Back in 1986 we had a real chance to play among the big boys. We had finished third, but the owners of the club failed to match the fans’ ambitions and didn’t invest in any new players. We all know what happened then. In some ways we feel we are in a similar position now. We know we have the nucleus of a pretty decent side. Sure, more than £20 million has been spent on new players this summer, but £6 million of it was spent on a player we didn’t need, in a position we didn’t need to fill, leaving us with no money to buy a player for the position we certainly needed to fill – that of second striker.
We were constantly warned that if we spent any money on a new striker, we could only do so if we shipped a player or two out, yet no attempt was made to do that until it was too late, and one player, Vaz Te, had handed in a transfer request. The manager professed his profound happiness with his squad despite having no striker cover. I never believed that for a minute, and as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Sam Allardyce was as good at spin as Alastair Campbell.
Yet I wonder now whether he was speaking the truth. I wonder whether he really did believe his own words and that he was indeed happy with the squad. If so, we should be very worried indeed.
When Sam Allardyce was appointed, I was a huge sceptic. I remember emailing David Sullivan pleading with him not to consider Allardyce. He replied that Sam’s record was great, although he’d have to change his style of play if he came to West Ham. And to be fair to him, he has certainly adapted it, if not wholly ditched it. Slowly but surely I was won round, I didn’t particularly like his style of play in the Championship, but he got us up. That was what mattered. And no one can say that a 10th place finish last season wasn’t an achievement. It was. And signing Andy Carroll on loan was a brilliant move. I couldn’t have been happier when Carroll signed permanently. But then I got carried away. I started salivating over who might partner him up front, should Allardyce ever ditch his 4-5-1, oh sorry, 4-3-3 formation. Could it be Bony, Defoe, Ba. The list went on. I was sure, though, that it would be someone, that a manager of Allardyce’s pedigree would sign a top quality striker. Indeed, I expected him to sign two. No one can expect to have a good season without four strikers in their squad. Little did I realise that Sam Allardyce apparently believes that you can go a full season with only one main striker, and a deputy who is as effective as a powerpuff.
I believe we have a brilliant central defensive partnership. Our full backs are more than adequate. Our central midfield is great. We have more than adequate wingers. Anyone can see that the missing link is an effective goalscorer. And yet we sit here today, sipping our afternoon tea, wondering what might have been.
Ah, but you don’t understand, David Sullivan will tell us. And I am sure we will soon get the Club Statement on the Website. Here’s what it will say…
The manager and owners of the club made strenuous efforts right up until the last minute to bring new players to the club. We could not have done more. We realise how disappointed fans will be, but we have to abide by the Financial Fair Play rules. We always said that we would have to sell before we could buy, but sadly that proved impossible. The manager would like to reiterate he is very happy with his squad and looks forward to a successful season.
It’s not quite like that, of course. One has to ask why we were the only club to constantly cite the FFP rules as a reason we could not bring in more players. The rules don’t even come in until 2015, and although they do require the 2013-14 accounts to be in order, they are for the full financial year. So it was perfectly possible to buy someone in this window and then make up the shortfall by selling a couple of non essential players in the January window. The likes of Norwich and Southampton seemed to bring in as many players as they liked without worrying about breaching FFP rules. Tottenham too. Is anyone seriously telling me that they won’t go over their limit?
I bought an extra season ticket this year so I could bring friends to watch games. On Saturday, I was with three people who came to a football match for the first time. I wouldn’t blame any of them for never wanting to darken our doors again. But I could forgive that because I was sure that things would get better. I now feel cheated. I know what is going to happen now. It’s what happened under Curbishley and Roeder. We’re now going to be palmed off with one or possibly two free agents – players who couldn’t get a contract any other way. It’s going to be the likes of Tristan or Di Michele. Carlton Cole is now making what I hope will be a glorious return. I suggested this in a column a few weeks ago and was ridiculed for it. I love Carlton as a bloke, but is he now our future? Well, better him than Maiga. Like any true fan, I give him a hearty welcome back.
Perhaps we wouldn’t worry so much if our midfielders were in any way prolific scorers, but with the exception of Nolan they’re not. Jarvis ought to score far more goals than he does, the same with Diame. And now we have the prospect of both Downing and Cole being out for weeks. Then there’s Vaz Te. Is his head ever going to be right? If we don’t bring in any loan players, he’s the one who ought to be stepping up to the plate and playing through the middle if Carroll isn’t available.
David Gold and David Sullivan have in many ways performed wonders for this club. Allardyce too. But this month the three of them should not be surprised if we all feel they have let us all down. Let’s now have some honesty from them and let them admit it. They would go up in many people’s estimation if they did.