuss at length just where it has all gone wrong.

Only twice since that '65 evening at Wembley have we won anything of any significance. FA Cups in 1975 and 1980. Second Division titles don't even come close, in my book.

I remember walking away from Wembley that night, along with 90,000 other West Ham fans (Munich had 10,000 there) and saying to my dad that if we played like that next season we would win the league. I am still fuckin' waiting West Ham!

For the younger fans, it's been seven years since that Wembley victory over Blackpool and you wonder just how far we have come since then. I find myself saying it is surprisingly impressive. This season's tenth place finish - just five points off qualifying for Europe - says it all.

Three managers since Big Sam, a vast outlay - by their standards - from the owners and progress to a mid-table Premier League position. Does anyone expect anything else?

The jump to top four is impossible for our Board; the top six maybe, but it's a long haul. Since we came up via that play off final seven years ago, we have spent ?343.27m on transfers, recouped ?138m, so a net spend in seven years is ?205.23m.

Manchester City have spent ?1.2bn overall in their current incarnation. But in the same period as us since 2012, they have spent ?974.38m, and pulled in ?300.96m in sales. Their net spend is ?673.42m. So how do West Ham cope with that? We can't.

Our owners cannot compete with this, not in a million years. And no, this is not an attack on the Sullivan regime, just a clear - I hope - explanation of football reality.

This current ownership has taken us as far as they can, or are willing to fund. It's five years since they have loaned the club money. But they will rightly point out that they have applied sensible husbandry to our finances, it's a tight ship and we are no longer a basket case.

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That doesn't mean we can lash out money. Last summer we got to the extremes of FFP and our wages budget. That hasn't changed much. We are hearing the same noises now and last summer's outlay was not followed by a decent level of outgoing sales. That has to be addressed and it clearly is now.

Seeing the Maxi Gomez deal go down the pan underlines that. For months we have been told that if Celta Vigo were relegated, the release clause for the player would be halved from around ?42m.

It seemed at times that various media outlets were almost willing Vigo to be relegated to allow West Ham a cheap deal. Not very respectful that, and the constant references to that aspect of the deal did not go un-noticed by Spanish media and Vigo fans.

So now with Vigo staying in the top flight, and with several other clubs including Arsenal willing to pay the ?40m plus fee, we cannot compete. That shows very much the restrictions now facing Manuel Pellegrini.

And those realisations look to be encouraging a continual reassessment of what we need and what we can afford.

Pablo Zabaleta was quickly signed on a new one-year deal, with Ryan Fredericks looking to be our first choice right-back and Ben Johnson as further decent cover. I can't see us selling Aaron Cresswell, despite recent suggestions, while Arthur Masuaku's end of season return to form has given Pelle the chance to concentrate on other areas. Johnson can also play left-back, as we have seen.

Marko Arnautovic doesn't look like he is going anywhere either. Last season we turned down around ?30m during the Chinese debacle, and a new release clause is around ?42m. Considering his temperament and age, that could be a price too far for most folk, and it would cost a big fee anyway to replace him. Michail Antonio was right back to form at the end of the season, so he is staying too.

There would be a public outcry of we even thought about selling Declan Rice and Felipe Anderson, so likely obvious sellable players are very limited. And with the best will in the world, the ten players who are on their way out, are not likely to raise much more than ?30m.

Andy Carroll, Adrian and Samir Nasri are being freed, we understand, and I would be surprised if we didn't lose big money on Javier Hernandez and Lucas Perez, maybe ?12m the pair. So the coffers are not going to be swelled that much.

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Pelle is also likely to give Josh Cullen and Edimilson Fernandes every chance in pre-season to stake a claim. Cullen is now 23 and has been away on loan to three clubs, making almost 100 appearances and is due to play in his second play off final, this time for Charlton. He's also just received his first full international call-up for the Republic. That's surely enough experience, so it looks like now or never for the Southend lad to show what he can do.

Fernandes is believed to be wanted back too, despite talk of a permanent deal to Fiorentina. He has had a decent season on loan in Italy, and once again if he can stake his claim in pre-season, he could save Pelle a lot of money. Nathan Holland looks a certainty for a role in the squad, while Conor Coventry and Joe Powell will also get the chance to impress.

Our fans are always crying out for youth to be given a chance, so now is as good time as any. Everton and Liverpool, for example, have both benefited from a similar policy in recent years.

It's up front that Pelle has to spend, with a ?16.5m release clause set to be triggered on Salomon Rondon with WBA, despite Newcastle wanting him permanently after a successful loan. The Fulham striker, Aleksandar Mitrovic seems to be the other main target now.

Pelle needs a back-up goalkeeper, an extra midfielder if Pedro Obiang, as expected, leaves, plus two strikers. Winston Reid will need to prove his fitness too in pre-season, but there still looks the prospect of another central defender incoming.

I really can't see us having the cash for very much more than that. We have a massive new stadium, a 60,000 plus capacity and our revenue puts us in Europe's top 20.So where is the way forward other than the way I have tried to explain here?

Our debt is 'in house', manageable. Our owners, rightly, have no intension of allowing expenditure to dwarf what comes in. So we are now fighting a now continual battle to finish 7th, 8th, 9th or 10th.

The gap above us is frighteningly unattainable. City's 6-0 destruction of a decent Watford side was horrible to watch, but says it all really. In the end I was saying that they didn't need to keep going for the throat. Watford were dead in the water.

All this has done is emphasise the next level gap. City are under the microscope, allegedly, for manipulating the figures to circumnavigate financial rules that UEFA have installed, in effect, to stop the new money clubs gate crashing the grandee legends of European football, who have the history but not the money to cope with the oil riches.

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So what about us? We threw a lot of money at Pellegrini's first season - about ?93m - and tenth is a success, no question. But, crucially, we didn't sell sufficiently to balance the books.

Pellegrini has been given ?30m - chickenfeed - plus the proceeds of anything he can sell. But we are not in a seller's market, everyone knows we need to get players off the wage bill.

So we have to be creative, and I sense that we have been re-evaluating the squad we have almost weekly, to see what we have and what we need. So don't expect too much folks.

I'll just go back to my memories of Wembley in '65, when we really were at the next level. As for the play off final, we have come a long way since then but the next bit is a little trickier.

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