The HamburgHammer Column
United till the summer - then the club requires change from top to bottom
I will try to moan and whinge as little as possible in my column today, but I won’t be putting my fingers in my ears, pretending everything is fine. It’s not.
Saturday was not a good advertisement for football in general and certainly not for West Ham in particular – and things always seem to look worse once the Hammers are involved.
I don’t believe the players were in danger actually. But the pitch invasions were sad to see nonetheless, even though it was only a few individuals and not, God forbid, thousands of irate “supporters”. I don’t condone the scenes we saw, they made me sick and, believe it or not, the scenes kept running through my head at night and I was actually struggling to get to sleep. I don’t like what happened.
But what with the march getting cancelled and all those shenanigans I can understand WHY it all happened.
The pressure had been building up over months and it needed to find a way out.
I would have prefered it if all those protests had materialised away from the stadium, not impacting the game, but that unfortunately was not the case.
There were some fights all over the stadium and concourse apparently, children were getting scared and the board got itself an earful from an angry group of fans congregating right in front of the directors’ box.
Oh, we also lost another crucial game 0:3 by the way, shooting our goal difference in the foot even further by conceding eleven (!!!) goals in total in our last three games.
Things are really bad at your club when fans who are supposed to root for the same club are at each other’s throats.
But I shall try to find a bit of positivity (yeah, I know) and common sense here.
It’s still possible to fend off relegation. It’s still in our own hands (and feet), although looking at our recent run of results and performances that thought doesn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence. But there are still a number of other teams struggling for points below and around us and unless they suddenly start picking up more wins than us we might just do it.
We do have a group of halfway decent players actually, we have seen games in the past where those players did wonderful things on the pitch, the trouble is that it hasn’t happened often enough this season and certainly not for the entire team at the same time. I was feeling sorry for Arnautovic on Saturday who was trying to find a way past four or five Burnley players with no claret and blue shirt in sight to help him out.
Arnautovic was another positive for me in the way he handled himself after the final whistle, coming to the fans in trying circumstances, talking to some kids, signing stuff and giving one of them a pair of football boots, if I saw that correctly. I have really taken to Arnautovic in recent weeks and he certainly is trying his best to make things right for us.
I am not going to go into yet another lengthy rant about the board, you know my stance, it is shared by some and dismissed by others which is totally fine. I feel it’s necessary to give ourselves the best chance possible in the remaining home games to get some wins. For that to happen we can’t have any repeats of the Burnley fiasco in the stadium for the remainder of the season.
I have read quotes from Sir Trevor Brooking and players like Collins, suggesting that the angry fans should stay away from the remaining home games this season if they cannot keep their rage/grief under control. That’s a fair point.
To increase the chance of more goodwill from the crowd at our games even further though I’d also hope the board will decide to watch the games anywhere but not in open view from their accustomed seats in the directors box. We can pretend all we like there is no issue with them, but in real life there is. It’s also being acknowledged in the media now.
Plenty of fans are riled up by the board and it might help if they removed themselves from the firing line for the time being to let the players and manager do their job, getting maximum support and focus from the home crowd.
Someone who might also help in our current predicament is Sir Trevor Brooking. Seeing him rooted to his seat in a deserted directors’ box, with a wry smile on his face, was both beautiful and sad to see.
A club legend who is undoubtedly suffering and struggling with the current state our club finds itself in. He could be filling a more official role at the club, as ambassador or spokesman or something like that and he would also be the kind of person to unite the new breed of fans and the more traditional set of supporters alike who used to cheer Sir Trev on from the Chicken Run when he was in his prime as a West Ham player.
For me that is one of the major things that hasn’t been properly addressed with the stadium move: Keeping the older fans on board while also catering for and welcoming new ones.
West Ham can only be successful if both sets feel reasonably happy and united there. I accept that the move to the new stadium was too good an opportunity to turn down really. Most owners would have gone for the move.
I accept that some steady and gradual change at the club is needed in tune with world football forever changing as well.
I am not a fan of the stadium, but I can bear watching whatever number of games I can travel over for. At the same time I empathise with those who say it is simply not for them and they can’t/won’t go there ever again. But it is what it is, we are there and we need to make it work somehow. And I am convinced there is still a small chance it can work.
But only if the club starts to take the bull by the horns before then addressing the elephant in the room.
Our board may be around for another few years yet and I am under no illusions that fan blogs or social media accounts will make any modicum of difference in terms of their decision to sell or stay. But they need to stick to the role of being club owners, they don’t need to run the club. Most clubs have separate club chairmen, directors of football, PR and marketing staff, chief scouts, managers, assistant coaches etc.
They are experts and have experience from playing or at least working in a professional role at football clubs. I’d hazard a guess we’d be a lot better off if our board took a step back and hired professionals to run the club for them. They can still earn their interest payments and they also still get their money back plus some healthy profit whenever they sell. They need to realise they are standing in their own way by trying to take on too much day to day stuff at the club.
Before writing this column I distracted myself on Sunday with watching some football where the football actually took center stage: Concordia’s U23s winning a men against boys kind of contest with a staggering 13:0 scoreline against SC Europa (not a reflection by the way about the state of the European Union…:-))
That was a pleasant two hours, watching my local team getting top spot in their division, heading for promotion to the next level while also having some banter with fellow fans without any chance of fists flying or being on the receiving end of a Glasgow kiss…
I then drove 40 miles to have a cuppa with my brother at his rehab place and I’m glad to report he is on the mend, despite still looking incredibly thin and weak which comes as no surprise after nearly four weeks in a hospital bed. Things are looking on the up for him and I intend to keep my promise of taking him to London, and hopefully it will be for a Premier League match rather than one in the Championship, but either way my bro wouldn’t bother, mind you, he even once watched Orient play Shrewsbury at Brisbane Road with me, so he’s no glory hunter either…
It’s a bit of a break now until our next fixture comes around and I hope the warm weather trip to Miami will work in our favour, unlike them notorious ventures to Dubai.
Surely it gives everyone time for a breather and to get ready for the crucial back end of the season. I somehow hope our fans can put their disagreements and anger aside for the rest of the season now until we have secured our Premier League status for next season. No doubt there will be more protests and marches somewhere along the way and rightly so, fans have a right to protest.
But there is a time and place for everything. I reckon the board finally got the message that there is a lot of anger and they do need to act in the summer to get things fixed.
In the meantime let’s remember that this club is so much bigger than individual players, managers, owners and fans. It’s been there for generations and browsing through some old West Ham books yesterday I got a renewed sense of pride and of the role this club has played (and continues to play) for hundreds of thousands of fans in and around London and all over the rest of the world.
West Ham are more than a football club, it’s a family and a way of life. West Ham is changing, but it can still retain some of that East London rooted community spirit, wicked sense of humour and siege mentality. Never say die! COYI!!!