In a week where West Ham have reached their highest league placing in 15 years you see a lot of smiling faces in and around the Boleyn. Fans, the manager, the board, most players all wearing a massive grin on their boats these days that make a Cheshire cat look sullen in comparison. But with the lofty heights we find ourselves in this season comes a whole new set of challenges and very unfamiliar problems. Suddenly other clubs appear very much interested to sign up several of our players, not just one or two, and rightly so.
As soon as a team dares to enter the rich hunting grounds at the top of the table other clubs are bound to look to dismantle a team that is clicking as well as ours.
I’ll just say I hope our board stay true to their word that West Ham is no longer a selling club.
If we want to continue growing as a club and become bigger ourselves just as we are about to move into the OS we must hang onto the spine of our team, keeping players like Tomkins, Cresswell, Song, Kouyate, Sakho, Carroll and Valencia at this club. Offers from bigger clubs for sure are just around the corner, but the board should be very careful about who they’re letting go. As far as I know our debt is pretty much under control prior to our move to the OS after which we only have to pay a relatively low rent for the OS, so on paper we may not actually have to sell players for financial reasons for a change.
Another massive and unfamiliar problem that comes with our current territory is keeping the spirits in our dresing room high. Which sounds easy enough to do on the back of three league wins in a row. But with a big and talented squad like ours there is a catch: Even a West Ham team can only field eleven starters and name seven substitutes.
Competition for places is something new at West Ham and most fans love it for obvious reasons. The downside is that it leaves quite a few players on the bench or even in the stands who are itching to play and would probably be starters in a lot of Premier League clubs below us in the table.
I am sure players like Zarate, Amalfitano, Jarvis, Cole and Valencia would love to start more games, young Diego Poyet too, having just returned from his loan spell at Huddersfield. All of these players have individual qualities and skills to offer, but they share in their current fate of having to play the waiting game.
This is where Sam Allardyce has to do a tough job handling players’ egos and keeping our players happy in a way they can perform to the best of their ability once they are being called into action. We’ve all heard the rumours about Zarate considering a transfer to Italy in January to get more playing time.
Of course our rarely used players will get their chances again. There will be injuries, there is the African Cup of Nations coming up, the busy Christmas/New Year schedule and the FA Cup as well. We will need our big squad soon enough, but it must be a nightmare (while being a nice problem to have at the same time) to have so many players at your disposal who are all quality players that could easily be regular starters.
Some of them might need an arm around their shoulders at times or a nice word of encouragement into their ears occasionally, our coaching staff hopefully know how to handle these players.
There are no easy answers here. Do you put more emphasis on keeping those players happy who have been here for many years and give the likes of Noble, Nolan, Carroll and Cole more playing time ? Do you try to play the new signings like Zarate or Amalfitano as often as possible in order to keep them happy, not creating a situation where they get desperate enough to leave the club ? Or do you simply focus on performances during games or in training to choose your starters and bench players ?
I love watching our current team celebrating their goals on the pitch and the bench (thank God there are many reasons to have those celebrations this season!) as it shows the current good spirit and harmony within our squad. I’d like to see this spirit continue to thrive, not being disrupted by unhappy squad members.
Am I overthinking this probably and will things take care of themselves over the course of the season ? Or is it just par for the course for a team like West Ham improving its performances and status in the league as we speak ?