The HamburgHammer Column

Warning ahead: Usually my posts tend and try to be rather positive, but this one may get rather gloomy and our atrocious performance against Man City was merely the latest punch, not the main reason for my downcast demeanour here. Quick positive sidenote (obviously not West Ham related): My Concordia boys won their first football of 2017, a local indoors tournament against nine other local sides. The 300 quid or whatever the winning fee was will come in handy for the clubs finances…:-)

Now then, where to begin in terms of my beloved West Ham (or what is still left of it anyway) ? I will put my neck on the line here and predict that Dimitri Payet, one of the best players ever to wear the claret and blue, will be gone in January. I have no club source and neither do I socialise with Payet’s agent, but I look at Payet’s body language, especially compared to last season’s, I look at current performances and for me it is evident that this relationship is coming to an end. We all know he has signed a long term deal at West Ham, but if a player’s head’s been turned contracts don’t mean a lot anymore these days, they merely add a few millions to the transfer fee.

What I believe has happened is that Payet, like a lot of fans, players and Bilic, bought into the project of moving West Ham into the Olympic Stadium, growing and developing as a club, bringing in better players along the way and subsequently getting to the proverbial next level. Our board had (just like the one after the Boys of ’86 season) a window of opportunity to grow the club and take the next step forward. Instead we have gone cheap on the project though, cheap on the stadium rental deal, cheap on the new players coming in (a lot of them on loan deals, others being unknown quantities or young lads for the future). In that respect the board deceived not only Payet, but also the manager and last but not least, the fans who still forked out for season tickets and merchandise.

Our club has a plethora of issues to deal with and sort out. On various fronts. The matchday experience is still suffering from stewards not being used to oversee football games and subsequently antagonising a lot of fans in the process. The atmosphere is unlikely to improve significantly while the distance between the front row seats and the pitch remains as it is (which also goes for the gaps between Upper and Lower tier). It’d also help if fans were made to feel welcome to attend games as actual football fans, not as audience members going to see a play at a theatre or a West End show.

I know that times have changed and are still changing, also in terms of watching football. We’ve gone from proper football grounds with standing terraces to all seaters, and now we seem to get to an era where West Ham fans are expected to sit all game, politely clap a great pass or a goal and otherwise remain shtum, but still buy loads of merchandise and overpriced food and drink. It’s not a trend I particularly agree with and like others it’ll cause me to make a decision if I still want to go and see games in person or prefer to watch from my armchair or in the company of fellow fans in a pub.

As for our club the cold hard truth is that while us fans are the one constant factor in the ups and downs of West Ham it actually no longer is our club. Our current owners have changed the club on so many fronts that it’s hard to find any reminders of the club most of us started supporting. They seem to have a very clear idea what the club should look like and especially what the new supporter should look and behave like.

I have said it before, but our board appear to be out of their depth of running a club playing in a 60K seater stadium. It requires a certain type of team to fill a stadium like that on a regular basis. Payet was a good start, but Payet cannot do it on his own. I am aware we are not in the financial situation (yet) to buy several 20-30 million players in one transfer window, but the least we could and should have done is to bring in players of a decent enough quality to bring out the best in Payet.
Payet losing interest is an indication we are moving in the wrong direction (coupled with the fact that most of the players who arrived in the summer have already left again or are in the process of leaving West Ham).

We have missed a massive window of opportunity in the summer and that window is closing fast now, Payet was the one to build the club around. If he really decides to leave we are back at square one. I find myself hoping for new owners more and more each day and while I know that we’ll still be stuck with the stadium at least we may be able to find owners who can actually back up their words with actions in the transfer market. How did we end up going from offering 25 or 30 million for Bacca to offering 3 million for Snodgrass (or money plus Fletcher who was supposed to be a great talent for the future) ?

It is yet another crucial game coming up, against our favourite former manager, Mr. Clean Sheet himself and a pretty weak Palace side. Of course I shall be watching and of course I will be rooting for a Hammers win of any sort really. But the truth is: West Ham winning or losing no longer stirs up the same kind of emotions it used to, not for me.
There are just too many things going on at West Ham now that seem to drive me away from the club emotionally. It’s a weird feeling.

I still love the club, of course I do! My interest may still wane further though as long as our current board are still in charge. Should they start to listen to the fans, my interest and involvement may grow again, also if new owners came in showing some respect for the fans, the history and traditions of our club, similar to what the owners at Man City did. I have seen some crap games, players and performances at West Ham in my time so far, but none of them had such a farfetching effect on my support than the current lot.

Let’s hope we get a few convincing wins under our belt to lift the mood. Let’s hope Bilic can turn things around and stay for a few more years. Let’s hope we bring in some decent signings in January to help him with that. And let’s hope we can regroup, even if Payet leaves West Ham. No man bigger than the club and all that!
Will West Ham ever be united again? COYI!