Tony Hanna's Musings
Well that was a shambles wasn’t it? Selling Fonte was financially a good bit of business but when you are left with only three experienced centre backs and two are missing and the other one is crocked after a few minutes it doesn’t quite look so clever. Whatever the injuries though, there was a distinct lack of effort on Saturday. Something we have seen all too often this season. Eleven goals conceded in our past three away games and three points above the relegation zone – these are very worrying times for our club. To add to the woes it appears defenders Winston Reid and Sam Byram are out for the rest of the season with injuries.
I must admit to feeling as low as I ever have about supporting West Ham. Over fifty years I have seen a few relegations and some tough times but there was always the chance things would get better. I am not sure what “better” really means nowadays. Perhaps it is 11th instead of 14th. The “Payet” season was a once off – every other season seems just a grind to stay in the sanctuary of the top flight. The bottom half of the PL has become a pressure cooker which when any of these teams play each other, with some exceptions, provides football matches where at least one of the teams plays gripped in fear. Often both teams do.I wrote an article a few years ago suggesting that relegating three teams every season was bad for the game. Most of the responses at the time suggested fans on here preferred three up, three down. Conversely for me it further enriches the rich, whilst the gap between the rich and poor grows bigger. Before the inception of the Premier League in 1992, we had the old first division that consisted of 22 clubs. Each season two teams were relegated and were replaced by the top two in division two. In the Premier League we have reduced the amount of competing teams to twenty, but increased the quantity relegated by 50% to three. The main problem here is that too many clubs go down, and with it comes the financial meltdown that results in those relegated losing their best players and most streams of high revenue. Realistically the parachute payments don’t help much because these teams can rarely keep their best players. All this uncertainty only makes the elite six stronger. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to see fresh blood in the PL each season – just not as much as we are getting. Even a compromise of the team finishing 18th joining the top five teams from the Championship in the play offs would be a better option in my view.
With their vastly better resources this elite six are safe from relegation. No need to name them, in the Premier League era we all know who they are. That leaves 14 others and just to show the inequality this season – every one of them has a negative goal difference. The team in seventh isn’t even averaging a goal a game! Now, if over a two season period none of the newly promoted teams get relegated we get six new teams bi-annually. That is a 42% turnaround (discounting the top six) of Premier League clubs every two seasons in those circumstances – all in the name of play off revenues and keeping the big six quite firmly in their place. Even if you include the top six it is still a 30% turnaround. Whilst some of the relegated teams do bounce back and the long term familiarity of the teams in the top division may not seem to change too much, the whole process of going down and returning only stunts the ability of these clubs to form any type of assault on the top six or at least create some sort of stability. If you look back at the PL table just five years ago there are seven different teams playing in the PL now which is a 50% turnover of the standard fourteen that feed for the scraps each year.
These top clubs, especially in the Champions League, are playing the sort of football we can only envy at West Ham. The gap is widening all the time as the top players become unaffordable for the also rans, and even if you have the money you don’t have the draw of the Champions League. In a few months time there will be a World Cup. In my younger years that was the equivalent of football heaven even when England hadn’t qualified. A chance to see football at its best. In my opinion the latter stages of the CL provides a better quality game than International football nowadays.