It’s been a long couple of seasons for West Ham United; 80 League Matches, 142 Goals conceded, 3 Managerial Changes, 28 players welcomed, 24 shown the way out; and with the worst start to the 2018/19 season of any team from the top 4 leagues of the English Football League Pyramid, suffice to say this isn’t the 100% start the fans were after.
It’s a you could say that this is just “typical West Ham”, we’re the only team that could spend (give or take) £100m on transfers, hire a supposedly World-Class manager with a CV more glistening than the last FA Cup trophy West Ham got their hands on, play in a 65,000-capacity stadium, and actually be worse than before!
But that’s just it. None of this is typical West Ham. We are a completely different club to that of Slaven Bilic’s plucky underdogs of the 2015/16 season. This is a completely different chapter in the club’s history, and one which nobody is really sure how to handle. Unfortunately, this includes those running West Ham.
West Ham used to be a club that thrives on community spirit, players that would give their all for the shirt; whether technically gifted or otherwise, fans that were more than just supporters; they were family, managers that were characters; heroes and villains alike. All of which would come together on a Saturday afternoon and sing, play and give everything for the claret and blue. This is not to say we were world-class. As a club we have had our fair share of heartbreak, and some truly shocking teams and management styles. But we were, at least, West Ham UNITED.
What happened? Where did it all go? Nowadays, fans are more interested in publicly crucifying members of their own faithful over their choice of snack! We’ve had managers so tactically inept that nobody feels any pain or embarrassment at rugby score-lines, we’re all used to it. And dare a player from a completely different league not settle in the minute the kick-off whistle is blown, they can expect the “x player OUT” brigade to come after them. We are a divided fan base. And whatever happens on the pitch, this will never help matters.
But all this aside, the club hasn’t given fans much to sing about. Simply put, West Ham have taken on too much at once. Over the last couple years we’ve moved into a new stadium, not purpose-built for football with landlords that, to all intents and purposes, don’t want us there. We’ve attempted to build a “next-level” team (the definition of which is still unclear) for 2 managers on a pittance of a budget. But now the board of directors have finally put their money where their mouth is, and backed an ex-Real Madrid and Premier League Winning manager. The only problem with this is, he doesn’t know his best Starting XI after a full pre-season, signing his own players and being 4 league games into the season.
There aren’t any teams (or at least certainly any I can think of) that can undergo the sheer magnitude of change, affecting those right down into the roots of the club, and come out the other side as a success. By most accounts, the general management of the club, not just to do with the stadium transition, and the well-documented farces surrounding that (most recently the fiasco surrounding the claret carpet and the stadium honours board) , or the transfer negotiations that went horribly wrong (such as the Sporting Lisbon chairman’s comments towards our owners). Even on the pitch and in the dressing room, we’ve had embarrassment after embarrassment, from Payet controversially leaving the cub, to Sakho’s departure (leaving his Lamborghini parked at Rush Green despite not playing for us any more). Those running West Ham haven’t given us fans a lot to sing about, and have dragged us through the mud at seemingly every opportunity.
But none of this will change by taking out our own frustrations on each other. The players were (justifiably) booed off the pitch following our home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers. As most pundits agree, this was the correct reaction, and I have to say it’s the most united we’ve been as a fanbase since the start of the season. Unfortunately that’s in spite of the team, rather than because of them. We, as a fanbase, need to stay measured. Remember that the only way any of this gets better is by winning games, climbing up the table now, and watching Pellegrini’s vision come to fruition. We’ve taken a battering the past few years, and understandably a lot of us thought this was finally coming to an end after this summer, but clearly there’s work to be done. None of the results can be changed now. The important thing is now to go to Goodison Park on Sunday and cheer the team on for 90 minutes. As long as the team have our backing, the results will follow.