The HamburgHammer Column

Another defeat that could have been almost predicted beforehand: Leicester hadn’t won away from home all season, so coming to London Stadium obviously gave them the perfect opportunity to end that dismal run. After all, this is what West Ham tend to do, especially this season: We help other clubs gaining some needed momentum.
As a club we are dealing with so many challenges this season that we have basically sacrificed anything remotely resembling home advantage and teams now fancy playing us, never a good sign.

I am deeply worried now to be brutally blunt. Maybe I shouldn’t be, after all we’ve been there before, topsy-turvy, bad seasons always following an outstanding one, players suffering untimely injuries time and time again, players being played out of position, West Ham shooting itself in the foot (or kneecap), West Ham rolling over to gift the opposition easy goals and so forth. Well, this is West Ham for you, many of us used to say in those situations, merely shrugging their shoulders while heading to the bar to order another round of bitter (pun very much intended).

The thing is: While we are still West Ham we obviously are no longer the same old West Ham we used to be. And it all boils down to the stadium move, big Premier League money, fancy talk from the board about the next level. Back in the day fans were rightfully expected to know West Ham’s natural place of making up the numbers without ever challenging for trophies (apart from the very odd cup run), back then we were expected to shrug shoulders and carry on.

The stadium move has changed all that. The owners have changed that. Like it or not, we are now in a 57k, 60k or even 66k stadium and you don’t have to be a fickle plastic fan to demand better on matchday: Better performances, better results, a better stadium experience. As much as I love Bilic I realise that he has to accept a percentage of the blame. I’ve alluded before to the mitigating circumstances of this quite extraordinary season, but he still needs to get more out of the players and this maybe requires him to be a bit more ruthless, to add a bit more bad cop attitude to his Mr.Nice Guy persona.

We keep seeing pics and video on the OS about the players having fun working out on the Rush Green pitches, enjoying their training sessions which isn’t a bad thing as such of course. But I do read about how it’s more like a petting zoo there sometimes, like a family picnic with the feelgood factor going through the roof.
Do the players have it too easy under Bilic ?

Is that why they make it so easy for the opposition during the actual games ?

Having just seen the Leicester game I couldn’t fail but notice the Foxes’ upturn in results after getting rid of Ranieri, the guy that got them a pie in the sky Premier League title.
Player power and all that, it’s not nice, but to quote Karren Brady: It is what it is. I really hope that our team haven’t decided that Bilic is no longer their manager of choice, because if that is the case, then Bilic’s days are numbered without a shadow of a doubt.

I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I have the distinct feeling that this club is not on the same page on so many levels, dynamics and relationships between manager and players, players and manager, manager and board, fans and board, even the fans themselves are far from being united these days over many issues concerning our club.
Let’s face it: We had a glorious opportunity to build on our fantastic final season at the Boleyn – we had a very good squad, a youngish and enthusiastic manager on board and a new stadium with 50k season tickets sold.

We could and should have used our momentum and build on those foundations. But when have West Ham as a club ever built on a good season ? That’s another thing we simply don’t ever seem to be doing, regardless of where we play, who owns us or who manages us. I have no magic wand here. I don’t know if our fortunes might stop hiding if we replaced Bilic in the summer to bring in someone like Mancini.

I don’t know if we’ll be better off without worrying about Carroll’s fitness in future. What I do know is that our current owners have deliberately pushed to move us to this massive stadium. Make no mistake, that stadium shouts AMBITION and EUROPEAN FOOTBALL at you when you approach it and even when you’re inside it, despite the gaps, distances and shape.

However, do our board actually share that ambition ? Are they genuinely interested to move the club forward ? Or is it all about maximising their personal profit by selling up when the right offer lands at their doorstep, keeping the club in the league while spending the bare minimum ?
I ain’t holding my breath for the summer. For me we are indeed still very much the old West Ham in terms of making up the numbers only.

The only difference being that we are now making up the numbers with massively increased attendances in a stadium that no longer (or at least not at this point in time) gives us a home advantage when we play there. The lure of the London Stadium has been misjudged by the owners, various factors have contributed to give us a disappointing season, our club has no momentum and no unity, but what’s even worse: Our board don’t seem to have a long term strategy.

You can bring in a new manager every two years and replace half of your squad in the same period of time, it doesn’t exactly foster progress at your club if there is no coherent long-term strategy in place. As a club we never really had a sense of entitlement in our past. And I certainly don’t expect us to play European football anytime soon. But I expect us to act like a professional club playing Premier League football would. Is that too much too ask ?

Or am I just supposed to enjoy a club that continues to be run like a circus ? Let’s see how we conduct our transfer business in the summer.
Get your act together West Ham and get on the same page, please! COYI!

PS: Concordia’s game was cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch.

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