Are You Not Entertained?

Supporting West Ham during 2018/19 is a bit like when your favourite TV show has just come back for a new season. It’s been good before and went through a streak of quality viewing but it has been in a bit of a lull for a while, but the hope is that it will get better.

You look forward to it, the first few episodes are crap, but you think the ingredients are there for a good season but despite some promise and a host of new characters it just all feels a bit meh. You keep going though because it would feel disloyal to just quit before the finale has arrived and even though you know it probably won’t be that exciting you persist because you have loved it so much previously that the joy it gave you will be met with your devotion forever more.

You try to discuss this with other fans of the show. Some think it was never as good as many make out, some think that the loss of certain foundations is irreplaceable and the show can never been the same and then some think that it is better now than it ever was and if you don’t like it then stop watching.

Now I hope you’re suitably warmed up with that TV show analogy. That was the soft way of delving into the workings of this seasons West Ham United. I have seen many debates across social media to where fans think the club is currently at and they vary from moving in the right direction to nothing has really changed.

There are different stats for whichever side of the fence you are on. Ultimately in terms of results we have seen a modest upturn and there has been no real threat of a relegation battle. The highest we could have realistically finished was 7th given that the top 6 is so far out of reach for us and all the other clubs outside that bracket that it really isn’t worth talking about.

It would seem that 7th will be beyond us unless there is a remarkable end to the season and a mid-table finish is likely to be the sum of what seemed on the surface to be a great number of changes in the summer.

But those changes haven’t really done, enough have they? Last season we had a terrible defence (actually the worst in the entire division) and we lacked mobility in midfield. We didn’t have a striker who scored enough goals and I suspect we will end this season saying the exact same thing.

Against Huddersfield we were outrageously bad in defence but 3 of the 4 players from the WORST defence in the Premier League last season were present. Now of course it is maybe a little too simplistic to just blame those individuals but at what point do we look at those players as the problem?

I agree that we do not defend well enough as a team but and usually it is the manager who should take a lot of the blame for that, but Manuel Pellegrini is our third manager in 18 months so either all three managers were not good enough defensively or the players at their disposal need replacing. I am going with the latter.

Since beating Southampton on 28th December, we have been largely substandard with the odd good result mixed in to keep things going. We are an unremarkable team with more players than I have ever witnessed knowing that their futures do not lie at the club.

I do no believe Adrian, Obiang, Wilshere, Perez, Carroll, Hernandez, Masuaku and Arnautovic will be at the club next season. I also believe this is why we saw such a downturn in form alongside the unprofessional behaviour from Marko Arnautovic who has gone some way to ruin his season and the whole clubs with his antics in January as he tried to leave the club.

I do not think Pellegrini was interested in picking him to start again but for the struggles we have had up front with no real presence because despite the two goals Hernandez scored against Huddersfield, he is not the answer in the system we adopt. He never has been, and he never will be.

Felipe Anderson was the catalyst for most of our good form this season. He started poorly and fans seemed to criticise his defensive play which I was never concerned about as I was more interested in his attacking which was a bit hit and miss. Once he got going, he was responsible for so many of our goals with either the goal itself or assists directly or indirectly.

It is no surprise to me that since his form has taken a turn for the worse (since the start of the year) so have the results. Our dependency on a player who doesn’t exactly take matches by the scruff of the neck has been a little futile, but I still believe he is a player who can make something out of nothing even if he is having an off day. (The amount of matches he has played may be a factor in the dip of form also)

The trouble is when you are trying to accommodate him, Lanzini, a moody Arnautovic or a limited Hernandez then you are going to struggle against energetic teams and that is something we have seen far too many times.

I can only give an honest view of what I have seen this season and that might come across negative but ultimately, I have left West Ham matches this season unhappy more times than not. If you have gone home and away this season, then asking yourself this question may give better perspective to how you really feel this season has been.

We still must play Mark Noble every week because we never managed to sign anyone better than him and Pedro Obiang has been exposed as an even more inept player than Noble. I like our captain and still believe he has a role at the club but if anyone thinks that you are going to finish in the top 7 with Mark Noble as a mainstay of your midfield week in, week out then you are in for a shock. Therefore, I find the criticism of Noble a bit bizarre as it’s not like there is a great player on the bench that he is keeping out of the side.

With this dull season coming to a close the club announced details for season ticket renewals which saw a sharp hike for some and a minimal increase for others. There have been many viewpoints put forward with some believing the increase in prices is unfair, others thinking the increase is fair and others suggesting that it is right to do so and anyone complaining should be quiet.

I believe with the team doing nothing particularly great, the stadium still with the exact same issues as when we moved in and the TV deal generating more money for the club than ever before that ANY increase was uncalled for. It won’t stop me going and I am not unduly agitated by it but if I was there isn’t a person in the land who can tell me I cannot criticise it.

The newly formed supporters’ group (handpicked by the club) the OSB who were formally the SAB were not given any heads up about this increase which does really hit home how little say West Ham supporters have in anything that goes on at the club. The independent supporters group WHUISA (to which I did join) are ignored by the club and still do not have the swelling of interest that they really should have from the wider West Ham fan base because if we cannot have a say or hold these owners to account for decisions that effect the club then who will?

There is an apathy from some supporters or maybe it is just ones that I view on twitter which I am aware is not the greatest snapshot of West Ham fans.

The biggest gripe I have about West Ham is the stadium. The main issue from the day we moved in was that the pitch is too far away from the stands. The issue I have here in March 2019 is that the pitch is too far away from the stands and no amount of claret coloured carpet is going to change that.

West Ham fans were consulted before the move and asked a series of questions in which images of the ground were shown, artist impressions and much comments on how the retractable seating will take away any concern of the pitch being far away from the stands.

The club rightly say that a large proportion of West Ham fans (who submitted their feedback) were happy to move. I don’t dispute this because I was one of them and I deeply regret my naivety on this issue.

I did not believe that what the club were telling us about the stadium and the images provided would simply not be true. The support for the move was based on these things so when they turn out to not be true, I cannot just accept that and until the day that is rectified I will not be happy with the stadium.

If the fans do not continue to remind the club that this is not what we were told we were moving into then who will? Is that moaning? Is that being negative? For me it is just holding these owners to account for the untruths they have bestowed upon the West Ham fans.

Now I have absolutely no issue with any West Ham fan who IS happy with the stadium and is satisfied with the stadium. This is their prerogative and I accept that any individual is entitled to this outlook, but you have absolutely no right to tell me or any other West Ham fan that we should stop talking about it. If don’t want to read it then don’t. Press the mute button, press the unfollow button or simply block someone. But don’t flood your responses with a spray of sanctimonious condescension because YOU are not interested in not letting the owners away with the lies told to get fans to agree to this move.

If West Ham fans knew back in 2014/2015 what we know about this stadium and they knew how it would look I wonder how many would have back the move.

With no supporters group seemingly in a position to bring these issues to the forefront I can only look at big social media fan accounts or influential forums but I don’t know if bringing these issues up is something that they would want to do because income and their brand relies on West Ham and it could be considered biting the hand that feeds them?

The type of response I get if I am bringing these points up is “don’t go then” which is just a lazy and dismissive comment from people who get agitated by anyone moving away from the comfort of this shiny West Ham United in a big stadium.

I know Upton Park is gone. I know we are not moving back. That’s not my point. I want us to be in a good stadium and a good stadium it is not, and a few wins will not blind me from seeing that the same problems from the day we move in remain.

Back to on the field matters and I have seen some question Pellegrini. Not to the point that people think he should be sacked (people say that fans say this, but I doubt anyone actually does) but some good points have been raise about how he is getting on.

I believe his time so far is very difficult to judge because the injuries to so many key players were unprecedented. To have one player out for the majority of the season is rare but we had three (Wilshere, Sanchez, Yarmolenko) and with Lanzini missing for most of the campaign up till now, Balbuena out for a lot longer than expected, Carroll never fit and Arnautovic injured and then wanting to leave I think it is safe to say that Pellegrini has not had the easiest first season and due to those reasons I am not going to come down on him at all because this job is massive.

The overhaul we thought we needed last summer is even more required now and I am sure Pellegrini has exposed some of the poor attitudes throughout the squad that he will not tolerate going into next season.

But it is a lot of players to get rid of and to try and replace them all will be near impossible. The job is a big one and I just hope the manager is backed during the summer.

For the away fan there are still some exciting trips with visits to Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and possibly Tottenham’s new stadium coming up. The away support this season has been absolutely fantastic yet again at the West Ham fans remain the lifeblood of this football club.

 

Vinny Ryan
Twitter: @vinnywhufc

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