We’ve all been watching recent events unfold at West Ham in a bit of a daze, wondering quite how such a promising set of players could have failed to such an extent that relegation now seems more than likely.
Most of the fan-base now appear to be in agreement that our current board have much to answer for and the majority of us would love them to sell up and move on. But what next?
Whether the current board are here or not, how do we even begin to rebuild our image which now seems to be tainted across the footballing world?
When relegation starts to look like a realistic prospect, many people find themselves putting a positive spin on things “Ah well, now we can clear out all the overpaid mercenaries”, “At least our youngsters will get some first team action”. But ultimately, do we have a common thought process when it comes to what relegation could mean?
Presumably the majority would like an immediate return to the Premier League so would our young players really get a fair crack at first team football or would we see more Kevin Nolan’s arrive, players of Premier League quality who would be prepared to help the club get back to where we think we belong? I remember being excited by the prospect of seeing West Ham rebuild with academy prospects last time we were relegated, but I don’t recall that happening.
A failure to return to the Premier League within two seasons may mean financial difficulties and an extended period in the wilderness. I won’t pretend to have any knowledge on finances and how everything is structured so from this point on, my wishes and desires rely heavily on whether staying in the Championship for more than two seasons would put the clubs existence at threat.
West Ham have long referred to themselves as ‘The Academy of Football’.
For decades we could reference the wonderful players who came through the youth system and beam with pride. In recent years it has seemed more like a distant memory until the emergence of Declan Rice and then Grady Diangana.
I would like the club to put the Academy back at the heart of the club, whether we are relegated or not.
I think the club should make it policy that two academy graduates are promoted to the first team squad every season and will be guaranteed a minimum number of first team minutes. Perhaps the equivalent of five full games.
I can’t be the only one over the past number of years who have watched players like Carlos Sanchez, Pedro Obiang, Patrice Evra and Lucas Perez play a similar number of minutes in a West Ham shirt and thought, would some of our academy players really contribute any less given a real opportunity? Surely for the combined sum of £300k p/w in wages , those types of players do nothing but drain money out of the club when young players would do a comparable job.
I’m not pretending we can replace Declan Rice or Lucas Fabianski with kids, however I do firmly believe that for the amount of playing time some of our fringe players get, using the academy is a better option, both financially and for the long-term benefit of the team.
Were West Ham to introduce something like this, surely the very best and brightest talent in the world would look at West Ham as the place to build their careers. To know that a club will actively mandate that opportunities and playing time will be given every season to academy players will surely make West Ham one of the most attractive clubs around and convincing the best young talent that we are the quickest route to top-level first team football would be simpler.
I may be living in a fantasy world. I don’t know the realities of putting something like this in place, I can only say what would excite me as a West Ham fan and should the club ever move in this direction, I think a lot of fans would need to readjust their thought process regarding West Ham in the transfer market.
For years, I have noticed some fans get enraged by the thought that one of our new signings could possibly be using the club as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I’m not quite sure why that is. Football is so short-term anyway, players often come and go within the space of a couple of seasons, so to bring in a player and sell them two seasons later for a large profit should be exactly what we’re looking to achieve. Look at Issa Diop for example. Lets assume the bid of £60m from Manchester United was genuine, had we sold him at that point, we would have made a £38m profit in just one season.
Now I’m not saying Issa Diop won’t be a top-level player worth possibly twice that kind of money, I’m simply saying that I’d like to see a West Ham that isn’t afraid to sell, just like Leicester took Manchester United’s £80m for Harry Maguire in the summer and said ‘Cheers, we’ve got this Turkish fella who’s just as good’.
Of course that’s where West Ham will fall down because Leicester have a scouting network and we have FIFA 20. But this is what I would like to see from my club.
My biggest fear of relegation aside from financial issues is access to the games. As painful as it is watching West Ham, it’s an addiction I’m not sure I could do without. But with the increased number of live Championship games televised and services like iFollow in which EFL clubs can choose to stream their own matches, the fear of not being able to watch West Ham is not so much of a consideration, so it really comes down to money, can West Ham survive in the Championship? If they can, I would be far more excited to see players like Nathan Holland and Jeremey Ngakia get their chance to shine rather than sign another big money flop who has no real motivation to fight for the badge.
OK, none of this seems likely, particularly with the current people in charge, but a radical change of direction and a clear idea of what we want to be is very much-needed. Being a forward thinking club that puts its faith in young talent is exactly what I would like to see.
How about you?