There was no greater fan of Payet than me. He was beginning to rival Paolo Di Canio in the hero stakes. He was undoubtedly in the top 5 players I have ever seen play for West Ham. I felt that he really bought into the whole West Ham project. How could I have been so naive? Admittedly, he hadn’t shown his form of last season but he was still capable of producing more than the odd moment of magic. He was fast on the way to becoming a West Ham legend.
And then he blew it.
I cannot remember a West Ham player going from hero to zero in such a short time. Refusing to play for a team which had embraced him, nurtured him, given him everything he could have ever wanted, was beyond the pale. Unforgivable. From the moment he refused to play, I never wanted to see him in a West Ham shirt again. He became a non person to me. A traitor. Strong words, maybe, but I felt jilted.
Since then we have looked like a changed team. We’ve won most of our games and apart from the two Manchester City games, we look transformed. We’ve actually played as a team, like the players know each other and pulled together. We may not be performing quite as we did last season, but if anyone had told us at the end of November that we’d now be in 9th or 10th place I’m not sure many of us would have believed them. This is due to many reasons, but the main one is that our attacking midfield players have stepped up to the plate and performed brilliantly. It wouldn’t be possible to replace Payet with a single player. But Snodgrass can take the set pieces and dribble. Lanzini can score from distance and run a defence. Feghouli had improved with every game he has played and like Antonio causes panic to occur in the opposing defence. These three players have performed in a way where few of us have missed Payet.
But there is one other piece to the jigsaw, which has seen us change from a relegation-threatened team to one which with a fair wind could challenge for a Europa League place, and his name is Andy Carroll. Payet out, Carroll in. That’s why we’re doing so well now. If Andy Carroll had played on Saturday I have little doubt we’d have beaten West Bromwich Albion. For me Carroll has been the missing link. His form has been nothing short of a revelation. If he gets called up for England it will be no more than he deserves. But the main thing is that he keeps fit and keeps banging in the goals for West Ham. However it’s his all round play which is so important. He wins everything in the air, he has a great first touch and can hold the ball up in a way few others can. And what’s more he’s scoring goals.
What’s not to like.