It’s now over, the worst year I can recall in West Ham’s history. I don’t know about you lot, but I couldn’t wish 2017 further away!
Our most famous fan, Her Madge, once described a particularly unpleasant royal year with something horrible in Latin. Now my Latin stretches to ’Paolo Di Canio’ and pizza, and that’s about it, but I suspect the Queen, who had seen three royal marriages collapse in 1992, would understand me lifting her expression to describe 2017 as ‘West Ham’s annus horribilis.’ Being the worst year in our history is only my view, I am sure some of you can find some equally appalling times, but I have been there and witnessed the highs and the lows. It’s the whole club, the atmosphere, the public image. Everything seems to be at odds, with the playing side of things just adding to the air of gloom. Our performances on the pitch in 2017 were truly shocking, we won only 13 of 44 league and cup games and our Premier League record these past 12 months is P39 W10 D 11 L18 F 46 A 69 Pts 41. That’s the back end of a near disastrous first season at the London Stadium, with the first half of the current campaign. Now that coming from the most expensively assembled squad in our history and by far the highest paid (we have one of the top 20 wage bills in the world) takes some believing and accepting. It is barely a 39-game spell just good enough to avoid relegation; 40 points is the usual line in the sand, but we all know you can go down with 42 points, don’t we? The year saw us sack Slaven Bilic, give David Moyes the reigns and, until now at least, not see much difference. Moyes has been in charge now for 10 matches (including one cup tie), winning two, and we have gained nine points. Slav’s last nine games produced three wins. And from his final eight league matches we produced eight points. So with all the huffing and puffing, the extra training, changes in tactics and formations and now a potential rebuilding of the squad, we are going nowhere fast. That’s a bit harsh on Moyes, who took on a tough job with a squad void of confidence or, it seemed, interest. Any manager needs time, but in our current plight, Moyes will not get any before the darkness of pending relegation closes in.
We need to win a minimum of six of our final games 18 games, and we have to play all of the top seven in that time. Moyes started OK. Sorted out the ’goals against’ column and we could all see people running about more. But the frozen look on his face during the Newcastle debacle said it all. You could almost hear him thinking “I thought I’d sorted a few things out” as he saw us return to a pub team defending. You see, David, it’s not like that at West Ham. Half our squad don’t seem to be able to concentrate or remember the jobs they have been given, the rest weren’t even listening in the first place. That reminds me of a funny story I once heard about our former defender Tommy Taylor in the Ron Greenwood days. Tommy was asked what he thought of Ron’s renowned coaching brilliance and tactical details. Tommy, who had been pictured staring at the sky during one training session, just said that he didn’t really understand much of it anyway. Times, you would think, have not changed much over the years. Now my reasoning for the ’worst ever’ tag is based not only on our performances on the pitch, but also off it. I cannot recall a spell where so many fans were dissatisfied with the club, our owners, the new ground, and generally how we are being treated in this new supposedly glossy corporate world. I must say, though, there are plenty of our fans, mainly the newer variety, who do like the newness and the comforts of our new home, being part of a 56,000 crowd and not having to stand in urine in the toilets. They like the cheap tickets for kids, Westfield, the various travel outlets and so on. Their views are valid, varied and not to be dismissed. But, having said all that, I cannot recall so many action groups promising revolution, so many people at odds with our owners, so much rancour. Some fans groups and sites are at loggerheads with each other, some are plotting action to give David Sullivan a good kicking, figuratively speaking if course. They believe they have been lied too, at the very least mislead over the move. For their part, our much-maligned board are at odds with our landlords, are involved in legal action over the terms of the contracts while we are seemingly preparing for a full-on confrontation with the Mayor of London. All of this has provided a backdrop of unrest as the team have floundered too often on the pitch. I don’t want to feel like this, I don’t like seeing my own friends and match day mates unhappy and angry about what should be our day of enjoyment, a good laugh, a few beers and a good shout and singsong. Where did all that go? And sadly I cannot see things getting too much better. Sullivan is approaching another transfer window knowing that the previous three since we left the Boleyn have been far from satisfactory. Moyes reckons the squad assembled is unbalanced in key areas, and somehow a lot of this has to be put right in the next month. Some hopes there on current form!
Sullivan and the board have seen fit to shift a lot of the blame towards Slav for the transfer window problems, as well as complaints about fitness. Who is to blame for the transfer shambles, who knows. Let’s just say Sullivan has played a part. Slav has stepped forward twice now to defend himself. Once in the Mail on Sunday, where he defended his transfer dealings and questioned Sullivan’s knowledge, and the second being an appearance on Goals on Sunday when he rubbished the stats about our players not running enough. On both occasions he looked calm, cool and very sure of his ability. He no doubt felt he had to put his side of things, because the implied accusations were damaging his reputation and therefore his chances of further employment.
Sullivan has just soldiered on, and I don’t want to get into the nonsense of his son’s lavish London bachelor pad and all that boasting about money. It wasn’t the time for such graceless expressions of wealth . I’ll leave it there. That last episode just underlines that we are always in the papers for the all the wrong reasons. It’s why, for me, this has been the worst year I can remember. Oh for a few months of peace and quiet, an improving team and how about a year when we won more than we lost, we scored more than we conceded and we stopped being an embarrassing under-achieving team and club.
By Daniel Hatcher