The HamburgHammer Column
That game was a shocker. And it was, on paper, a very winnable one again. But as usual we defeat the stats. Brighton couldn’t score goals for toffee before we arrived at the Amex. Once we were in, Brighton looked like Barcelona at times. We do that to teams this season, we end barren runs, we give misfiring strikers confidence, shaky back fours peace of mind.
Make no mistake, we may be in midtable, position wise, but we are only three points from a relegation place. The league table is so tight down there that it makes for a thrilling relegation scrap. It’s a bit less entertaining if your team is right in it though. We’ve been there before of course, numerous times in our history. For crying out loud, when I made the aquaintance of West Ham in 1996 we had just escaped a relegation battle, about to start another season with high hopes that ended in yet another relegation scrap.
I’m used to it and in general even relegation doesn’t scare me as such.
But right now relegation scares the living daylights out of me. Because I have a feeling that this time there’d be no way back for a long time. Just look at the long list of clubs that used to be mainstays of the Premier League (or First Division as the top league used to be called in the old days), clubs that have a certain ring to their name, even to football fans abroad, clubs that used to be important and now have to survive in the doldrums: Nottingham Forest, Norwich, Coventry, Blackburn, Bradford, Charlton, Portsmouth, Wimbledon, Fulham, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Leeds, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Bolton.
Another one, Wolves, is almost guaranteed to get promoted at the end of the season – and I hope we will get to play two league games against them next season.
But now I am not so sure.
How often do you hear the phrase “too good to go down” ? Yet we’ve done exactly that in the past with a team of good quality players.
If we stay up this year it’ll give the squad of “The Great Escape” season with a certain Carlos Tevez in it a run for its money.
Especially off the pitch our club is in bad shape, you all know who I blame for that and by now loads of others seem to agree.
Look at social media, look at articles in mainstream media and people have caught onto what the board are doing to this club – and what they are not doing.
A march has been organised and it is bound to get massive media coverage. Failing to win yet another winnable game (like Brighton away) doesn’t help to lift the collective mood. Weakening the squad further in the transfer window while making a net profit with half the team out injured doesn’t help.
Losing your head scout in the wake of a racism row doesn’t help.
Events off the pitch mirror those on the pitch: We are reactive, not proactive. We never control or dominate a team. We struggle to keep possession. Players seem to carry massive weights on their shoulders whenever they step on their pitch. Football should be fun. Are they having fun out there ? It doesn’t look like it.
Same ff the pitch. NO long term strategy, NO long term team/squad building. It’s unbalanced and continually unbalanced further through the perennial injury issues.
We always need to play players out of position (Zabaleta as DM, come on!) and try to patch up holes during transfer window and more often than not we fail to do that because we waste other clubs’ time with our way of haggling over upfront fees and payment structures.
two managers in a row now have been desperate to bring in a new DM. Did we get either Carvalho or Dendoncker ? Of course not. But we got an attacking midfielder for 4 months and a striker from Championship side Preston with a 1 in 4 scoring ratio.
That is no dig at Jordan Hugill. Like all new players I welcome him to the club and hope he can become a legend here. Maybe he can be for us what Freddie Sears failed to become. Hugill seems to be a decent lad, with a lot of motivation and the ability to hold the ball up well. Apparently he is also a nuisance to the defenders who have to keep him in check. We’ll see.
My point is: He was a panic buy and not exactly the like for like replacement you would have expected to come in for Sakho and Ayew. If our board are merely protecting their investment here they have a weird way of showing it. If we go down their investment will take a massive tumble in terms of overall value.
Are they playing the long game in the hope of somehow buying the OS outright ? Who knows ? All I know is that the atmosphere has become very toxic again, just like during the last six months of Allardyce’s reign. Only this time the anger is not focussed at the manager but the top of the hierarchy.
Will they care ? Will they flinch over people marching, waving banners and black balloons ? Will they buckle under the assault from taunting chants ?
Probably not. But it will affect them, I am sure of that. They may be cold hearted businesspeople, but they are human beings with feelings and old men as well.
It will get uncomfortable for them and I’m sure as much as they have a plan in terms of selling on their own terms the anger and vitriol from fans may speed up their thought process here.
Is all that grief worth it just to get a few more millions of profit ? There’s only so many oil paintings and crystal panthers you can arrange in your mansions. Even their kids will get a healthy inheritance no matter what, allowing them two warm meals every day for the rest of their lives.
I feel the Rubicon has been crossed. We are past the point of negotiating with the board now. Loads of fans have given them the benefit of the doubt, waiting patiently for them to deliver on their promises and the ten point pledge. Surely they would come good for us in the next transfer window. Not this one ? Okay, bad luck, but surely, surely the next one. Does anyone expect a glorious transfer window for us this summer ? I don’t.
In any case, we need to stay up. Hopefully, with some players returning from injury we will just about make it over the 40 point line, staying up by the skin of our teeth.
Watford at home. On paper another winnable game. At home. Against a side that is sinking like a piece of rock nicked from Stonehenge. Certainly a game we can’t afford to lose. But we didn’t plan on losing at Brighton, did we ?
There is a glimmer of hope. Mario seems to be enjoying his spell at West Ham so far and there is a bit of chemistry developing between him and Hernandez.
Fonte and Reid could be back to give our defence a bit more stability. Hugill may get some more gametime and may actually enjoy himself against a wobbly Watford back line.
Maybe Arnautovic could be ready to take his place on the substitutes bench, who knows ?
It surely will be intense at West Ham and continue to be so till the end of the season. Thankfully local football here in Hamburg is resuming next weekend too, offering a bit of distraction from some of the doom and gloom from East London. I’m looking forward to our next win, whenever it may happen! COYI!