Four years ago, West Ham’s fans and players were licking their wounds after coming so close to winning the clubs first piece of major silverware since 1980’s F.A. Cup win. Cruelly denied by Liverpool, firstly with Steven Gerrard’s incredible last minute equaliser which took the game to extra time and then penalties, it was tough to take. Overall though, the 2005-2006 season had been an impressive return to the top flight for the Hammers with 9th place achieved. Under Alan Pardew, the club had cemented a mid table position and things looked positive.
Today, the club is saddled with debts of over £100 million, a playing squad that needs a major overhaul and is searching for its 4th permanent manager since returning to the Premiership in 2005. The club flirted with relegation all season as injuries to key players, a lack of goals from a hastily assembled strike force and a trawling of the loan market to bolster a thread bare squad. Gianfranco Zola paid the price for a season of nervous worry as the good work of last season unraveled before the Upton Park faithful.
It strikes me as odd that a club that had a reputation as being so patient with managers has suddenly started going through them with gusto. When Harry Redknapp took over in 1994, he was actually West Ham’s 8th full time manager. In fact up to 1989, when Hammers legend John Lyall was sacked, the shortest period a manager had been in charge of the Hammers was an incredible 11 years, when Ted Fenton held the role from 1950 to 1961. The managers job was a byword for stability at Upton Park but it certainly isn’t the case now.
With those two wall flowers, David Gold and David Sullivan riding to the rescue in February, the club at least has two people in charge who know about football. No more biscuit millionaires from Iceland almost destroying the club, now regardless of how you feel towards them, the two Davids do know about running a football club. They may not make popular decisions, but they saved Birmingham City. They’ve also announced a ten point vision to drag the club back on an even footing which makes interesting reading.
Most of it would seem to be common sense but any West Ham fan would do well to discuss Sullivan and Gold with Birmingham City fans. Many of the points mentioned in the new vision for West Ham were rolled out in various guises during their 17 year tenure at the Blues and regardless of the fact they left the club in a far healthier situation than the one they found it in, they are not loved at St. Andrews. I did notice that two weeks ago, David Gold said no player was unsellable, but in the new vision, they don’t want to be a selling club? Well which is it gents?
The signing hungry players also echoes the same statement made by David Sullivan in 2004 who stated word for word what is now masquerading as point 2. Are we beginning to see a pattern yet? As is the point about reconnecting with the local fan base, which is fine, until you begin to raise the prices to the points were the local fan base can’t afford to go anymore and I’m sure they often went on about leaving St Andrews numerous times throughout the nineties too.
Suffice to say West Ham are in a financial situation that means they have no option to listen to offers for players. If any offer comes in, it’s highly likely that the club will sell most of their assets. It’s a sad state of affairs, but with the playing squad they have, regardless of who comes in as manager, it’s going to be another long season.
The team needs fresh blood and a removal of the high earning injury prone failures that came in during the Icelandic years. It could take two or three years before real progress is being seen on the pitch. The nucleus of the young players breaking through need protecting rather than thrown to the lions of a relegation battle.
Despite Gold and Sullivan’s obsession with publicity, they do have a good record when it comes to supporting managers. Despite the very public and rather distasteful undermining of Gianfranco Zola, their record at Birmingham showed should the right man be available, they will support him until it becomes an untenable situation. The right man just needs to get used to seeing the owners in the press every other day.
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