The S J Chandos Column
In praise of an excellent victory, but consistency is now crucial to securing safety!
Well, that was a thoroughly enjoyable victory over Southampton, with the Hammers putting in the type of skilful, fluid and cohesive display very rarely seen since we left Upton Park. In addition, the fans responded positively to the performance and gave their staunch and energetic support for the whole of the match. Indeed, the LS seemed very far away from the ‘soulless athletics bowl’ description so beloved of some critics and underlined the fact that, in the correct circumstances, it can be a very effective home ground for this football club.
The priority now is to build upon that display and ensure that our season long inconsistency is a thing of the past. Survival is about continuing to accumulate points and move steadily towards safety. The team did really well and we need to show that we have definitely turned a significant corner towards survival. That means no more abject results up until the season’s end. Yes, we may lose one or two, but lets ensure where that is the case we are still competitive and give every side (including the top four) a bloody tough match. Basically, we must take three points from Stoke City at the LS and (at least) one point from either Chelsea or Arsenal away. Do that and we will probably be almost safe. If we fail to garner that vital away point in those next two away games, then it is probably going to come down to Leicester City (away) or Everton (home) to secure our status. However, we would much prefer to clinch our safety prior to that final home match against Everton. SSN might like it to go to the final day, but no Hammers fan will want that if at all avoidable! Especially with Everton manager, Sam Allardyce, ready and willing to do his utmost to try and put us down!
Regardless, Stoke City is a ‘must win’ and, knowing West Ham, the other points to ensure safety will probably come from less likely, sources (i.e. Man City or Man Utd). The important thing is that we have not only put ourselves in a good position, after beating Southampton, but we seem to have struck some very good form in to the bargain. And that did not seem very likely three week ago, prior to the FA Cup/International break. It is now firmly back in our own hands and we must hope we get a bit of luck keeping our players injury free for the rest of the season. One of the enduring ‘threats’ remains the ‘thinness’ of the squad and the danger of injuries impacting adversely. If we do survive (as I think likely – all things being equal), then major recruitment is necessary this coming summer, with at least 5-7 new players coming in to the squad for 2018/19. That probably equates to 5 class additions, with a couple of promising younger players. Make no mistake ‘iron surgery’ is required, nothing less will do! We can no longer gamble with our PL future and that means breaking the vicious cycle of mediocracy that we have endured in the past two seasons.
Friends told me that I was a little bit hard on Jordan Hug(h)ill in my last blog, which is rather unlike me. Usually I give new players every opportunity to perform and ‘cut them the necessary slack.’ I guess I may have been a bit too damning in my assessment, but it is just that I find it hard to see obvious attributes in the player, apart from honest to goodness endeavour and toil. Hugill certainly seems to be ‘a trier,’ but is that really good enough at this level? Regardless, he is part of the first team squad and I will give him 100% support over the rest of the season, as I would any Hammers player.
Believe me, no one would be more pleased than I if Hugill made the grade as a PL striker. Good luck to him!