‘Next Level’ – Will dreams fade and die as we battle for Premier League survival?

I wouldn’t advise that you do, but if you were to Google “West Ham” the first three articles that you will find are about the fallout from last Saturday’s battle of the claret and blues. Frankly, enough has been said about the stadium, the board, the lies – so I don’t see any need for me to launch yet another volley of words in the direction of Mr Sullivan, Mr Gold or Baroness Brady. Another reason for me not writing about the abomination of a board that runs our club is that I find myself reaching for the swear-jar when I do so.

Instead, let’s think about something a hell of a lot more cheery – something that will warm the cockles of your heart. Let’s talk about the relegation battle that we have sleepwalked into and how I rate our chances of getting out of it alive…

“Three wins is our aim.” – Mark Noble

I genuinely feel quite sorry for Mark, Mr West Ham, Noble. The interview that he gave to the Club’s media team was about as motivational as a doctor telling you that you have shin splints, but at least he tried. In the comments that he gave to the press, our captain made the garish claim that we need three wins from our final eight games to stay in the Premier League. If we were to secure the three victories that David Moyes appears to be targeting we would finish the season with 39 points – which, in theory – should probably be enough to keep us in the league.

The last time that a team was relegated having acquired 39 points was in the 2010/11 season. The three teams that were relegated that year?  Birmingham City, Blackpool and West Ham United. The most terrifying thing about that season was how horrific our form was in the final weeks of the campaign. Our last five games were against Chelsea, Manchester City, Blackburn, Wigan Athletic and Sunderland. We picked up just one point from those fixtures, throwing away a lead at the DW Stadium (as it was at the time) to lose 3-2 at Wigan and secure our fate with a game to spare. After 30 games of the 2010/11 season we were sat in 17th place on 32 points, two points better off but a place lower than how we currently fare.

Now, I appreciate that – on paper – we have a much better team now than we did in 2011, and that the Premier League is now a very different beast. But if you aren’t worried about the prospect of history repeating itself because “we have the quality to carry us through” or because “we’re too good to go down”, I suggest you look at our final eight fixtures:

Manchester United (Home) – Date TBC

Southampton (Home) – Saturday 31st March 3PM

Chelsea (Away) – Sunday 8th April 4:30PM

Stoke City (Home) – Monday 16th April 8PM

Arsenal (Away) – Wednesday 23rd April 8PM

Manchester City (Home) – Sunday 29th April 2:15PM

Leicester City (Away) – Saturday 5th May 3PM

Everton (Home) – Sunday 13th May 3PM

I would never put West Ham in my accumulator anyway… but I wouldn’t be compelled to back us in any of those fixtures if I did. We could be relegated “at home” on the final day of the season against a disjointed Everton team managed by Sam Allardyce, and if that doesn’t make you feel even a little bit queasy I worry about you a little bit.

The easiest way of assessing our chances of staying up would be to discard the games that we probably don’t stand a hope in hell of winning. Yes, I know that is a horrible “half glass empty” way of looking at our current predicament; please bear with me…

In my opinion: we may as well not even think about getting anything of substance against Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City or Leicester. Guardiola could field his eighth-string and I’d still want to watch the game through rain smeared glasses.

That leaves us with three fixtures, two of which are essentially relegation six pointers: Southampton at home, Stoke City at home and Everton at home. What could transpire to be the most fateful season of our Club’s history could boil down into three ninety minute ‘cup finals’ at the national athletics stadium. I’m terrified. So let’s get a bit geeky about this and bring our relegation-fodder companions into the equation too:

19th – 27 Points – Stoke City: Everton (H), Arsenal (A), Tottenham (H), West Ham (A), Burnley (H), Liverpool (A), Palace (H), Swansea (A)

18th – 27 Points – Crystal Palace: Huddersfield (A), Liverpool (H), Bournemouth (A), Brighton (H), Watford (A), Leicester (H), Stoke (A), West Brom (H)

17th – 28 Points – Southampton: Wigan (A), West Ham (A), Arsenal (A), Chelsea (H), Leicester (A), Bournemouth (H), Everton (A), Manchester City (H)

15th – 31 Points – Huddersfield: Palace (H), Newcastle (A), Brighton (A), Watford (H), Chelsea (A), Everton (H), Manchester City (A), Arsenal (H)

14th – 31 Points – Swansea: Tottenham (H), Southampton TBC (H), Manchester United (A), West Brom (A), Everton (H), Manchester City (A), Chelsea (H), Bournemouth (A), Stoke (H)

The relegation battle certainly doesn’t end at fourteenth; Newcastle, Bournemouth and Brighton are also probably still looking over their shoulders but the likelihood of any of those sides falling six places between now and the end of the season would need a number of teams below them to outperform them. Which is unlikely.

When looking at those fixtures, I find the fight for survival impossible to call.

Stoke have one of the harder run-ins. You can pretty much throw-away three of their fixtures as probable defeats; that still leaves them with five that they could win.

Crystal Palace are on the cusp of returning to full strength. Zaha is back in the team and they face only two teams from the top half of the table, both at Selhurst Park.

Mark Hughes will look to spark the Saints back to life across their next two fixtures. However, if they fail to win at the London Stadium at the end of the month things will look very bleak on the south coast.

If Huddersfield aren’t able to get at least two wins out of their next four matches they will find themselves deep in trouble.

Swansea’s ardent defensive display against Huddersfield last week suggests that they have enough to survive. Carlos Carvalhal has done brilliantly since taking over from Paul Clement.

Supporting West Ham United is a labour of love. It always has been, and without imminent investment that will not change in the near future. My gut tells me that we should be fine, West Brom are probably already down at this stage and that leaves one less space in the bottom three to fill. But if Southampton turn up at the London Stadium in a fortnight’s time and take all three points my nerves will be shredded like they haven’t been since Tuesday May, 2016 – although for entirely different reasons. I’m sure that we would all love to relive that beautiful, ridiculous, remarkable win on our final night at the Boleyn Ground – but we can’t. It’s time to do what we’ve been doing all season long, although so many people seem to have wilfully ignored this: to support our team; sing silly songs about how much we all love Christian Dailly; and cross our fingers and our toes in the hope that everything will be alright in the end.


By Luke James

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.

One thought on “‘Next Level’ – Will dreams fade and die as we battle for Premier League survival?”
  1. i’m not sure if that actually makes me feel better or worse. i’m just looking forward to this all being over. if, and i know that’s a big if, we do survive what are the owners of OUR club going to do to make next season a better season. Get rid of Moyes (doubtful). Spend a considerable amount of money on decent players (and not the very young or nearing retirement, please). I wish i had some faith in them but the three stooges don’t seem to have a clue to what owning a club entails. Yes i know that two of them have out some of their own money into the club but we’re back where we’ve been so many times before. How many times do we have to be in this place? Moving to a bigger stadium. Fighting for the champions league. Fighting for the championship more likely.

    If we go down then what’s the three stooges going to do then? Players will leave. We’ll need a new manager (who?). The move (under the three stooges) to a stadium unfit for football just shows to me that they try to get everything on the cheap and sod us supporters.



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