Well, the much anticipated opening weekend of a new Premier League season is nearly upon us. Only two or three more sleeps to go, depending on when this article goes to air. I am not sure whether the fixture list Gods have dealt us a good or a bad hand by throwing up a match against arch rivals Tottenham in our first match of the season? Time will tell. Recent history tells us that we are up for the job when it comes to dealing with our North London rivals. An unlikely double over them last season in the Premier League and just for good measure we knocked them out of the League Cup at their place as well to make it three wins from three matches.
So, is the first weekend of the season a good time to play Spurs or does it really matter? One thing is for sure, if the West Ham players and supporters can’t lift for this game then it will not augur well for the rest of the season. In a “what comes first, the chicken or the egg” scenario, any lack of urgency from the players could transpire into a negative crowd reaction – and indeed, if the home crowd support is edgy the effect could transfer itself to the players on field performance. Hopefully, the West Ham support will lift the team right from the start and promote a positive vibe both on and off the field in what is to most supporters, the biggest game of the season.
Our record against Tottenham is pretty decent considering that for the majority of football history they have enjoyed much loftier league positions than ourselves. Our record against them in the old first division was 24W, 16D and 26L and in the Premier League we have seen 12W, 7D and 17L. In all competitions, including friendlies, we have played them 244 times for 84W, 60D and 100L. The match has thrown up a few classics including the 4-0 David Cross drubbing and last seasons against all odds 3-0 victory where we played with no strikers! The three victories last season broke a worrying sequence where Tottenham had won nine and drew twice in the previous twelve games against the Hammers.
So, how do we fare in first up games? If you look back at games in the Premier League only, the last eight opening days have seen us win six and lose two. One thing we rarely do in first matches of the season is draw! Not recently anyway. Whilst the start of a new season always brings new hope, and in some cases old fears, whatever happens against Spurs is really just a small part of what is a very big picture. On the first of January this year, we were second from bottom after 20 games and that is something no West Ham fan wants to see repeated this season. Strangely, all bottom three teams on that date went on to survive. That stat alone just shows how tough it is to survive in a league where three from realistically only thirteen teams will get relegated every season for the foreseeable future. Anyway, back to this Saturday and let’s hope we are singing “it’s happening again” around 4.40pm.
FOOTNOTE. How fantastic to see so many guest posters contributing articles over the past two weeks whilst some of the regular authors have been away. It is a sign of a fabulous West Ham community that Iain has fostered on this site, that so many readers have come forward to help out with the demand for new material. I think all would agree that much of the content has been excellent.