Ten years of false dawns

  • by anjado
  • Filed: Thursday, 12th December 2019

There are several factors at play with regards to West Ham current problems. So I shall attempt to put forth who I would personally blame for the current malaise...

Manuel Pellegrini

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The manager has to take some share of the blame for our current predicament. He has made several mistakes this season and has clearly fallen out with some players. There have been quite a few baffling selection issues the most notable being Pablo Zabaleta's selection against Newcastle, constantly substituting Felipe Anderson and quite a few more.

For me his biggest issue has been in pre-season. We played a certain system where we played all of our flair and attacking players we looked good going forward but a bit open in defence. After we lost to Everton we completely went away from this system to accommodate Snodgrass for his extra legs but it hasn't really worked and after a brief improvement in performance, we are back to how we were against Palace and Everton.

We look worse going forward and are no better at shielding the defence so I would like to see us go a bit more attacking since that is where the strength in the squad lies. We aren't going to outgrit the opposition so we should go back to trying to play a possession based game which is what we spent all pre-season doing.

The Players

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Our players get an easy ride from us. In the past nine years our players have blamed our poor performance on a lack of confidence 19 times. That is an absurd amount they should all be given the boy who cried wolf to read at training.

Last season Michail Antonio - a player who had to grind his way from non-league to Premier League football - said that as players, they struggle to lift themselves to play against the likes of Cardiff and Burnley. For me that is an utter disgrace. We have a team of millionaires who can't be bothered to play hard in every game.

If Antonio, a player who came from the depths of football can't find the motivation to play hard every week, then no one in our team is going to.

Our fans praise Robert Snodgrass because he tries hard and that is fair enough. But it is also the bare minimum required to be a professional sportsman and instead of praising someone for doing the minimum required of him, we should be criticising the others for not doing enough.

Our players are so mentally weak that if we suffer two bad results then our confidence is completely depleted and they can't recover. Frankly, it's embarrassing. We always have to hear about the mental well-being of footballers and how they have it tough at a time when they earn obscene money (whether they earn it or not).

Meanwhile there are more people living in poverty across the country than ever before and people needing the services of food banks and other services to live - yet we have to feel sorry for these millionaires who cant be bothered to kick a football for 90 minutes a week? Frankly, it sickens me.

Declan Rice said after the Chelsea victory that the result was "typical West Ham". That is entirely the wrong attitude for the players to have. This is partly why we are so poor.

The supporters of the club can say it's typical West Ham but the players have to have it instilled in them that they must try and compete to win every week. Players pre the turn of the century may have been able to get away with not putting in the effort each week, but they were paid far less money than current players are and no player can use this as an excuse anymore.

Our players basically treat the club like a holiday camp and we don't appear professional compared to other clubs. That much shows every year. Every season we look less fit than everyone else and we often get more injuries; that is because too many players don't care and think that is the standard required at our club.

The Owners

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They are the biggest culprits - although it isn't just their fault, it's all the previous owners that preceded them too.

Our lack of professionalism starts at the top and always has done. We must have been one of the worst-run clubs in football for nigh-on 100 years. Most of it was a lack of ambition; we have little as a club and are happy to just exist until things look bad - and then we mysteriously find wads of cash.

Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, John Hartson, Paul Kitson, Lee Bowyer, Rufus Brevett, Demba Ba and Robbie Keane, amongst others, spring to mind.

Contrast that with the two recent seasons when we were in and around the top four and the lack of expenditure and, even more recently, the second season under Glenn Roeder. The Boys of '86 added a fourth division centre half when the 1987 team could have been stronger following the introduction of Paul Ince.

Sullivan and Gold aren't alone in their lack of ambition. A KUMB Forum member once posted the minutes of a board meeting from the 1920s or '30s where one of the board members said that we should try and stay in the Second Division rather than get promoted to keep costs and wages down, because people will still turn up to watch anyway! This could've been the motto for all West Ham boards since the club was founded.

The key difference is clearly the move to Stratford before which we were promised the moon. I believe we currently have a weaker team than that which proceeded Sullivan and Gold taking over the club in 2010.

In the five seasons before Sullivan and Gold took over we reached a Cup Final and finished in the top half of the Premier League three times. Since then we haven't reached a Cup Final, suffering numerous embarrassing defeats, but have finished in the top half three times.

Since the Premier League installed a 38-game season, here is our record:

1995-2009 (Pre Sullivan & Gold)

Average points per season: 49.5
Top half finishes: 8/12
Best season: 57 points (1998/99)
Worst season: 41 points (2006/07), 42 points 3 times (1996/97, 2000/01 and 2002/03)

2010-2019 (Post Sullivan & Gold)

Average points per season: 44.6 (42.5 excluding the 2015/16 season)
Top half finishes: 3/9
Best season: 62 points (2015/16)
Worst seasons: 33 points (2010/11), 35 points (2009/10), 40 points (2013/14)

So there you have it. If you take away the final season at the Boleyn we are doing 1.5 points better per season than our worst season in the preceding 15 years in the top flight.

Additionally, Sullivan's board have undermined every single manager who has worked for them.

Gianfranco Zola

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Zola hadn't had a good 2009/10 season in but was consistently abused in the press every single day. Did you know Zola signed Benni McCarthy for ?2.5million? He could have signed any striker he wanted but chose McCarthy - there were no financial restrictions on him at all. Zola gets a lot of grief over the signing of McCarthy to this day, but he could've signed Edinson Cavani six months earlier of we'd been able to raise the funds. So I think it's fair to say he was fairly unlucky in this regard and unfairly maligned.

Avram Grant

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After bragging to the press about how they will finally run West Ham like a proper football club, they went out and appointed the manager who finished bottom of the Premier League the previous season. They backed the manager immensely that summer to the tune of about ?3million.

They made a very poor choice but were prepared to rectify that by appointing Martin O'Neill. Sadly their inability to keep their mouths shut ie leaks to the press resulted in O'Neill, realising how comically unprofessional we were, declining the offer. So we were stuck with Grant but mysteriously found a few million pounds for Gary O'Neil, Demba Ba and a couple of loans. We ended up relegated with two games to go at which point our owners decided to ban the (sacked) manager from catching the team bus home until Scott Parker intervened.

Sam Allardyce

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The first two seasons of Allardyce's reign pretty much went without much incident. In his third season we needed more money for reinforcements as our side was ageing and slow. He didn't get it. We had to rely on signing Roger Johnson on a free transfer to sure up a defence which was mostly injured.

The next season things improved drastically with the signings of Diafra Sakho, Alex Song, Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson. We were in the top four on Boxing Day and could have made a legitimate push for the Champions League. However our owners didn't want it, kept their money in their pocket and we plummeted down the table. Allardyce was gone at the end of the season.

Slaven Bilic

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Slav had an amazing first season, our second highest finish in terms of points per game. We only lost four out of 32 games in the middle of the season despite suffering a huge injury crisis, robbing us of most of our attacking players for two months. We were then robbed of a Champions League place by the worst run of officiating we have ever received.

Adding a quality striker in January would have made an enormous difference to our season. That was the time to push the boat out and invest in a top quality striker who could score 5-10 goals in the second half of the season. Instead we got Emmanuel Emenike on loan, who was serviceable but made no impact.

We finished the season with a great final night at the Boleyn and two disappointing defeats. But everyone was still on a high as we played amazing football throughout the season. In Dimitri Payet we had a genuinely world-class footballer. We were moving into a new stadium and everything was looking up (at least on the pitch).

One week after the season ended David Sullivan whined (on a certain website) that Slaven Bilic was getting all the credit and not him. After all he was the one who personally scouted "some French bloke" and was the true hero behind our recent success as a club.

The, our stadium move happened - and it was the biggest cock-up anyone has seen when moving stadiums. The board lied about nearly every detail. So the mood was negative within two months after the end of a fantastic season and when the club was at its highest ebb for years. After all, ae had the best player at Euro 2016 playing for us.

They lied about aspects of the stadium move but maybe they would make up for that by bringing in Michy Batshuayi? Jack Sullivan was wearing a shirt with his name on it so the deal must be practically completed, right? Or Lacazette, a top striker who they should have brought in January (okay better late then never).

We tried to haggle with Marseille in order to get a slight saving on Batshuayi. Then Chelsea, realising they only have 487 players on their books and are a bit light up front signed Batshuayi right away. The chance had gone.

We'd lost Victor Moses, James Tomkins, Song, Emmenike, Mauro Zarate, Joey O'Brien, Carl Jenkinson and Nikica Jelavic from the squad that did so well the previous season. If we could've only signed in a couple of big names; maybe a central midfielder, a striker a right-back and a replacement for Moses.

But we signed Gokhan Tore, Jonathan Calleri, Havard Nordtveit, Sofiane Feghouli, Ashley Fletcher, Alvaro Arbeloa and Simone Zaza all on loan or free transfers (because all managers dream of wanting first team players replaced by players who are free agents or on loan, obviously).

We eventually brought in Arthur Masuaku because Cresswell was crippled in pre-season and Andre Ayew, who was signed because we needed a big money signing - even though he didn't fit in our team whatsoever. Then we took a punt on Edmilson Fernandes and Manuel Lanzini was signed permanently.

All in all, the club spent about ?2million more on transfer fees than we did at the last season at the Boleyn.

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We suffered a dreadful result at home to Astra Giurgiu in the Europa League qualifier with our new strikers missing a hatful of chances. We started the Premier League season away to Chelsea and played Michail Antonio at right back - something the manager was experimenting with because unfortunately Sam Byram had either been injured or underwhelming in his appearances.

Antonio made a mistake which led to a Chelsea goal; later there is an article on the club's website which stated that Michail Antonio will never play right-back again. Not from the manager, but from David Sullivan! It took one league game, in which we conceded a last-minute goal to a team which would go on to win the league, for the board to start severely undermining the manager.

We had an underwhelming season which the club mouthpieces blamed on Bilic's signings such as Tore, who he himself said later he didn't want. Because all the other free signings worked out so well, Masuaku is the only signing from that season still at the club - something again that is a disgrace.

Bilic got berated for signing Jose Fonte who whilst not a great signing wasn't that awful either, especially considering some of the other crap signed that summer. Bilic spent the season apparently always three games away from the sack, which wasn't helpful in any way.

We move onto Bilic's final season. A summer in which he saw that we needed a defensive midfield reinforcement, hence spending the summer targeting William Carvalho - a player who would walk into our team today. It's a smart signing, unfortunately Sullivan (then effectively our Director of Football) thought going on vacation with just a few days of the transfer window left was the right option.

From their holiday abode, the Sullivans could tweet freely about what a horrible person our manager is and complain about Bilic not signing Kelechi Iheanacho, laugh about the attempts to sign William Carvalho and send poorly written and threatening emails to the chairman of Sporting Lisbon.

Sullivan Snr got what he wanted and we didn't sign Carvalho (even though had we signed him we would almost certainly be doing much better now with him and Rice patrolling midfield). Eventually the players stop playing for Bilic after one final hurrah against Spurs where we came from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

That wasn't enough to save the current manager of Championship-leading West Bromwich Albion nor his assistants Nikola Jurcevic - the current manager of oil rich Azerbaijan - and current Borussia Dortmund assistant manager Edin Terzic. They were all useless anyway (I read it on a website) and we will never hear of them again. They were clearly the problem, it wasn't the constant leaking of information such as team sheets hours before kick off or the constant whining about the manager overlooking Toni Martinez, for example.

David Moyes

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David Moyes came in with some other backroom staff including former left back Stuart Pearce and did what was required of him. He got Marko Arnautovic to actually bother about playing and we survived the drop. Moyes did okay; nothing spectacular or brilliant despite the relentless hype of certain people but he did the best he could which was good enough - 26 points from 23 games until the last three games of the season in which we picked up seven more points.

We threw a Carabao Cup quarter final against Arsenal, while Reece Oxford was breaking into the Borussia Monchengladbach side in December. He was immediately recalled - to play one Cup game and that was the end of his career with West Ham.

Sullivan tried to crush fans' discontent and it backfired initially, when hundreds of fans forced him to leave his seat during a noisy protest against Burnley. Objects were thrown - according to Sullivan himself it was a coin - but as all he can see is money he probably isn't the most reliable witness.

Manuel Pellegrini

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Moyes was replaced at the end of that season by Manuel Pellegrini, who Sullivan apparently masterminded the signing of in January that year. The club appointed a (real) Director of Football. Small steps. We actually invested adequately in the playing squad and, after a shaky start in which the knives were sharpening, we managed to have a mostly decent season barring the Cup exit and some players' lack of desire in certain games.

In January 2019 Pellegrini was planning to sign Gary Medel, arguably one of the toughest-tackling midfielders in world football. We couldn't afford any transfers apart from an over-the-hill free agent - so we signed him instead.

Come the following season (and bringing us up to date) we sold Pedro Obiang and Edmilson Fernandes on the promise that all players leaving the club will be replaced. But certain websites knew we would only spend ?30million net due to financial fair play; the system put in place solely to punish West Ham, apparently.

So, we started the season with an unbalanced squad and a midfield which included a journeyman winger and an ageing club stalwart, neither of whom should be playing every single week - but here we are.

Pellegrini, we are reliably informed, has just one more game to save his job - and so the cycle repeats. He was severely undermined by the usual suspects three weeks ago when they said if he had any pride he would walk away from his ?8million salary (having been lied to about the transfer budget he'd have last summer).

Pablo Fornals has to be one of our worst 15 signings since leaving the Boleyn Ground four years ago and surely in the bottom 50 signed during the Sullivan era. Mario Husillos deserves constant ridicule over signing one of the brightest young players in world football. What an idiot...

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Our next choice of manager is likely to be either Chris Hughton. He's a nice bloke but would have gotten Brighton relegated if Neil Warnock tried to beat Fulham with three games of the season to go. David Moyes, who has already been here, is a depressing alternative.

I can't see West Ham paying compensation for anyone, so our next manager will almost certainly be unemployed at present. There are several interesting options who could succeed Pellegrini but we probably will go for the boring, soul-crushingly depressing option.

And that, in my view is why the owners are mostly to blame for our current position. The fun, hope and soul has been drained out of so many supporters. We have been in far worse positions than this before but, with the current ownership, we know that any significant improvement will just be a false dawn - because our owners will make it so.

This is why West Ham have never been a good or competent team for any period of time. We have always had owners with no great ambition to improve the club's fortunes. Everything is half-arsed and lazy - and it's just becoming more and more tiring and difficult to see what the point is of following a club which is always, and has nearly always been, so incompetent and embarrassingly run.

* This article first appeared on the KUMB Forum.

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