Joao MarioJoao Mario

Joao Mario-Que-Why? – Virtual Insanity

The burden of expectation weighed heavier than I could withstand. With a gun pointed to my head I fell to my knees reeling from inadequacies, crying for my shame and shaking with the emptiness that would follow. For I shared this plight with my fellow comrades who had been duped into false hope, exasperated by anaemic purpose and betrayed by generals who sent us over the top only to be slaughtered in dirty deals yet to come.

Much of the West Ham United fandom was left speechless after a transfer window that did little to reinforce our ranks or fill key wanting positions. We had Hugill as a late arrival, only after selling Ayew and Sakho and Joao Mario to add spice & flavour to our midfield when all that was really required was a simple old salt to sure up the centre ground and protect our back lines. Let’s not even get started on pensioner; Patrice Evra who must be the most expensive cheerleader the game has ever seen…The Dallas Cowboys girls must be really hacked off now!

I wondered if the club would make good on failings from last summer when the Carvalho deal blew up in our faces that left the club blushing purple and the fans seeing red. Perhaps desperation had taken hold in the corridors of West Ham power, where deal upon deal was being thwarted by obstinacy, discolour and distaste? Perhaps they had failed to plan properly and simply lunged as a final ditch effort to sign anyone…anyone that would satisfy the ‘Money Ball’ statistics or simply be another…any…Portuguese player that could slot into midfield. Surely that’s what the fans wanted wasn’t it? Surely that’s what David Moyes wanted wasn’t it? Or perhaps…simply…it was not!

Behind the facade of a club whom would be loyally followed by the blind and the accounts ledgers that would never see red, there was an undertone of incompetency and bullish bravado that convinced only those in the seats of power that all was well. Even those with myopic admiration would come to question the dealings from behind the velour and join ranks with those whom had long since held permanently raised eyebrows.

Regardless of what spin we are supposed to absorb, we know the real world. We took our red pill in years gone by, we can see through the spiralling code and we can spot any Agent Smith heading our way to eliminate anything that would clear the fog and let the rest of the ‘Copper Tops’ see as we would see. This was not an Allerdyce issue, nor was it a Bilic failing…but rather a systematic floundering from those at the top who had not implemented proper procedure for some time. David Sullivan had seen fit to give himself the responsibility to have oversight of the transfer dealings, when really he should never have been involved at that level in the first instance…finally now, there might be change in that regard with a new policy and system being developed.

This last week there have been whispers coming out of Italy that might give us pause for thought…maybe those ‘Internazionales’ had a cunning plan all along to offload Joao Mario and maybe they will get their top Lira when any gullible Premiership team would jump to bite at first sight.

It was as obvious as a slap in the face with a wet fish that the club owners, Tony Henry and Moyes had inadvertently contributed to the transfer apathy and were forced to hop onto planes at the eleventh hour to get eyes on any player that might fulfil the remit of ‘anything will do!’ We were soon regaled with the sight of Mario…who is indeed a fine player lying in wait, but hardly a world class player. Although he is one who has managed to command an out of this world salary with a view to a tropospheric transfer fee in the summer…if all parties agree.

My astonishment and dismay is not targeted at the player or whether I believe he will be a worthwhile addition to our squad. However it is directed at a transfer system that failed to target players early, alienated players and other clubs or simply for having the wrong people in place to make these things happen without offending other clubs or indeed anyone from the African continent.

Since his arrival, Mario has fared well, has not embarrassed himself too much but hasn’t hit the ground running to make us all take note either. He had a decent introduction in the abysmal FA Cup defeat, had some good & bad moments in the Brighton game, but did better in the Watford encounter with some neat passing and a couple of goal scoring opportunities, although he has appeared a little weak at times when being bundled off the ball by burly opposition.

Off the ball, the club have gone into PR overdrive with subliminal messaging…he’s a natural to model the merchandise, he can now say, “Come On You Irons!” properly and he has graced many a social media posting from the club sites. It’s as if this cerebral bombardment will make Mario a part of the furniture that we can never do without, so I can only assume the deal to buy him in the summer has already been done and the ink dried some time ago.

Many fans would be right to worry about the introduction of Mario and again this has nothing to do with the man himself but rather to question the ultimate intention of his employment. We didn’t necessarily need another creative attacking midfielder but come the summer…that’s exactly what may be required. Will Lanzini stay or has a deal with Liverpool already been struck to see him leave our loyal embrace? Is there an opportunity for these two to develop a working relationship to bring us success in the middle of the park and that would link up well with Arnautovic and Hernandez for the remainder of the season?

It would be foolish to think that any player would arrive at a club, in a country and league never played in before to miraculously take each game by storm…that is for fairy tales and Sylvester Stallone movies! We have to give Mario time to settle in and develop his British game but there are signs that he has the talent, skill and most importantly the composure to give us something that we have lacked for some time, especially when Lanzini and other key players have been missing.

Does this warrant the salary and transfer fee? Possibly not, but we can all agree that all rhyme and reason has left the building along with Elvis and football rattles. He arrives at a time of great uncertainty and much discord from within the club and amongst the fans too but he may yet give us hope for a brighter tomorrow. You might ask, “Joao Mario? Que? Why?” But this is world and a game that is just virtual insanity!


By Alf Gasparro

Jon Pope

By Jon Pope

Use to sit in the BML for 10 years, been a West Ham fan all my life, and my great grandfather was a founder member of the TIW. I also help run the Hammer Chat website.

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